Bernadette’s fascination with beads began in 1974 when she bartered her wristwatch for some very ancient glass beads while she was living in Tunisia. She taught macrame to a group of young women in a mountain village in NW Tunisia. Visiting Phoenician and Roman ruins as well as Berber and Arab sacred places became a passion. The architecture, friezes, mosaics and murals at these ancient sites, in addition to the ambient color of Tunisia, continue to inspire her. Her studies eventually expanded to include ancient Egyptian and Sumerian history. She marvels at each new revelation about our origins, and by the great diversity of ways human beings have lived and interacted with their environment. Her curious nature draws her to continue exploring ancient mythology and artwork for clues that they give us about how our ancestors’ cultures evolved. |
Bernadette’s affair with glass beadmaking started with a flameworked glass workshop taught by Paul Stankard at Penland in 1987. At that time very few US suppliers of glass rods existed. In those first years some Moretti glass and German glass as well as some vintage German and Czech glass rods were available. Experimenting with this range of glass, she found glass combinations which were compatible and colors which produced unusual effects. Old beads from her collection, especially the Venetian fancy florals, inspired her original designs.
Since then she has been working concurrently making her own flameworked glass beads and kilnformed glasswork. She makes glass beads by heating a soda-lime glass rod in the flame of a torch, winding the resultant molten glass onto a thin metal rod then shaping and applying other pieces of glass to finish the design. The bead is immediately placed into a heated kiln, carefully annealed then slowly cooled. For glasswork, she cuts and layers flat glass then fires it in a kiln. A hallmark of Bernadette’s is a fine linear texture that is obtained by applying flameworked glass components to the flat glass. Through careful temperature control in the kiln a low relief sculptural effect is achieved. In the past few years Bernadette has revived fiberwork techniques for herself combining it with glass, both glass tiles and jewelry. She uses fine linen, nylon and silk cord depending on the texture and color that she wants to achieve. In some pieces the fiber is prominent and in others the glass is prominent.
As Bernadette’s work has evolved it has become more narrative in nature. She thinks of each piece as a sculpture with a story, whether a glass tile or a piece of jewelry. The story could be a simple sketch of cosmic energy feeding a flower or a dance in the mythic underworld. It could be a tale of wild women holding court with prairie flowers and monarchs, or images of crop circles near Stonehenge. Improving and expanding her response to the images which surround us has become a high priority. The glass and fiber work have become her vehicle for expressing that inner being.
Bernadette Scarani Mahfood
P.O. Box 78
Winona, MN 55987
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