Creative Force Behind Painting with Fire

I I am fascinated by people’s stories, especially creatives. My favorite quote comes from Henri Matisse, “Creativity takes courage.” Barbara Lewis’s life is living prove. From apparel designer to Fine Art Ceramic Artist to a jewelry master and innovator of torch-fired enamel, and author of two books, one of which was Best Craft Book of 2011 on Amazon.

Now Barbara is the creative force behind Painting with Fire Studio, in midtown St. Petersburg, Florida, and has the joy of working with her family as they build a business that seeks to grow an awareness and appreciation for the craft. They are the biggest supporters of the local art community.

Artist Quote

NV: Barbara, do you remember the first time you thought about yourself as an artist?

I guess I always thought of myself as being creative, but really didn’t think of myself as an artist until, at the age of 40, I found myself in Fine Arts classes.  Hours would pass as if they were minutes. It was a new and peaceful feeling for me.

Barbara Lewis Ceramics

Barbara Lewis Pottery

NV: Your story of becoming a Jewelry Artist is fascinating. When I heard it, I was amazed how sometimes an unhappy accident can lead to something new, successful and amazing if you have the courage to pursue it. Could you share the story with our readers?

I had been working as a studio potter for about 15 years, when I tore my rotator cuff, which required surgery.  During that period, my work became much smaller… ceramic beads and pendants.  Instead of loading and firing a 40-cu. ft. gas kiln, I was firing a dinky electric kiln.  I started teaching myself how to make jewelry.  It was during this period that I saw torch-fired enamel that reminded me of my pottery, where the work was kissed by the flame.  I shared my crispy, over-fired enamel pieces on my blog.  People started getting excited. Several of my readers said,  “You should write a book!” And, so I did.

Craft Books

Painting with Fire

Barbara Lewis Studio

Enamel Jewelry by Barbara Lewis

NV: I see your love for ceramics reflected in your jewelry. Is it intentional?

It’s not intentional. It’s just an aesthetic I appreciate: organic, fluid and unrestrained.

NV: Where do you get your inspiration?

Everywhere. Things can be incubating, of which I’m unaware, and only after they reveal themselves do I recognize the connection.   I remind myself to observe the designs around me.  For instance, I was cleaning the top of the stove the other day and saw the beautiful design of the stove burner grates, and started interpreting that as a jewelry design.  But, I’m particularly attracted to the organic, rather than the engineered hard edges of geometric forms.

NV: You have a family business. I admire the way you connect with your creative tribe: each of you brings their own vision, skills and incredible work ethic. What does it mean to you, to be able to work with family?

It’s particularly rewarding.  Love carries us through little spats or misunderstandings.  I can’t imagine a better experience… to be around the ones you love, building them up, accepting their help and sharing the challenges.

Creative team

Jewelry Making

NV: Any personal tips for parents on how to encourage their kids to be creative?

As a parent, I felt it was a responsibility to expose my children to as many things as possible – through lessons or activities: art, dance, theater, baseball, basketball, etc.  Your children will decide the things they like and then you’ll be able to guide them in that direction.

NV: You live in a very unique area of St. Petersburg and are involved in the local art community. What makes Historic Kenwood so special and how does it feel to be surrounded by fellow artists?

The artists of the Artist Enclave of Historic Kenwood have been particularly friendly and encouraging.  Historic Kenwood has a high concentration of artists.  As a result, the City Council passed a zoning variance that allows Historic Kenwood artists to conduct a certain amount of teaching, exhibiting and selling from their homes.  It’s a privilege to be a part of it.

Historic Kenwood

NV: You have a beautiful house. When you buy a piece of decor or furniture for yourself or family, what do you base your decision on?

Attraction!  But, at this stage, after 44 years of marriage and that many years of acquisition, I’m simplifying my surroundings.   Fortunately, my daughter shares my taste. I’m happy to see my things in her home, many of which are used in entirely different ways!  She’s extremely creative!

Laura Albright

NV: You run a Painting-with-Fire school and have taught many artists torch-fired enamel. What are your plans for the following year?

Besides continuing to teach, which I love, I plan to focus on my personal work.  I want to play in the studio; to run a thread through the different media I’ve worked in – ceramics, traditional metalworking, enameling, lost-wax casting, fused glass, electroforming – and tie it up in a bow! I doubt the bow will be neat, but it will be me.

To Buy Barbara’s Jewelry, Click Here!

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