Barbara Packer: Spheres of Influence

Barbara Packer: Spheres of Influence

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Beaded BraceletBarbara Packer’s journey to jewelry making was quite a long and circular road.

After first studying color and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the School of Visual Arts she became an internationally acclaimed quilt maker. As much as she loved creating quilts, over time she became disillusioned as she found that many quilt makers’ original designs were being copied and reprinted in magazines without any attribution or compensation. This revelation led to her next career when she started researching copyright law. With every intention of studying and practicing copyright law, she applied to law school. Her entrance essay was actually about her experience as a quilt maker! After graduation from law school, her practice evolved into environmental litigation, primarily toxic tort defense. Packer writes, “For many years I loved the law, but my heart continued to pull back to the arts.”

Packer_BWNecklace_HiRes (Small)In the meantime, Packer and her husband were avid auction attendees. Her husband had bought her a necklace of treasured trade beads at auction which she wore constantly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case turned out) the string broke on the beads. After several futile attempts to repair the stringing (including the use of dental floss) she learned a Japanese method of knotting. As she tells the story, “Since I had retired from law I had time to rethink my art work. The success of the bead knotting stimulated me to try ‘quilting’ glass seed beads around a bead core. Thus was born my ‘beaded beads’.”

Packer has been making her signature “beaded bead” jewelry for about 15 years. At the beginning she made solid color beads in various tints. Her love for pattern, which had always been at the heart of her quilt making, slowly progressed back into intricate geometric weavings combining beads of contrasting color. She talks about her technique: “I weave tiny glass seed beads over an acrylic or nylon core with braided monofilament. The beads are then strung and hand knotted. The use of 24K gold, sterling silver, palladium and platinum encrusted glass took my work to a very sophisticated level. I ‘seamlessly’ segued from stitching hundreds of pieces of fabric into two-dimensional quilts to weaving thousands of minuscule glass beads into three-dimensional globes. From these ‘beaded-beads’ I create unique necklaces, earrings and bracelets wearable for many occasions or no occasion at all!”

Packer_S2016 (Small)Serendipity is her muse. Packer works without specific goals, letting her ideas evolve as individual spheres link together into necklaces, often in directions she never anticipated. Her body of work was honored by inclusion in “The Cutting Edge” exhibit at the Racine Museum of Art in Wisconsin, and one of her pieces was purchased for the museum’s permanent collection. Her Paradise City Marlborough debut is coming right up, so be sure to give her a warm welcome there, and visit her booth in Northampton on Memorial Day Weekend!