Carolyn Morris Bach: Animal Dreams

Carolyn Morris Bach: Animal Dreams

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bach-oct16Carolyn Morris Bach’s studio is surrounded by pastures and forests, a connection to the natural environment that is expressed in her jewelry. She channels the mythic powers of the sun, moon, wind and earth, creating a menagerie of animals and iconic figures as she carves stone, ivory and wood into talismans set in gold. Each piece seems to be part of a mythical narrative; like amulets from prehistoric civilizations, these remarkable neckpieces and brooches somehow offer to protect the wearer from harm.

How did you get started as an artist and what brought you to your career as a jeweler?
I went to a very progressive high school in Michigan where we had an impressive art program run by a magical woman named Shirley McKee. I owe my entire career to her. I actually had NO interest in jewelry or the making of it, and spent my time in the photo lab and ceramic studio. I think I was feeling frustrated by the down time with making things in clay… the multiple firings, waiting for things to dry, being covered in mud all the time. Shirley suggested I move over to the jewelry studio and give it a try, which I did, very reluctantly. But working with metal became instantly comfortable. While I didn’t have the passion for jewelry originally, I was apparently given the talent and imagination to create it.

bach_wolfnecklaceWhat is your background, including art and other degrees… or are you self taught?
In 1980 I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from their Jewelry and Metals program. But I actually would consider myself “self taught” on the style I have become known for: the carved, figurative work.

Your creations are often figurative spirits surrounded by moons, suns and animal imagery. Can you tell us more about it?
My work seems to reinvent itself. I have two ways of viewing personal adornment, and have audiences for both: the figurative, which hits those collectors on a visceral/passionate level, and the abstract for those who appreciate its organic qualities. Currently, my work is moving more towards abstract pieces in high karat gold and gemstones. I am, however, reminded almost daily that people still crave the animals and figures. It is a balancing act at the moment, but I manage to find a way to be happy doing both. I just finished setting some extremely valuable opals into an abstract piece. Today I will feel fresh when I carve up some bone into foxes and bears.

img_0119-2Do you have any special techniques? Are there any other artists or schools of art or design with which you indentify?
I really don’t have any special “techniques”. I use simple hand tools, and hand-fabricate every piece in my studio. There are no cast parts, and the only details made by industry are earring and pin findings, and cables. These elements are made far more efficiently by machines than I could create in my studio. As for influences, my strongest inspiration is Rene Lalique. The work from his studio has a sublime quality that, in my opinion, has never been matched. It still takes my breath away every time I see a piece.

Bach is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and the recipient of a National Endowment for The Arts grant. Her work is in the collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, the Fuller Craft Museum in Massachusetts and the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin. Most recently, a Carolyn Morris Bach brooch was included in the book by Madeline Albright, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box.
Paradise City looks forward to seeing Bach’s newest work, from woodland goddesses to abstract opal brooches, at the Paradise City Arts Festival in Northampton in October.