Friday, August 6, 2010
An Interview with Barbara Lewis of Painting With Fire
Welcome Barbara! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers here at Art Bead Scene. Barbara is the founder and owner of Painting with Fire, an original technique that uses a torch to melt enamels onto metal.
ABS - Personally, I am enamored of your enameling technique, as it brought something that had been out of my grasp closer to me. I had previously tried torch firing and burnt my pieces to blackened crisps. Once I read your tutorial, I was able to set up my station properly and immediately started to see improvements in my enameling. Now as I see more and more artists begin to expand their skills into enameling, I know that you are the woman behind this. Could you share with us how you first thought of using a torch to fire enamels onto metal?
BL - I loved the look of torch-fired work … its rustic appeal is what hooked me. But, I had no idea how to go about doing it. I did an internet search and found that the developer of the immersion process lives in Clearwater, not far from where we have a second home. Joe Spencer, 85 years young, gave me a private workshop. He’s a wonderful teacher, but all the while I’m in the workshop my mind was racing with ideas of what I wanted to do with this new art form. My degree in ceramics has been a stepping stone to my exploration of surface color and texture with torch-firing. Oh, btw, blackened crispy edges have a special appeal to me!
ABS - I was relieved to see you started carrying enamels. When shopping on the Thompson website, I am easily overwhelmed and I have often purchased the wrong thing. With your easy going way and clear descriptions, I am able to see exactly what I need to complete an enameling project. What are your best selling enamels and do you have personal favorites that you like to work with over others?
BL - It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the selections at Thompson. It’s a good thing that they have such variety … but it’s hard when you’re first starting out. When I took my workshop, Joe gave me three colors to work with: red, white, and a red, white, and orange mix. I left with the basic technique but no idea of the range of colors of enamel. My best selling enamels are Robin’s Egg Blue and Nile Green (transparent) … probably because they are my favorites! I recommend these because they are reliable and give gorgeous colors. Robin’s Egg Blue with Nile Green (transparent) on top gives a beautiful turquoise. Robin’s Egg alone is beautiful. If you add White to your inventory, you can put Nile Green on top and get a color I call, “Aqua Ice.” I also like White by itself. I know you’re thinking, “This woman is crazy! White?” Oh yes, because with torch-firing you can do controlled over-firing where you get some smoky hazes and very mottled surfaces where green, pink, and orange bubbles break through to the surface. It’s very exciting!
ABS - I think that does sound crazy..... Crazy Beautiful! I have found the finished beads, pendants and headpins surprisingly durable. In fact just last week I discovered that I could shape and bend a 20 gauge headpin that had been enameled into an ear wire and hammer the curve! Are there any limitations to enameled jewelry components?
BL - Enamel can be susceptible to chipping if used in “highly trafficked” areas. I don’t recommend its use in areas where there is a lot of friction and areas that are exposed to knocking. For instance, in my rings with stacked components, the largest disc is usually etched copper. The enamel discs are smaller and the edges are sheltered by the larger unenameled disc.
ABS - Do you wear the jewelry you make with your enameled components?
BL - I absolutely wear my enameled pieces. They are colorful, lightweight, and work well with jewelry that incorporates fabric/fiber into the design. Fabric is so hot right now in jewelry design and I’m enjoying coming back to my roots. I started my college career as an apparel design student so fabric has a special place in my heart. I also am crazy about the head pins and things I call “twisty tendrils” which are 5” lengths of 22 gauge wire that have enameled heads at each end. These are very whimsical and come in handy in “dead” spaces, such as where you might have the hardware for a clasp. They are easy to bend and are appear as unexpected spots of color.
ABS - I noticed you have a teaching schedule; could you tell us where you will be teaching for rest of 2010?
BL - For 2010, I have three remaining workshops, which are all in October. October 2, Morean Arts Center, St. Pete, FL; October 16, Annmarie Garden, a Smithsonian Affiliate, Solomons, Maryland, and October 23, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, Annapolis, MD. In 2011 I’ll be teaching at my first Art and Soul Retreat, which will be in Hampton, VA and I’ll be teaching and selling beads and supplies at To Bead True Blue and Tucson Bead Show in February.
ABS - What do you envision the future holds for Painting with Fire?
BL - What do I see as the future for Painting with Fire … you mean besides taking over the world?!!! I want to expose more people to torch firing and especially the immersion method. I’m finishing up my projects for a North Light Book on torch-fired enamel jewelry, which will be released in Summer 2011. I am proud of my work for the book … but it’s been very difficult not being able to share it with you right now! When I see so many happy people leave my workshops, their enthusiasm is addictive! I know that they can achieve success with very few tools and with no experience. I love bringing people to the “dark side” … one by one!
ABS - I am definitely going to get a copy of that book!
Barbara, thanks again for answering questions for our readers. I, like many others, am excited about this technique and we appreciate you being so generous with your talents and experiences!
To shop Barbara’s Painting With Fire supply store, visit here;
Painting with Fire.
To shop for her gorgeous jewelry, please visit her jewelry store;
To read more about new things Barbara is playing in fire with, visit her
And stay tuned for Barb's new web site unveiling on August 17th;
Painting With Fire Art Wear!
Much Love & Respect,