Beth Naumann On Bending Brass

Beth Naumann On Bending Brass

Bent brass wall hanging by Beth Naumann

Beth Naumann’s sculpture and Hellbent jewellery is bent by hand in her Boulder, Colorado studio. Her beautiful, large format works hang on the walls of restaurants, public spaces and residential homes. Here, we chat to her about hand making, her evolution as an artist, and the bigger purpose of it all.

1. Beth, tell us a little background about you and your artistic journey..

From a young age I was attracted to ancient objects, old buildings, and their ornamental details. I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and on weekend drives my dad, an engineer with a love for craftsmanship, would happily slow down to give me a proper look at the brick homes. Some of the brickwork there is inspirational.

I went on to study interior architecture and product design, and then to work at an architecture firm in Washington, D.C. In 2009 I decided to leave D.C. and the design world for San Francisco and started looking for something new where I could work with my hands and be more creative.

For a while I worked a combination of part-time jobs and dedicated a lot of my free time to making art, which became mobiles, and also jewellery. I was blessed with supportive friends and roommates that encouraged me to keep pushing it forward. I had actually imagined becoming a furniture maker, but around 2013 I started to think about my future as an artist, and have been creating metal wall hangings ever since.

Over time my work has become a way to feel connected to makers long before me. I don't carry on their exact traditions but the reverence I feel their craft legacies deserve. My work feels like an homage to their work and the beauty they've brought into the world.

2. Your signature bent brass work is so beautiful and unique. Can you talk us through your method/creative process?

The technique of bending it all by hand was really born out of needing that outlet and having limited and simple tools. In the beginning it was all about experimenting and getting familiar with the material and basic physics, then that understanding led to a style. (I'm also really attracted to the brass as a material that's been used for thousands of years).

Now I’m still experimenting but most of that happens in a sketching idea phase because I know what the material can do. For the most part my pieces are fully planned out before I start the fabrication. Each bend and loop has to be fairly precise and in the right position, so I make my drawn templates and then get to the making.

The making is the part I want to keep getting back to, where I feel quite serene and like my body knows what to do. I’m sure others that make with their hands can relate.

Beth’s wallhanging in Mister Jiu’s, San Fransisco.

Beth’s wallhanging in Mister Jiu’s, San Fransisco.

3. How long do your large scale wall pieces take to create?

The time spent depends on the number of bends and density of the work. Some pieces take more time in the idea and planning stages than the making.

4. What have been your most fulfilling projects to date?

My piece at Mister Jiu’s restaurant in San Francisco was meant to be a screen with open air all around it but, on installation day, the architect and owners saw it as art and decided to showcase it on the wall. It’s exciting to me how that turn of events reflects the inspiration for my work -- the thrill of seeing functional pieces on display as art.

Other fulfilling projects have been private commissions, which pushed me forward into new ideas I had been playing with. It’s such a gift to be encouraged to try new things.

5. Any handmakers you’re admiring and following at the moment that we should check out?

I'm inspired by artists who pull people in with the beautiful work they do and steer the audience's attention toward community, activism, and healing. Community has always played a huge role in creating craft and these artists are all using their art or craft as a tool for bringing us back to community, and learning how to be a better member of a community.

6. How can people go about commissioning work from you?

Starting up an email conversation is the best way. I love working with new clients and discussing what's happening in our imaginations and what they are attracted to.

Thanks Beth!

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