Barbara Lewis is an artist creating torch-fired enamel jewelery. She has a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Ceramics from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. She has explored the impact of oxygenated and reduced flames on enamel color and has created award-winning ceramics as a result. Barbara teaches torch-fired enameling and created the Painting with Fire Ning site as a place to go for moral and technical support for those interested in torch firing. Her book Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry: a Workshop in Painting with Fire is published by North Light Books.
Q: What kind of art are you known for?
A: Torch-fired enamel jewelry. Others have commented on my sense of color… pairing slightly offbeat colors… the unexpected.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: I’m working with some pancake dies to create metal flowers that I’ll thin and stretch out with the rolling mill to make them appear more organic. I’m also enjoying creating wire shapes that I then enamel.
Q: What’s your current favorite, can’t-live-without-it tool?
A: Besides the bead pulling station that I use for every piece I enamel, I love the Eurotool two-hole punch.
Q: What is on your workspace right now?
A: Lots of beads, pliers, a towel, plastic containers, a tool bag …
Q: With whom would you love to spend one day making art?
A: Pablo Picasso
Q: What’s the last thing you cooked?
A: Tacos … I have to admit that my husband’s the cook. It’s his passion and far be it from me to take away his pleasure!
Q: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
A: Oprah Magazine on decluttering! Selvedge magazine, Metalsmithing magazine, Steven Pinker’s, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Complete Color Index by Jim Krause
Q: What’s the most inspiring trip you’ve ever taken or adventure you’ve ever had?
A: My trips to Italy in 2005 and 2008 were wonderful. Traveling with friends of over 30 years, we experienced the beautiful countryside, the delicious food and wine, and the warm people. While I love Tuscany, we happened to be in Sorrento for the Sagre del Pesce (“Blessing of the Fish”). Watching the residents of the fishing village decorate the waterfront and prepare fish dishes in big cauldrons provided a real taste of the life of the people … and so did the polka band
Q: If you could surround yourself with only one color, what would it be?
A: The color of the Bougainvillea by my pool, which surprisingly looks like Pantone’s color of the year for 2011: Honeysuckle. I love all shades of pink from coral tones to magenta!
Q: Do you have a talisman/power garment/ magical thing you wear?
A: Diamond is my birthstone. I have a ring my grandmother gave me when I was 7 years old. She was an incredible woman. Statuesque at 5’11”, smart, independent and devout…not to mention loving. I feel as though I have her and her power with me when I wear that ring, which is nearly always.
Q: What’s your favorite place in all the world?
A: When I’m in my studio, the rest of the world seems to drift away. I love being in my creative sanctuary.
Q: What one thing do you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
A: I want to open a teaching facility in St. Pete where I can share the excitement of torch firing. I love to encourage people to make as many of the components they use in their jewelry as possible. It’s very empowering. I love being a Mother Hen!
Q: What’s the best day you’ve ever had?
A: It would have to be the day my daughter was born. After 12 years of marriage, she was a blessing and continues to be. Then my son came 16 months later! I’m very lucky to be surrounded by the love of my family…of course getting my North Light book contract wasn’t bad either!
Q: What’s today’s Word to Live By?
Q: What is your guilty pleasure?
Q: What do you listen to when you create?
A: I really love all kinds of music. I have a tendency to wear out a CD before moving on. It’s just too easy to let the CD continue to replay. If it were an album, the grooves would gone! But I’ve been listening to the Gipsy Kings and to Bob Marley recently.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: The super power of negation, but I would only use it if another’s super powers were bad or evil!
Q: If you could re-do a classic movie, what would you remake and how?
A: In the movie Casablanca, Rick and Ilsa would never have parted and would have lived happily ever after.
Q: What is your first memory?
A: Standing in the kitchen with my mother with a warm breeze blowing through the screen door. The smells of cut grass from my dad’s lawnmower mingled with the smell of the ham sandwiches my mother was making with mustard.
Q: Why do you make art?
A: There are so many reasons, but an important one is that it puts my mind and body at rest…peace. Any anxiety disappears, my mind centers. I definitely reach another level of awareness. The meditative qualities are addictive.
Q: What’s your best piece of advice for artists?
A: Be inspired but stay true to your vision. I like the quote by Martha Graham. She says it all …
“Thee is a force, an energy, a quickness, that is translated through you into action. If you block it, the world will not have it. You do not have to believe in yourself or your work. It is not your business to compare yourself with others. It is your business to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you, to keep the channel open.”
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