HENDRIKE BARZ-MELTZER is a jewellery designer based in Hertfordshire, UK. Her current work combines the ancient Japanese silk braiding technique 'Kumihimo' with Argentium Silver. Other techniques include Keum-Boo - applying 24ct gold onto Argentium Silver and metal folding. The Argentium surface is usually textured to add further subtlety and tactility to her pieces.
INTEREST AND INSPIRATIONS
What is the common thread that ties together all the different aspects of myself, which in turn explains my interests and which drives my work?... What permeates the many strands is a curiosity about a diverse range of subjects. It is a desire to understand how things work. History, for example, is to know how humanity got here and the subject of human rights is to understand where it went wrong. These two topics also add a layer of responsibility to society that arises from understanding - a valued counterpoint to creative work.
However, my main area of interest is the vast field of making - anything - a cake, a ring, a tool or a pair of slippers. It has fascinated me since childhood and involves a sense of satisfaction on demystifying to oneself another subject or technique thus far unknown. Being able to ‘make’ is central to me – the knowing and understanding of how things are made is empowering and fuels a great sense of independence. This also entails a deep respect for traditional craftsmen/women and their knowledge, often accumulated over a life-time or generations.
Discovering a new technique is an exciting moment. Usually attempting to understand its principles until accomplishing it, I always try to imagine how it can be incorporated into my pieces, why it fascinates me and what dimension it may add to my work.
Trying to analyse the roots of that certain aesthetics in my work, I am reminded how a teacher at St Martins once commented how ‘German’ my work was. It surprised and puzzled me then, as it still does today. Whilst my heritage is German, I am often drawn to Japanese aesthetics and strive for well-designed pieces, mostly abstract, with an element of the unexpected: the off-centre, the unequal, non-matching and the odd.
The pieces are outcomes of different approaches. It can be a design process: of lines or shapes drawn on paper, then transferred onto the human body, altered and later translated into materials. Paper or metal models frequently serve here as design aids. It can also be a play with a finished silk braid, draped around a mannequin and imagining what additions it may need. Working with the human body though, is an essential part of both processes and the pieces fully come to life when actually worn.
MY EXPERIENCES USING AND WORKING WITH ARGENTIUM
At St Martins in the late 90s tutors first spoke about and experimented with Argentium Silver. I started using it two years ago and was initially interested in its tarnish and firestain resistant qualities. Learning to use it was not complicated and researching its behaviour in various circumstances helped to avoid some of the common pitfalls when learning something new.
As I continued working with it I started appreciating its other qualities, for example, how well it fuses with gold and to itself. I now often fuse rather than solder pieces together, to avoid the spread of solder onto textured surfaces.
Another highly appreciated quality is its heat-hardening property. Being able to harden all pieces post-fabrication, especially thin wires - thus making them stiffer or springier - is now a much-valued attribute in my technical repertoire.
I continue to be intrigued by this metal, enjoy experimenting with it and look forward to finding out what else there may be.
Hedrike is currently exhibiting at the Eastern Influence exhibition at the New Ashgate Gallery, Surrey, UK.
You can also see more of her work and find out more about the techniques that she uses at hendrikebarz.com.