Born in New York City and now based near San Francisco, California, Barbara Berk’s journey has been circuitous: a childhood love of fabric and sewing; a Master’s Degree in Russian History; 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 for Berk was the realization that jewelry can be fashioned from the precious metal “fabric”. She founded Barbara Berk Designs in 1992 to create her signature handwoven high karat gold and platinum jewelry.
Among Berk’s honors are a 2004 American Gem Trade Association Spectrum Award, the 2002 Award for Excellence in Design from the Women’s Jewelry Association, and a 2001 Saul Bell Design Award for jewelry design.
Barbara Berk’s work is represented in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Museum of the Gemological Institute of America. Her jewels have 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 daVinci Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2008); Wearable Expressions 2005 – 2006 (Palos Verdes Art Center, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA); The Art of Gold, a traveling exhibit of contemporary American studio goldsmithing organized by the Society of North American Goldsmiths (2003 – 2006).
Her jewels have been featured in many publications, including Textile Techniques in Metal for Jewelers, Textile Artists and Sculptors by Arline M. Fisch, Jewelry and Gems, the Buying Guide by Antoinette Matlins, Art Jewelry Today 2 by Jeffrey B. Snyder, in addition to many magazines including Gems and Gemology, Ornament, and Metalsmith.
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). In 2009 Berk presented “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). In 2006, participating in the Museum of the Gemological Institute of America’s Lecture Series: Process & Progress, she presented “Of Potholes and Pigtails: Contemporary Applications of Textile Techniques in Metal” (Carlsbad, CA).
Barbara Berk is the author of “Textile Techniques in Metal: A Designer’s Perspective on Sheet and Wire” Parts I and II, presented at the Santa Fe Symposium on Jewelry Manufacturing (2004 and 2006, respectively) and published in the Symposiums’ Proceedings. She wrote “A Platinum Tapestry: Weaving all the Elements Together”, presented at the Women in Platinum Symposium (1999) and published in Platinum Manufacturing Process Volume VIII, Platinum Guild International USA (2000).
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); and the Mendocino Art Center (CA).
Barbara Berk Designs, LLC
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