Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Interview with Polymer Clay Artist Barbara Bechtel

Barbara Bechtel was one of the first polymer clay artists I fell in love with on Etsy.  I continue to love and use her beads and she always comes out with new and innovative pieces.  I thought I'd interview her today so you could get to know her, too! 

L:  Barbara, how did you get started? 

B:  I started making beads after becoming disenchanted with the mixed media work I was making. I've always been a tinkerer, a Jane-of-all trades. One day while I was tinkering in my studio, I came upon some polymer clay in my supplies and decided to see what I could make. I was immediately smitten and have been making beads ever since.

L:  What inspires you? 

B:  I am keenly inspired by nature. For many years, my paintings were narrative in nature. I also have a deep interest in history and anthropology. Historical artifacts and relics all influence my work.  I seek to translate these forms into a new and fresh perspective....I also love the marriage of images and words.

L:  What are your favorite colors to work with?

B:   I don't know that I have favorites but I am definitely drawn to blues. Color is such a magnanimous thing, it has the ability to transcend the shape it is confined to.

L:  What is your favorite time of day to work?  What does an average day look like?

B:  I work best in the early morning. My workspace is pretty small, so I usually try to focus all of my efforts on one task that day, whether it is making beads, finishing them or working on finished jewelry. I'm very much a recluse. I don't leave the house that much. I work intuitively, so when I go into my studio, I work on the thing I feel most drawn to that day. 

The afternoon and evening are usually reserved for more tedious tasks...but I find that when I'm doing those tasks, I get the beginning visions for new projects. I spend an inordinate amount of time in deliberation about these ideas, so that when I physically begin them, I only have to work out the physical details.

L:  When did you begin making beads, and did you make jewelry first or beads first?

B:  That's a hard question because I made jewelry first in some basic jewelry classes. I never connected the two until I made those first polymer clay beads. Those first beads smacked of the same work I had done in my jewelry work and so, the two have become linked.

L:  Is there an artist that inspires you? 

B:  I love seeing the working process of artists. What goes on in an artist's mind an life and how that is translated when they begin to work. I recently watched the documentary series, Art City, and that really resonated with me. 

I think a constant for me has been Nina Bagley because I was first drawn to her mixed media work as a mixed media painter myself. Stephanie Lee's work is also very inspiring to me for a similar reason. The work my customers make with my beads always thrills me because they often use the beads in completely different ways than I could ever imagine and that is really inspiring to me as well.

L:  Do you have an art background?

B:  I have a BFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I really loved that experience but I don't think it's necessary for everyone. I don't believe that one needs a piece of paper to make things. I think a person makes things because they can't imagine not making them.  If someone wants to make something, they should just do that.

L:  What is your artistic outlook on life?

 B:  I don't know that it is an outlook....but I try to follow my heart. To do the best I can, however I can.

L:  What do you like about your work?

B: I like that my work has remained true...I think it has always been a reflection of myself....a documentary, if you will. I can look back at both the good work and the bad work, and I can see what was going on in my life at the time.

L:  What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 

B:  Work hard, stay honest, be critical. Keep your eye on the ball, even when you can't see the ball. Make sure the process of making brings you joy. Never allow negative attitudes to control your own thoughts.

L:  What could you not do without?

B:  The love of my family and friends.

L:  If you weren’t a bead and jewelry artist, what would you be? 

B:  I would still be a maker, of some sort. I love food, so I've always liked the idea of being a chef...and I still love to paint. I would like to someday return to making larger paintings.

L:  What is your dream project?

B:  To build and design my own home and working studio. That would be amazing.

You can visit Barbara at the following sites: 

jewelry and beads: http://floridity.etsy.com

vintage and paper goods: http://kitofparts.etsy.com

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.    She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.  


Therese's Treasures said...

I enjoyed the interview with Barbara Bechtel, and I can easily see why you enjoy her work.

Pine Ridge Treasures said...

Barbara - You are such an inspiration! Love your work.


Janet said...

She makes beautiful things! Really love her cube type beads! And I wouldnt mind having that necklace!

fishyfacedesigns said...

Thank you for introducing us to Barbara... Her work is stunning!
Take care,

Pretty Things said...

I honestly JUST now finished making a bracelet with her faceted polymer clay beads. I absolutely love everything she makes.

My Life Under the Bus said...

All this talent and she is a lovely lady to boot! I have one of those sweet Charlottes and I have to unhoard it and create something.Beautiful work!

lynsey said...

I really enjoyed this interview, and such wonderful work.

JeannieK said...

Great Interview Lori with Barbara. She is very talented. I adore her faceted beads.

Holly said...

I have to admit to hoarding Barbara's fantastic creations :) I loved seeing the "interview" side! Thank you Lori and Barbara!