Arden Bardol

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Meet Dover artist Arden Bardol who creates unique fine art jewelry using metals and polymer clay.

Polymer clay was created back in the 1930's and perfected with brilliant colors for use by artists and hobbyists in the 1980's. Since then artists have come up with countless ways to use the clay.

Arden Bardol's work could be called modern or even futuristic. Yet at the same time it almost has a retro 1960's vibe to it. There are hints of nature inspired Native American and African motifs, and at the same time it has elements of machinery and simple geometric shapes. However you describe it, it's construction is near perfection and it is fascinating to look at. I met Arden recently and she told me how she got started making art.

Arden Bardol:
"I am educated as an architect, and so that is my training. And to me, architecture is an art, just on a very large scale. It was about ten years ago that I actually started to do the art that I am doing now on a very small scale: my jewelry and my small scale sculpture. I started doing that ten years ago in a more professional manner."

"So, the first that I did was for the Delaware Historical Society. Thirteen artists were asked to pick a piece from the permanent collection of the museum and use it as inspiration for a piece of artwork. And, I picked a child's needlepoint sampler. This little girl had needlepointed events in her life up to the age of thirteen. You know, she didn't have a lot of experiences. This was back in the 1800's so this was probably about midlife for her, at thirteen. So, what I did was create a necklace that had a number of feature beads, and each of the feature beads represented an event in a life. In between there were seed beads, some gemstones, and some other tiny polymer beads. And those were sort of the everyday things that happen in life."

"And in the necklace, I had the feature beads go all the way around the necklace to where the clasp is, because I believe that life is a continuum. We travel this path many, many times. So, to me, I imagine that as circle. The circle of life."

Arden says two important influences on her work were Gustav Klimt who created complex paintings combining human forms and a kaleidoscopic effect with colors and shapes, and Alexander Calder who was famous for his mobiles constructed also with simple shapes.

One of the reasons Arden moved from architecture to sculpture and jewelry was because of her love of color. Architecture generally tends to be created in a very limited number of colors because of the needs and preferences of clients. Arden has a painter's approach to color, mixing up her own in a wide variety from very brilliant to very subtle hues. She does this using only polymer clay in the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue, which is no easy feat.

Arden sketches and uses 3-D modeling software to plan her designs. True to her architectural roots she uses mathematical precision to achieve her creative goals.

Arden Bardol:
"I did a lot of traveling in my architectural career, all over the world. Um, and, I spend a lot of time in the Southwest. So, I was very influenced by Native American jewelry. And, how nature plays a big role in their culture, as well as their spiritual lives."

"I also believe, in terms of my own spiritual beliefs, that God exists all around us. He is part of nature. So, I find my most serene times when I am nature. So, and, the Grand Creator... if you study the interior workings of a flower. I mean there is so much math and geometry that goes into the design into the growth of those things. And so, I studied those things. Math is a big part of my life as an architect. So, I kind of have this balance in my career, which is a combination of: nature, the Grand Creator - geometric forms, and then architecture."

Arden's intention in the next year is to produce more metal sculpture. She continues to study her craft taking blacksmithing and welding courses. She'll practice these skills over and over again until she is satisfied that she can manipulate materials in a way that will allow her to produce finished pieces that live up to her very high standards. Arden says that failure has been one of her best teachers.

Arden Bardol:
"Ultimately, for me, the value in the piece is not in the material in which it was made. It is the workmanship, the creativity that goes into the making of it. I believe that every attempt we make is just a continuation in our growth, and an expansion of what it is we are trying to accomplish. And, you have to take those risks in order to grow. A lot of people will just stop, and they won't continue on."

"So, adding the metal in has been humbling. Because, you can work on piece and with too much heat, or a lack in focus and concentration, a day's work can be completely, literally burned away."

"I guess I want to say to every person who is just starting out is, if you love what you do; you have to love what you do. You can't be half way there. You've got to love what you do. And you've got to allow yourself to explore to be able to understand what is your voice. What do you want to tell the world? What do you want the world to see, so that when people look at something they know it's you without you having to be there? They could look at something, even if you didn't sign it, and know it was yours.
"And, don't give up. Just don't give up. Because 90% of world is filled with people who gave up or settled for something."

See Arden Bardol's work in person at the Rehoboth Art League and in Dover at Beyond Dimensions on Governors Avenue which is owned by Jean Francis who has been a longtime supporter of Arden's work. Visit Arden's website to find out more: