Meet a Maker: Barbara McFadyen

Meet Barbara McFadyen: one of our 2017 summer visiting artists from Chapel Hill, NC.

McFadyen has been working in the field of hand-wrought fine art jewelry since 1974. She works with gold, silver, and enamel to explore and express her designs; color, pattern, and texture play in counterpoint throughout her work. McFadyen’s work is inspired by the delicate forms in nature coupled with a strong Asian influence; harmony and balance is integral to her aesthetic.

The Studio is excited to welcome McFadyen, who will be teaching the “Enameling Techniques for the Handmade Book” on June 10th and 11th. This is a unique chance for students to explore and to create their own accordion-fold enameled steel plate artist book. Reserve your seats now!

CC: How did you become interested in making?

BM: Creating has always been an integral part of my life, beginning with fond memories of making miniature objects with my sister for our imaginary play. When I took my first jewelry design class in college, I immediately fell in love with the mechanical and problem solving aspects of the medium. I have explored the intimate scale and format through jewelry design for many years now, but the preciousness of materials and scale continue to challenge and intrigue me.

CC: What drives your creative process?

BM: My thoughts and emotions are deeply connected to the natural world and were nourished by observing, exploring, and gathering from nature since childhood. I believe the beauty and experience of awe that nature invokes serve to remind us of our place in the world and reveal the meaning that lies beneath the bustle and hectic work of being in the world.

I am also stirred by Japanese art, which expresses a subtle unobtrusive beauty and a deep connection to the flux of nature. Through my work, I seek to transform these inspirations into distilled moments of tranquility. The act of making nourishes me and when I am at my bench I feel centered; the rhythm of sawing, filing, and soldering become a meditation.

CC: What inspires you to use enamel and how does it influence your work?

BM: Enamel is a key element in my work, it allows me to explore my love of color, pattern, and design. The painterly qualities and multiple techniques of enameling constantly excite me. It is a new discovery when each piece emerges through painting and firing of many intricate layers of glass. The techniques and processes that comprise the medium of enamel allows for exciting combinations, continual explorations and challenges.

CC: Why did you choose to have students create handmade books and how do you think it will help them develop their knowledge of enamels?

BM: Discovering the book as a vehicle for my art came unexpectedly through an “Enameling for Bookmaking” class at Penland School of Crafts. In addition to my passion for jewelry, I have become enchanted with the artist book by its intimacy and its need to be held in the hand. The format of the book offers a unique way to tell stories, hold memories, or purely a new canvas for inspiration.

CC: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

BM: Reading and research in areas of interest and other artists has been my greatest source of inspiration and growth. Spend time on researching and your material practice everyday; it is only through the process of making that you will discover what excites you and becomes best work. When feeling blocked, I go to a museum, take a long walk in nature, or spend time on a small creative task apart from my current work.