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Artist Statement


Photo Credit: Irene Searles Photography

Artist Statement

I create abstract sculptures that embody the interplay of metal with traditional fiber techniques and structures.


Working directly with stainless steel and phosphor bronze wire, I use Renaissance stitches to make ribbons and crescents of bobbin lace by hand.   I then curve, loop, twist, interweave, layer, sew, embroider, filigree, weld and polish the flat lace “fabric” into 3-dimensional forms – which become wall-mounted, ceiling-suspended and pedestal-supported sculptures.


I play with geometry and pattern, density and texture, probing the limits of scale, volume, and structural integrity.  Positive and negative space – both the openings that reveal the lace pattern and the voids in the form itself – create and mask transparency.  Light reflections and shadows define and enhance form.  Movement – actual and implied – engages the eye.


My process – applying unconventional methods to familiar materials – is slow and repetitive.  It can be rhythmic.  It is often therapeutic.  It is always labor-intensive and time-consuming.  But the tactile pleasure of moving metal, the intellectual satisfaction of resolving a challenge, the joy of creating something out of nothing, feed my passion.  Ultimately, transforming coils of wire into sinuous 3-dimensional forms makes me happy.



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 directly with metal.  She learned that metal can be worked like fiber, by hand, yet produce structurally sound 3-dimensional forms.  In 1992 she began creating sculptural jewelry with precious metals she wove by hand.  By 2013, she was working larger scale, off-the-body, making lace by hand with industrial metals to create wall-mounted, ceiling-suspended and pedestal-supported sculpture.


Her work is represented in the permanent ​collections of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,  in private collections in California, Florida and New York, and was selected for “On the Edge”: The de Young Open, at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco, CA (2020 – 2021). 


Berk’s sculpture has been exhibited in museums, art centers and galleries across the country, most recently including  A Question of Balance:  Selected Works from Pacific Rim Sculptors juried by Jeff Nathanson, MSC Executive Director and Art Curator, and Kate Eilertson, Executive Director and Chief Curator of Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, at the Museum of Sonoma County, Santa Rosa, CA (2024); Sculpture and Assemblage An Exploration, juried by Jeff Owens, nationally recognized sculptor, at the Marin Society of Artists in San Rafael, CA (2024); She/They:  Pacific Rim Sculptors, juried by Lauren Baines, interim Director of the de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA  at Santa Cruz Art League, Santa Cruz, CA (2024); The Flame Within, Metal Artistry Unleashed, curated biennial Metal Arts Guild member exhibition at ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA (2023); Finding the Form:  Bay Area Sculpture, curated by Shiva Pakdel at Sausalito Center for the Arts, Sausalito, CA (2023); International Fiber Arts XI, juried by fiber artists Judith Content and Ann Johnston at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2023).


The work of Barbara M. Berk has been published in MFA Never, the 2020 Archive Project, Root Division, San Francisco, CA (2020); the 1st Annual Jewelry and Metals Survey, juried by Vivian Beer, Cornelie Holzach, and Alan Revere, published by Metalsmith Magazine/Society of North American Goldsmiths (2017); and in Textile Techniques in Metal:  for Jewelers, Textile Artists and Sculptors, by Arline M. Fisch (2018, 2001, 1996).


Berk presented “Transcending Textile Structures:  Weaving and Lace Making with Metal”, an Artist Talk, at Ruth’s Table Gallery, San Francisco, CA (2019), and “Textile Techniques in Metal:  (Un)Familiar Materials, (Un)Expected Methods” at the 8th Annual Portland Jewelry Symposium, Portland, OR (2015).  She has taught at art centers and schools across the country, including the 92nd Street Y (NY); the University of California Extension/Santa Cruz (CA); the Mendocino Art Center (CA); and Metalwerx (MA).

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