Barbara van Look

Puabi's Dream
Meet the Designer-Artist

Where do you live?
Scenic Southern Oregon

Describe your artistic style.
Historical--I'm very influenced by past cultures and archaeological finds.

What inspires you as a designer-artist?
I really enjoy the art of the past. I'm involved with an international historical re-creation society, based from Milpitas, California, and that was what got me interested in historical jewelry styles.

I've made jewelry to replicate styles from classical Greece and the time of Shakespeare, jewelry found at Pompeii, the headdress of Queen Pu'abi of the city of Ur, necklaces and bracelets shown in paintings of women on Minoan Crete... there's thousands of years of human history with jewelry, and I love it all.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?

The expensive ones! Gold-filled and sterling silver wire, garnet, lapis lazuli, emerald, pearl, mother-of-pearl, topaz... anything I can find documentation for being used by people in a particular society for jewelry and I'm all over it.

Beads of wood, horn and bone don't last as long, archaeologically speaking, as those made of precious stones and metals (unless it's ancient Egypt), so I don't tend to use those as often.

What is the name of the piece you submitted with your success story?
Puabi's Dream

What inspired this design?
I was fascinated by the Sumerian clothes and jewelry found in the Royal Cemetary of Ur, especially the burial of the woman we call Queen Puabi. She had the most amazing jewelry, clothing and headdress, just dripping in lapis lazuli and gold. I saw the tiny gold beads that we were offering and they just begged to be made into Sumerian jewelry. How could I resist?

How did it come together?
The tiny little gold beads were the first step. I knew I needed small tubes of a dark blue stone and the sodalite had the right shape and size for what was in my imagination. I opted for Accu-Flex® instead of silk because I didn't lose my desired drape, yet I gained a lot of durability. This was especially true with the metal beads and findings. With components this small, I didn't want to be restringing this piece over and over again. I've learned a lot since I made this piece. If I made it again, I would choose different finishing techniques and a different clasp, one that was more historically accurate.

Share Your Background

When and how did you begin making jewelry/beading?
I actually made my first jewelry when I was a little girl--I assembled it out of pieces that I'd picked up at second-hand stores, garage sales and thrift markets my mom would take us to. Re-purposing starts early :)

Who introduced you to beading?
I worked for a magazine that carried a Fire Mountain Gems ad--that was the first I'd heard of beading as an art or skill.

Do you have an artistic background?
I have always been involved in the arts. I spent most of my childhood writing, drawing, tinkering and creating.

How did you discover Fire Mountain Gems and Beads®?
A little magazine called "Destiny" and a Help Wanted ad looking for a Graphic Designer. :)

What other hobbies do you have?

This kind of question always gets me in trouble--I enjoy wearing historical armor and hitting 1,500 of my best friends with swords!

Beading Success

What role does jewelry-making play in your life?
Jewelry-making is part of my hobby life.

If you used jewelry-making as a way to bring in income, how are you selling yourself and your jewelry?
I've sold some pieces and done occasional commission work to match historical costuming.

Do you participate in any charity fundraisers?
I often bring my pieces to demonstrations and presentations we do in schools, along with my reference books and documents.

Any advice for aspiring jewelry-artists?
The oldest beads discovered are 100,000 years old, from Africa! That's a lot of history to be inspired by. Don't be afraid to check out what our ancestors did to embellish their lives--it's amazing stuff.

View all of Barbara's designs in the Gallery of Designs.