I explore strength and beauty, transparency and movement through the interplay of metal with traditional fiber techniques. With high karat gold and platinum, I work small and dense, creating wearable sculptures. With stainless steel and phosphor bronze, I work with volume and scale, creating pedestal-supported, wall-mounted and suspended sculptures.
I weave and make lace with sheet and wire by hand. I then curve, loop, twist, interweave and sew my flat “fabric” into a 3-dimensional form. Within this tapestry of process, material and form, I play with line and pattern, density, texture and touch.
I embrace the dualities and seeming contradictions inherent in such a tapestry: Solids/Voids. Reflections/Shadows. Domestic/Industrial. Soft/Hard. Looking At/Looking Through. Thereby animated, my calligraphic abstractions become intriguing, mesmerizing sculptures.
Barbara M. Berk’s journey has been circuitous: a childhood love of fabric and sewing; a Master’s Degree in Russian History; over 15 years in magazine publishing. Her introduction to antique jewelry led to studies in gemology and bench techniques – and the discovery that her true passion is working with the metal itself. She learned that metal can be worked like fiber, that sheet and wire can be woven. Most exciting was the realization that structurally sound 3-dimensional forms can be fashioned from the metal “fabric” she creates. She founded Barbara Berk Designs in 1992 to create her signature handwoven high karat gold and platinum jewelry, and began creating pedestal-supported, wall-mounted and suspended sculpture with industrial metals in 2013.
Berk’s sculpture has been exhibited in 2020 Members Biennial Exhibition, juried by Emily Zaiden, Director and Curator, Craft in America Center, Los Angeles, CA at the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA (2020); Form and Function: Fiber Arts of the 21st Century, the Biennial Members Exhibition juried by Karen Gutfreund at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, San Jose, CA (2019 – 2020); Beyond the Warp and Weft: The Enduring Legacy of the Bauhaus, curated by Hanna Regev, at Ruth’s Table Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2019); Reflections and Shadows, juried by Maria Medua, Director of SFMOMA Artists Gallery, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2017); International Fiber Arts VII, juried by Lia Cook, John Hopper, Kyoko Kumai, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2015). Her work has been published in MFA Never, Root Division, San Francisco, CA (2020), and in the 1st Annual Jewelry and Metals Survey, juried by Vivian Beer, Cornelie Holzach, and Alan Revere, published by the Society of North American Goldsmiths (2017).
Her jewelry is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA) and the Museum of the Gemological Institute of America (Carlsbad, CA). It has been honored with the American Gem Trade Association’s Spectrum Award (2004), the Award for Excellence in Design from the Women’s Jewelry Association (2002) and the Saul Bell Award for Jewelry Design (2001). It has been exhibited in museums and shows across the US including LOOT! 2011: Mad About Jewelry (Museum of Arts & Design, New York, NY), New West Coast Design: Jewelry + Metalwork (Velvet da Vinci Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2008), and featured in many publications, including Textile Techniques in Metal for Jewelers, Textile Artists and Sculptors by Arline M. Fisch (1996, 2001), in addition to many magazines including Ornament and Metalsmith.
Berk presented “Transcending Textile Structures: Weaving and Lace Making with Metal” at Ruth’s Table Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2019); “Textile Techniques in Metal: (Un)Familiar Materials, (Un)Expected Methods” at the 8th Annual Portland Jewelry Symposium, Portland, OR (2015); and “Contemporary Applications of Textile Techniques in Metal: A Jewelry Artist’s Perspective on Sheet and Wire” at the 4th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Jewelry and Related Arts, New York, NY (2009). She has taught at art centers and schools across the country, including the 92nd Street Y (New York, NY); the University of California Extension/Santa Cruz (Cupertino, CA); the Mendocino Art Center (Mendocino, CA); and Metalwerx (Waltham, MA).