New art

Greetings from somewhat cooler Maine

I am so excited about my latest abstract pieces completed after three workshops in Hilton Head on landscapes, figures and large compositions. I also worked with uber teacher/artist William Skip Lawrence for two weeks. and he featured my work on his Web site, too .

I absorbed so much from these classes and it is reflected in my new works and certainly my energy. I have completed ten (!!) large paintings in six weeks and couldn’t be more pleased.

Maine Village

Here are three “Maine Village” pieces. They are all a generous 24”x30” in acrylic, ink, chalk and crayon. (Click on the images to see larger versions.)

I start by applying an underlay of tissue paper to give dimension, texture and interest. Each is composed of many layers of translucent and opaque paints and mediums. Their incredible detail cannot be conveyed in a photo. 

I have many wonderful paint brushes but find that I can get the results that I want using paper towels and palette knives. Translucency and interest are achieved by the liberal use of water and mediums with my paints, and by wiping and scraping away to layers of color below. The nuances of color, I believe, make the paintings so much more interesting and never boring!

Each of my village paintings has a distinct personality. You can almost imagine the lives of the hardworking people living there.


Following on the idea of telling a story, I created a series of chair paintings. (Click on the images to see larger versions.)

 The first was the largest piece I’ve undertaken: 24” x 48”. It is a wonderful focal point for any room.  Not only was the size a departure for me, it is largely a monochromatic muted shade of sea foam grey.  As yet untitled, the piece features a barely-seen seated figure on a very visible chair created by collaging painted paper made using hot melted beeswax. A lot of work but I feel the effort was worth it. The figure appears to me as a grandmother bent over her knitting. What you cannot see is is the lacy texture of the knitting in her lap.

My instructor likened my second chair piece to American painter David Hockney. (I should be so lucky.) It is a very inviting easy chair with a fringy rug in front (the paper was handmade in Nepal) and a framed abstract painting on the wall. That painting was actually made from the paint splatters on my palette paper. Finally, my idea with the third piece was to make a blown up version of that abstract painting. It is another biggy,  24”x48”. Both should hang in the same room, becoming a focus of imagination and imagination.

The next four chairs are smaller paintings and invite their own stories to be told. (Click on the images to see larger versions.)

Save the Date! Painted Furniture Auction and Gala

Painted Furniture Auction and Gala

Friday, June 1, 6-9pm

At the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

To Benefit The Literacy Center and the Hilton Head Art League


Twenty pieces of fine hardwood furniture hand painted by Hilton Head artists will be silent auctioned.  Exhibition and bidding during the week (May 28-June 1, 10am-4pm) at the Arts Center and at the Gala.  

Tickets to the Gala are $10.  Enjoy refreshments, hors d’oeuvres, live music and hear the winning bids. 

Pictured above is “And They Called Her Wild Flower”, the bench painting I contributed to the auction.  I was inspired by the fields of wild flowers at the Sea Pines Forest Preserve. 

Please come!

But, if you can’t make it, please stop by the Art Center (14 Shelter Cove Lane) during the last week of May and place a bid on any of the pieces that catch your fancy.  Or call in your bid to 843-681-5060.

Bonjour from Durfort, France!

I'm in the middle of a two-week adventure in the south of France taking a metal jewelry making class with Keith Lo Bue.  He is a very talented, kooky guy from Connecticut who moved to Australia about 20 years ago. 

There are twelve of us taking the class. We’re from all over the world.

We are  staying in a 17th century restored village town home.  Our studio is at the top of the house with lovely beams and skylights, but never enough work space!

One assignment was to make an object, jewelry or otherwise, that was autobiographical.  

This first photo is of my workspace.

Almost all of the materials and tools were brought from home! (50 lbs. in my one piece of checked luggage).  There is a lot more on the floor, too!

I decided to make a "doll" that would be me.

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The photo shows the doll:  body from a small oil can, legs that are meant to be a battery tester, and a bald doll head.  All of these were found at French flea markets We’ve been to five. So far. :)

Here are a few smaller things I've made here.

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You can see these pieces, and others I’ve done in this class, next month (Oct. 17-19) at the Great Falls Studio Tour at 1144 Walker Road.

Semper Fi

Semperfi 19588One of my favorite things to do during our summers in Maine is shop at the Wednesday antiques market at Montsweag Flea Market, a mere five miles from our house.  Some folks come hundreds of miles to browse, buy, and chat.  

It's a weekly trip to a folk art museum where everything is old, whether vintage (1940-50s) or antique (1900s and before) and where treasures abound: wooden-handled tools perfect for my jewelry making, keys, buttons, watches, decorative brass hardware and of course, furniture.  I bought a lovely old oak hutch for $125 delivered by the 82-year-old vendor and carried up to the second floor by him and my husband.  It now graces my studio and holds my jewelry displays.

One of the things I especially like finding at the market is old military pins and buttons.  I have amassed a small collection and enjoy researching where they originated.  

Semper Fi is a piece I made this summer with two very old brass Marine Corps buttons.  

I've polished them up and, as it always seems like I am problem solving, I had to figure how to attach them to the pendant backplate.  These are the kind of buttons with slots thru their backs so I used bronze wire that just barely fit thru the slots (didn't want them rattling and moving around in place) and affixed them to the top plate (more later about that) and then had to make a second plate to attach to the first one because I didn't want those nasty old wires showing and catching on things. These I riveted together with microscrews BUT I had to use spacers in between because the two plates would not fit firmly together thanks to the bulk of he wire.  Try sliding spacers into this narrow space and catching with the screw coming thru.  Not easy!

My bronze top plate is textured with my beloved divots and has a lovely subtle checkerboard pattern I achieved through special torching techniques I learned from Mary Hettsmanberger at Arrowmont School in Gatlinberg, TN last October. Another custom bail and a lovely brass chain and this is a perfect gift for some proud lady with a vet in the family.

Donna Barnako

Treasure Hunting in Maine

As I watch the summer fly by in oh-so-cool Maine, (temperature cool, that is), I've had two exciting jewelry "encounters". The first was a trip to Bucksport, Maine, where we supposedly were attending the town fair.

The REAL reason, as far as I was concerned, was to find the studio of BILL FRETZ, silversmith extraordinaire and designer of the Cadillac line of jeweler's hammers and tools. Designed by Mr. Fretz and manufactured by his son Jordan, in Vietnam, the hammers are a dream of balance, precision and beautiful wood. Mr. Fretz proudly showed my husband and me photos of his just completed factory, bright, modern and busy.

When I am creating a piece of jewelry that takes hours to make, I want to use the best tools. It makes me feel good, and the specialness of the tools is reflected in the specialness of the jewelry, I feel. Here are my two new Fretz hammers and his catalog which makes me lust for adding more to my collection.



My second encounter was of a different sort, because I found an antiques dealer in Maine who specializes in Bakelite pieces. Bakelite was accidentally discovered in 1907 and is the first synthetic plastic. It was used extensively in the 1920s-1940s in buttons, jewelry and even the dash boards of Mercedes Benz cars! It has since become relatively rare and much sought-after.

My dealer was only willing to part with some of her pieces because her collection had grown so large over the years. I have wanted to work with Bakelite for a very long time and this opportunity was not to be missed!

This photo shows my new pieces, mostly buckles, one button and a few caramel "beads" which I think will make good earrings. The buckles will become wonderful focal beads/closures for necklaces or bracelets. I have several designs in mind already. These are rare pieces of Bakelite...see if you find any like them on eBay! I hope to have them incorporated into designs in time for our big Great Falls Studios fall open studio tour on October 20-21, 2012. More about that later!

Looking for a Home

With three venues for my jewelry, private clients, as well as shows through Great Falls Studios, I have been challenged to fortify my inventory. 

Since I will be teaching this wonderful macramé bracelet class at Star's this Spring (details below) and since I have sold every one of these bracelets I've ever made, I decided to get to work!  And this is what I produced:  one completed bracelet, "Sticks and Stones" that fits my 6 1/4" wrist, and four equally fabulous pieces waiting for their "forever homes".  Each will be custom-fitted to the new owner's wrist.  Each is $350.


"Sticks and Stones" features all the colors I love and I would not be unhappy if it chooses me for its forever home.  It's chock-a-block with semi-precious stones in earthtone shades of green, clay, taupe and teal.  There's hidden surprises in all these bracelets and this one features a watch gear, a carved stone bear fetish, a tiny filigree butterfly and lots more.


Number Two is "English Country Garden" with luscious shades of lavender, lilac, sea green and aquamarine.  There are four lovely handmade torch fired glass beads and some very pretty vintage two-toned lavender flowers.


Number Three is "Fade to Black", a dramatic midnight, periwinkle, teal and black number that has stars, several Murano beads and a spectacular dichroic stained glass button as closure.


Number Four is "Antique Lace", with shades of ecru, ivory, gold and a nifty little Sterling hedgehog charm that I found in England.  The gold is 14K and the square button which matches perfectly is from Dublin.  An international bracelet!


Number Five is "Chocolate Obsession" which features copper, brass, crystal and yummy vintage leaves in a half dozen shades of brown and taupe.  Jet black beads set it all off and a cool bronze button I bought in Dublin is the closure.

If you are interested in any of these pieces, drop me an email.  If you're "from away" you can always just send me your wrist size!

My class, "Daggers and Dandelions" will be Saturday, April 23, 10-4pm at Star's Beads in Vienna, Va.  (tel 703-983-7018).  Registration begins tomorrow (January 18).  The class is $60 and requires no previous experience.

I will also be teaching my "Steampunk Style" class again on Friday, May 6th, 10-4pm at Star's.  This class has been full each time I've taught it and includes many wonderful techniques. 

Hope to see or hear from you soon!

New year, new designs!!!

I've been busy, finding a few hours here and there to make these slick fibulas.  

They're kind of fancy large safety pins, meant to be worn with a loosely woven or knit scarf or cowl.  

They're fun to make and since I have an endless supply of cool artists' beads, they're a perfect vehicle for using up, however slightly, my inventory.  

I have variously used beads of Raku pottery, vintage, kiln-fired lamp work, crystal and some fab new torched copper beads made by cottage industry in Afghanistan.  

I think they are literally made in people's cottages where they are then dipped in a gold liquid which gives them the most incredible colorations.  The fibs range from $75 to $125 depending on the combinations of beads used.

Have a fun and safe New Year's!

Summer in Maine, so far

Our 2010 summer in Maine has started off with great weather, a Fourth of July lobster bake and exciting plans for a trunk showing of my jewelry in Wiscasset, Maine for July 22-23.  Here's a link to the press release.

I am very pleased to have completed Random Acts of Beads, a necklace five years in the making, shown in the press release (and above).  It is comprised of 18 separate beaded components which were then sewn onto a separate beaded necklace base.  It's in shades of caramel and copper with purple accents and made to sit at the base of the neck for all to see.




I have also been very busy making a half dozen unusual freshwater cultured pearl necklaces (above).  They're unusual because of the pearl shapes and incredible iridescent colors.  Shown are Jacks (they remind me of the Jacks game we used to play as kids), Merlot and Hummingbird.


For the many lovers of purple, I made a seven-strand pearl bracelet that is definitely BLING.  The custom two-inch dichroic glass and Sterling clasp is meant to be worn on the front of the wrist, the better to show it off, along with the 14 Swarovski crystal cubes alongside it.


The last photo is NightBloom (above), one of two stunning (if I do say so) bracelets that really need to be seen in person.  NightBloom features scores of beads:  vintage, glass, stones and gems in black, gray, taupe, silver, copper, lavender and teal. The closure is handmade glass in black and white stripes by David Christianson of Providence, Rhode Island.  The second bracelet (no photo) is in lime and turquoise with seahorses, shells and fish with an eye-catching ceramic toggle clasp.  This is a happy bracelet.

If you're anywhere in the midcoast Maine area on July 22-23, please stop by and see the trunk show as well as DebraElizabeth's wonderful shop, right on the banks of the Sheepscot River.  Be sure to get in line for a lobster roll at world famous Red's Eats, right at the end of the block.  Deb's phone # is 207 882 8485.
If I don't see you there, be sure to mark October 16-17 on your calendar for the Great Falls Studio Tour.  I'll be opening my studio once again for this event, which gets bigger and bigger each year.


Artifact My very most favorite thing to do recently is this, making my new design, Artifact

It takes several days to construct due to the number of steps involved:  etching the copper or brass which has been stamped with a design, in an acid bath; cutting the shape with a jeweler's saw, drilling the holes for the rivets, applying a patina and antiquing the metal, riveting the piece together, making the chain links and finally, applying a fixative.

The necklace, or pendant version, which I've called Ancient is very special, too.  I have acquired rare and unusual-looking stones and fossils from a stone cutter (lapidarian) in Tucson. 

For each I have custom cut an underpinning with prongs which I attach to a metal base.  The prongs fasten the stone to the underpinning, which I then rivet to the metal base.  There is one on display at The Artisans and I have two more on my work bench in progress:  one is a lovely fossil sand dollar and the second is a very unusual stone called Ribbon Turquoise.  It actually has a strand of turquoise cutting through it like a narrow river.  Quite beautiful.

I will be teaching Artifact, the bracelet, for the second time on Saturday, April 24 at Star's Beads in Vienna.

Hooray for the Red, White and Blue

Redwhiteblue A rainy Sunday and being stuck indoors has, nonetheless, led to a productive day. 

I've just made some fabulous Nautical/Fourth of July earrings that will look great with some white slacks and a blue or red shirt. 

Littleone They're priced from $40-$50 and all have stars on them.  Some are striped vintage blue and white plastic, others are blown royal blue glass.

One pair incorporates triangular hand made art glass from David Christenson of Rhode Island. It's in the upper left hand corner of the photo.  (Click on it for a larger version.)

Most of the earrings are Sterling with Argentium silver (much better than Sterling) ear wires and a few are copper niobium (hypo-allergenic).

I think they're great!