By Gina Malone
Metalsmith Berlin Randall finds that her creative process is driven by the world around her, her emotions and the patterns in everyday objects. “Sometimes I have a clear vision of what I want to create, but the design itself unfolds naturally,” she says. “It all starts with a gemstone, a basic bezel or even a random piece of metal on my workbench. From there, my creativity takes over and I let it guide me. This often leads to a flood of new ideas, so many that I struggle to capture them all on paper. However, there comes a point where I become overwhelmed and exhausted, experiencing what I call ‘artistic depression’. During this time, I recognize the need to take a break and recharge, knowing that my creativity will eventually return.”
That trust in artistic vision finding its way back again has its roots in her childhood in Marietta, GA, and in her realization that she was creative then, loving music and art. When she was in the fourth grade, her teacher asked the class to draw a winter scene. “Most of the class drew a snowman,” Randall says. “I drew a bear sleeping in a cave, snow all around and an icicle dripping on the bear, along with a deer and a squirrel by the tree. I didn’t even know it was a contest, but I had my picture taken with all of the other kids for the local paper. My mom still has my drawing, my First Place ribbon and the newspaper clipping.”
Growing up as an only child with the pleasures of the outdoors gave her fond memories that she still likes to recall. “I embraced my tomboy nature,” she says, “climbing trees, rolling in the grass, collecting rocks, bugs and other tiny treasures in my perpetually full pockets.
Neighborhood friends and I built forts and played in the creek, enjoying sleepovers, catching fireflies and playing hide-and-seek in the dark.” The word describing those years, she adds, is “idyllic.”
Life’s twists and turns caused her to set aside her intent to major in accounting. She worked for 10 years in her sister-in-law’s graphic design business. “For 10 years, she was my hero,” Randall says, “a hero through my divorce, a mentor, giving me wings and showing me that I could do anything.” When the business closed, Randall took a job as a website project manager. After three years in the corporate world, however, she decided to make a change.
In January, 2004, she began taking metalsmithing classes. Two years later, she says, “an opportunity fell into my lap.” She was hired as a bench assistant at Raiford Gallery in Roswell, GA. Owner Judie Raiford has been a jeweler for more than 50 years. “Working under an established, successful jeweler was truly an incredible learning experience that greatly accelerated my skills and confidence,” Randall says. “She has shaped the way I work, organize my studio and approach new ideas. Judie taught me the importance of adapting as my work evolves and as I gain new skills and tools. (Oh, how we love our tools!) I am incredibly grateful for her support, encouragement and patience. I still work for Judie every other week, which gives me time to work for myself in my home studio in between. Now I’m able to combine my love of small treasures with the skills and craftsmanship I’ve developed as a metalsmith.”
These “small treasures” serve as much of her inspiration. “I am captivated by vessels,” she says, “a reliquary, a ‘poison ring’, a place to hold our secrets, things that bring us joy, remind us of our most precious moments and the people in our lives we hold most dear.” All of her jewelry is handcrafted, mainly from Argentium Sterling Silver (.940), and sometimes she also uses gold, brass, bronze or copper. “Each piece is made using traditional metalsmithing techniques such as sawing, hammering/forging/texturing, annealing, soldering, sanding, shaping and polishing,” she says.
A favorite story she likes to recall is one of the young boy who came into her booth at the annual Dunwoody Festival on Mother’s Day weekend 10 or 12 years ago. He was searching for a gift for his mother and bought an amethyst ring without knowing her size. “I made a promise to him,” Randall says. “I told him that he could give his mother the ring and if it didn’t fit perfectly, I would make her a new one in her size. This made him very happy and I made sure he had my contact information.” The mother came back later to say that, unfortunately, the ring did not fit, and Randall made her a new one. “Every year, she still stops by my booth to thank me and tell me how much it meant to her and her son,” Randall says. “The fact that a little ring I made can mean so much to two people brings unexpected joy and fuels my passion for my work.”
Randall’s work is available regionally at The Lucy Clark Gallery & Studio in Brevard. “Berlin brings a voice to the gallery with her jewelry that is so fresh and unique,” says Lucy Clark. “Her boho-inspired pieces are incredibly creative and masterfully constructed. From her simple earring designs to her large statement work, her voice is clearly evident in all that she does.”
Learn more about K. Berlin Metalsmith at KBerlin.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Etsy. She often shows her work at festivals, including Georgia’s Dunwoody Art Festival (May 11-12), Norcross Art Splash and Weaverville’s Art in Autumn. In Georgia, her work is available at Raiford Gallery, RaifordGallery.com. The Lucy Clark Gallery & Studio is located at 51 West Main Street, Brevard. Learn more at LucyClarkGallery.com.