Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jewelry Designer Interview - First Glimpse Inside the Mind and Heart

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
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 ( 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)


Heather Powers said...

Thank you Nina for sharing with our readers on the Art Bead Scene! I love following along on your blog. Your art and words are a constant reminder to slow down and enjoy the wonder of nature and the magic of creativity.

Unknown said...

I'm so glad you did an interview with one of my favorite jewelry makers. She is such an inspiration. I first became aware of her when I viewed her studio with the fairy lights in one of the altered art books I have amassed. I just signed up to follow your blog. Wonderful!

nina said...

thank you from the bottom of my heart, lynn! this is lovely - xo nina

Riki Schumacher said...

Nina, I really enjoyed this first article and learning about your inspiration, insight, and working routine, for making your beautiful jewelry. I look forward to meeting you at Asilomar and taking your workshop.

Ravens' Wing said...

Lovely - thanks for sharing Nina's wonderful work with us- her blog is an ispiration to me - and her relationship to her craft is something to behold -

Kerin said...

This was very well done and it was quite interesting seeing her sister's beads and learning of the collaboration as well.

I too am very inspired by Nina's work and she was kind enough to allow me to include some of her images on my blog just the other day-- a miniature art show of sorts-- with a bird theme.

I'm very much looking forward to the next two parts of this interview!

herhimnbryn said...

A grand read, but then I knew it would be.

Anonymous said...

I've been a big fan of Nina's work ever since my Other Mother gifted me with the True Colors book. So nice to wake up this morning and find this article to read while having my coffee. I'm looking forward to the rest of the interview. I'm sure there will be more inspiring words from this great Creative Goddess!

dogfaeriex5 said...

kudos for this interview, it is about time we saw nina bagley in an interview..she motivates us to look at the everyday world with fresh eyes and provides us with the inspiration to create beautiful art.........

SummersStudio said...

Thank you Nina and thank you Lynn for organizing this. I've loved and followed Nina's work for years. I'm truly looking forward to the next parts!

Mostly Turquoise said...

I agree with the other commenters: very good interview with a talented artist, thank you ladies!

St. Maarten, DWI

Rosanne said...

What a beautiful and inspiring lady! Thanks for this interview, it is the best!

Ro Bruhn said...

I've met the lady twice now when she's been to Oz. She's a great teacher and very giving and inspiring.
Great interview.