Barbara M. Berk

Sculpting with Wire

Barbara M. 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 was the realization that structurally sound 3-dimensional forms can be fashioned from the metal “fabric” she makes.   She founded Barbara Berk Designs in 1992 to create her signature handwoven wearable sculptures, and began creating free-standing, wall-mounted and hanging sculpture with industrial metals in 2013.

Berk’s sculpture has been exhibited in “Reflections and Shadows”,  juried by Maria Medua, Director of SFMOMA Artists Gallery, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2017);  “Not Flat”,  Peninsula Sculptors’ Guild at the Museum Studios’ Gallery, Peninsula Museum of Art, Burlingame, CA (2017); “International Fiber Arts VII”,  juried by Lia Cook, John Hopper, Kyoko Kumai, at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts, Sebastopol, CA (2015);  “Sculpture:  On and Off the Wall”, Peninsula Sculptors’ Guild at the Coastal Arts League, Half Moon Bay, CA (2015).    Her work has been published 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 wearable sculpture 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 exhibited in museums and shows across the US, and featured in many publications, including Textile Techniques in Metal for Jewelers, Textile Artists and Sculptors by Arline Fisch (1996, 2001), in addition to many magazines including Ornament and Metalsmith


Artist Statement

Barbara M. Berk explores strength and beauty, transparency and movement through the interplay of metal with traditional fiber techniques.   The physical properties and working characteristics of her materials further define her structures.     

She weaves and makes lace with stainless steel and phosphor bronze wire by hand, working flat and straight, off-loom.  She then curves, loops, twists, interweaves and sews her flat “fabric” into a 3-dimensional form.  Within this tapestry of process, material and form, Berk plays with line and pattern, texture and density, volume and scale.

She embraces the dualities and seeming contradictions inherent in such a tapestry:  Soft and Hard. Domestic processes and Industrial materials.  Positive and Negative space.  Object and Shadow.  Thereby animated, Berk’s calligraphic abstractions become intriguing, mesmerizing sculptures.


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