Meet the Masters: Barbara Seidenath

by Metalwerx on June 5, 2012

Metalwerx is pleased to welcome Barbara Seidenath to our Summer With the Masters series.  Barbara will teach “Enameling: Investigating Surface and Depth,” July 11-15. A distinguished faculty member in the metals department of the Rhode Island School of Design, Barbara is also on the faculty of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Metalworking has been a part of Barbara’s life even as a young girl growing up in Munich, Germany. She has fond memories of going with her grandmother to the village goldsmith’s shop to have jewelry repaired. When she was older, she befriended the daughter of the influential goldsmith Herman Junger. After graduating from a rigorous three-year program at the State College for Glass and Jewelry at Neugablonz, she would return many times to work in Junger’s studio.

Brooch, B. Seidenath. Silver, amethyst, enamel. Photo courtesy Sienna Gallery, Lenox, MA

The exacting standards at Neugablonz may have tested her as a student, but it instilled in her a lifelong passion for teaching. “I have experienced the liberating effects of mastering tools and materials in my own work. This freedom allows me to visualize my concepts appropriately,” she has said. “Acquiring the skills necessary to become a jeweler requires discipline and patience. Neither are easy accomplishments to master at the age students enter the profession.”

Discipline and patience: “That’s a hard one,” Barbara said. “It has to come from within. As a teacher, it’s important to set high standards. But I also try to create a nurturing environment in the classroom. I want [students] to feel a sense of accomplishment, to give them a healthy push for ambition. Ultimately, you are going to be your own judge.”

For students who have encountered the frustration of being told to “do it again and again,” compassionate words like these from a teacher can form the bedrock of their vocation.

Brooches, B. Seidenath. Above: "Winterstorm." Silver, enamel. Below: "Nest." Silver, enamel. photos by Marty Doyle

The workshop is Barbara’s first visit to Metalwerx. Enamellists ready to take their skills to the next step will appreciate the comprehensive five-day course. In it, Barbara will focus on incorporating pattern and imagery to one’s work.

The workshop includes a variety of processes to prepare the metal surface, including roller printing with templates, engravers, stamps, chasing tools, decals, and non-toxic sodium etching. A portion of the workshop is dedicated to surface treatments, finishing techniques, and creative settings.

“Enamel is a tool like many others,” Barbara said. “The specifics of the material, and the qualities that draw me in—and a lot of others—is color. Most important is to make it your own. I often start my beginner’s classes with basic color and texture exercises to encourage students to find their own palette.”


"Hand Ornament #6", B. Seidenath. Silver, enamel, quartz. Photo courtesy Moss Gallery, NYC, NY

About ten years ago, Barbara discovered she had a talent for cutting and polishing stones. “I wanted to gain more control over the materials I  envisioned to use.” Her adventure in lapidary resulted in a collection of rings that she calls “Hand Ornaments.”  She set the irregular, freehand-cut crystals against an enameled background, introducing mood and color to an otherwise colorless stone. “I ended up using crystals because they remind me of ice,” a theme that appears from time to time in her work.

For those who want to take on an adventure in enamelling, there are still spaces left in Barbara’s workshop. For more information, or to register, please visit or call Metalwerx at 781-891-3954.

–by Yleana Martinez

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