American Made Show: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you arrived where you are today.
Lucy Barna: I was always making jewelry, even as a young girl. Beading, wire wrapping, production work with pre-fabricated supplies, etc. My friends and family probably have drawers and drawers full of ugly beaded gifts I would make and give to them for all the holidays… I felt so chintsy making these gifts, but I truly just LOVED being creative and wanted to share this others, even if they didn’t like what they were getting. But all that time, I longed so deeply to know how to really MAKE jewelry- to work with the metals, to understand their properties, to learn about natural stones. When I considered my life path, I wanted nothing other than to make jewelry for a living. All day, every day. But I knew I would have to expand beyond my novice ways. For so long, I would make the excuse that I just didn’t have the resources or the time to really learn about metalsmithing or fabrication work. Finally, at age 30, I had a breakthrough. I was sick of wanting to do something I couldn’t yet do. I was tired to wishing, and being jealous of others who were making a living doing what they loved. So, I signed up for a metalsmithing course at a local college, and the doors began to open…. WIthin 3 months I took the leap and bought an entire home studio setup, just so I could work outside of the college studio hours. Within 6 months I was selling fabricated work and the bug set in. There was no turning back! After about 18 months of classwork and some local apprenticeship, I launched Votive Designs and made a website all by myself (this was perhaps the biggest of all feats, the website!) At the time I was working nearly 40 hours/week in a couple other career avenues, and would come home and work every evening and nearly all my weekends in the jewelry studio. Every free moment I could find. Finally, a couple years later, I set (and then met) the goal of moving into a full-time career with Votive. And that is where I am at now.
AMS: Describe the path that led to your career as an artist.
Lucy Barna: I was always creative, but never identified myself as an artist. No one in my family is an artist in any way, and I was never encouraged to pursue art as a profession. But I would always dream of doing it. Music was my gateway, I think. I had played and written music all my life, and as an adult got going on a professional level. Once my songwriting and performance career got somewhat established, I think I gained more confidence in my identity as an artist. This was helpful to me as I began creating Votive Designs. Oddly enough, now I cannot even imagine identifying as anything OTHER than an artist!
AMS: What does the creative process entail for you?
Lucy Barna: Getting in the zone is crucial. Some days, like today, I find myself spending hours doing “busy work” things for my business in procrastination of going over to my bench. I am the world’s best procrastinator. Really, the BEST. But its as if I just trust the inspiration will hit when its the right time, and I can’t work at any other times. So I just meander through other tasks (taxes, social media pushes, ordering supplies, etc) and wait. Some days it never comes. Usually if there is a 2 or 3 day stint of no inspiration, I almost get excited…because I know that then the BIG hit comes! And then I am up for 24 hours on a creative, insane production binge! Its madness, but in the best way.
AMS: What event or experience pushed you to take on art full-time?
Lucy Barna: The biggest catalyst to finally move from the state of mind of “this is a hobby” to “i want to do this as my career” came from the ending of an important relationship in my life. I was suddenly a single mother, with young twin boys, looking at them wondering how I was going to provide for us all and still keep my sanity intact. I know that creativity keeps me sane. So…I basically just took the hugest leap of faith I could imagine, and said “I am going to make this happen. I don’t know how, at all, but I am just going to. If I am proved wrong, then so be it. But at this point, there is no other option than to really go for it.” I think the Universe conspires behind us when we follow our hearts and our dreams. And this was truly my dream.
AMS: What inspires you to create new designs?
Lucy Barna: The best designs often come from sitting at my bench just staring at something- a piece of metal, a stone, a shape. Often I get a whimsical idea and play around with inexpensive materials to craft it and see what it looks like. Sometimes an entirely new line is birthed from this initial experiment. Currently, I am using a lot of sacred geometry in my designs. I am measuring shapes and ordering designs to the fibonacci sequence. This has been really fun for me, and good for my brain!
AMS: Tell us about the technical processes you employ in your work.
Lucy Barna: The biggest piece of my work and what I do is that everything is handcrafted. By me. In my studio. I was trained in the very old, traditional metal-smithing methods. When I started out I didn’t realize how many shortcuts are out there these days and how tempting they would be. But I had promised myself early on that the hand-crafting was the heart of this all for me. So even though people often say “just make a mold of that design, you could have about 50 copies right there for you!”, I simply can’t. I need to make each of the 50 pieces by hand. Yes, it takes longer. But each piece holds its own energy, its own story, its own part of me. I can’t cheat that of out my work. Sure, I have come up with some of my own shortcuts, or systems of efficiency, now that I am working in larger quantities of production. This helps with time. Examples like prepping all the triangles at once for an order of 20 similar pieces, or soldering pieces in an assembly line fashion, these are things I wouldn’t do when I first started. Each piece was literally done one at a time from start to finish! That is not feasible for me now, with more production. But still, every piece is actually handcrafted. And I am proud of this.
AMS: How would you describe your artistic style?
Lucy Barna: Modern, organic, contemporary, clean, feminine. Always moving.
AMS: What type of customers tend to like your work?
Lucy Barna: I have been surprised by the wide range of audience I have for my work. My pieces tend to appeal to young and old buyers, and those in between. Conservative styles and more bohemian ones. I try to maintain a sense of classic-ness in my work- something that transcends the trends and the concepts of age. Perhaps this is working.
AMS: What is your most popular product line?
Lucy Barna: The wire shapes are most popular, especially the wire leaves. They seem to have a timeless appeal and wear well on a variety of facial shapes. They are light, whimsical, modern and feminine all at once.
It has been interesting seeing the reaction to the 2015 lines of math, movement and meaning- many of these shapes were cut and measured to the divine ratio. There is a belief that things of this ratio are more pleasing to the human eye. I might agree based on the response to these particular designs.
AMS: Do you have any big announcements or plans in the near future?
Lucy Barna: I have a long-held dream of opening a mobile gallery of art and design. I want to travel the world and share the joy of art, shopping, and meeting creative people. The big dream will be in a restored 60’s or 70’s Airstream, but I am not picky at this point 🙂 This past summer I ventured into the dream a bit as my family traveled the northeast coast from DC to Maine in a 1976 VW Bus that became a mobile Votive Designs store on certain days. It was very fun! This was really just the beginning of ironing out some details and making the dream more real. I am hoping that in the next 1-2 years I will have purchased the Airstream of my dreams and begin collaborating with a small group of life-minded artists and designers to create a unique mobile art experience. Travel and creative passion- two of my favorite things in life!
Meet Lucy Barna at the 2016 American Made Show in Washington DC!
Company Name: Votive Designs
Studio Location: Manzanita, OR
Booth #: 1129
See more handmade jewelry by current exhibitors on the American Made Show Pinterest page.