The Storyteller Tells Her Story in Part the First -
A Three-Part Interview with
Beadmaker and Jewelry Designer Nina Bagley
There are people who consistently inspire, whose well of creativity seems more like a fountain. I had the privilege to interview someone who is one of those people in my world. Although we don’t know each other personally, I have sought to actively follow her creative story through publications and her blog.
Her imagery is primal to the found object mixed-media genre and formative in its current expression of ideas.
Among many other publications (you can see a list on her blog), she was featured in the Artist Portfolio of the September/October 2000 issue of Somerset Studio, and was involved in the True Colors Art Journal Collaborative.
Because Nina Bagley was so generous with her sharing, and I was so curious and asked extra questions, I am making this a three-part Jewelry Designer Interview post for the Art Bead Scene Blog. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed working on it for you.
Nina Bagley is one of those legendary people who need no introduction, but here’s some background about her that you may have missed. She’s been an active full-time artist for more than twenty years, and creates most of her own components. Her sister Ellen is a lampwork beadmaker, and they have begun to collaborate on pieces of jewelry. I believe I first saw Nina’s work when she was working with stones, drilling and wrapping them with wire, to create some fantastic designs influenced by the spirit of the natural world. Her work continues to evolve and change, always breaking new ground and staying fresh and innovative.
But enough from me, without further delay here’s Nina Bagley’s interview, Part One – The Standard ABS Jewelry Designer Questions. Part Two will be some extra special questions that I asked and that Nina (pronounced like the number NINE-A) was gracious enough to answer and generous in sharing with me. Part Three will be thoughts about copyrights, student-teacher relationships and finding one's own voice for creativity.
ABS: Tell us your personal name, business name, website and location?
Nina Bagley Designs, North Carolina
ABS: What is your studio or workspace like, and how do you work in your studio?
My regular blog readers (ornamental.typepad.com) are very familiar with the usual state of my disheveled studio! I’ve featured photographs every fall that show just what a deplorable state it reaches before I get so disgusted with the mess that I take a weekend to straighten and organize.
Beautiful things have come out of these clean up sessions; back in the fall of 2007, I grew so weary of the dim atmosphere of my northeast facing studio room that I worked out additional lighting with multiple strands of tiny white lights laced amongst bare tree branches that I dragged from the woods down into the house. I’ve had to replace one strand since then, but those lights are lit with the tap of a toe every single time I walk into the studio to begin my work; they create a cozy environment that is very conducive to creativity. That studio right now is in dire need of an overhaul, in fact, and this afternoon is designated to hauling out unneeded things (fabric, old books, flotsam and jetsam) that are not used frequently enough to warrant the space they consume.
You asked how I work in the studio. There is a long table (purchased from a church yard sale, and decoupaged with old dictionary pages – not that you can really see the surface!); I usually sit at this table, and pull items from the pile that surrounds me, willy nilly. Spontaneity reigns in my work; I never work out a design by drawing it beforehand, or by picturing a finished product in my head.
More often than not, I’m just as surprised by the finished piece as the next person that sees it.
ABS: How would you describe and think of your style, what kind of jewelry do you make and what type of materials do you prefer?
I call my designs “narrative jewelry”, because I’m quite fond of incorporating emotion and stories into my work. No work bores me more than a piece of jewelry consisting of a single stone set in metal – where is the connection between ornament and owner in that?!
I love to tell a story through my work, and the story may vary for each person looking at the individual piece – what he or she sees may be entirely different than what you or I might see in the same item. One word may pull from the observer a whole river of emotion; one word coupled with one image will begin that story, and the wearer or observer can take the story from there to continue or finish it. My work is romantic and earthy and elegant, all at once – an odd combination, I think, but one that works.
What materials do I prefer? There isn’t one favorite type of thing. I’ve mentioned resin and sterling charms; I also like using mother of pearl buckles that I’ve turned into frames that highlight words and/or imagery. I like, in fact, anything that can be transformed into a frame of sorts – buckles, bezels, buttons, antique game chips, silver strips, metal lampshade trim. I use these things in my books as well, and am fond of seeing my style unfold itself that way.
ABS: What new directions do you hope to move in the future? Do you have big plans, new ideas or designs you will be exploring soon?
I hope to have more time to create with greater frequency. My work sells fairly quickly online (and at teaching venues) and for that I am eternally grateful. With more time, I’ll be able to more readily fill my etsy shop, and can focus on new pieces that call to me.
I’ve been asked over and over and over again to publish a book; perhaps I’ll turn my attention to that as well.
Who knows? The universe shall provide.
ABS: On your delightful blog you often share insights into your workspace, what is your typical day like? How do you work during the day in your studio, and what keeps you inspired and motivated?
I’m not very structured, truly not. I usually end up in the studio an hour or so before lunch, because I spend far too much time on the computer (I have a slower connection, so everything takes much more time than I’d like). I’ll work until around 6, when my buddy Aspen will begin nosing me with urgency for his dinner. If I work at all in the evenings, it is in the living room, with a tray in my lap and the fire going (in colder months, anyway).
I gave up long ago the all nighters, even when deadlines loom; I don’t want the studio to become a prison that way. Ever.
ABS: Your sister Ellen is a glass lampwork beadmaker and you have been collaborating with her on some designs. What kind of art beads do you look for, and is there a bead you wish an artist would make for you?
I’m so proud of Ellen! (her etsy ID is starcatcher). She rose to the occasion with incredible grace and precision when I contacted her with my dreams for the perfect glass egg bead.
I wanted something beautiful, unique, glass, a certain size (no larger than 20mm), a matte finish to mimic nature’s true eggs, and she pulled all of that off within days. I was amazed, but not surprised. And now? Her etsy shop is booming with orders for these lovelies. Ellen has always been able to greatly succeed at any artistic endeavor she tries, and I’m anxious to see what will be down the road for her.
Is there a bead I wish an artist would create for me? Tough question. I’ve asked Ellen to make little birds, and she isn’t yet happy with the end results. I think she’ll get it right, one day soon.
And for years I’ve pined for a silver gothic shaped window bezel, for my resin charms – oh my, what I could do with those!!!!!
In the next post from my interview with Nina Bagley, Part Two will discuss her methods of working, people and things that inspire her, and how she stays motivated with an active teaching schedule and travel agenda each year.
Be sure to come back and follow along as Art Bead Scene asks her these and many other questions!
Posted by Lynn Davis – All photos courtesy of Nina Bagley (copyright 2009)