Let the River Answer

Arianna Bara


A table top made of a glimmering 6ft slice of petrified tree trunk. A single quartz crystal taller than I am (and I’m tall). Geodes you can step into. These are some of the amazing things I saw during my first trip to the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show in Arizona last February.

My friend, jeweler Melissa Booth, had been urging me to go for several years. For her it is an annual pilgrimage, and it is indeed a mecca in the world of gem and mineral buying, collecting and trading. The gem show is actually more than 40 shows sprawled throughout the city, the premier show being that of the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA). Located inside the plush convention center is a United Nations of buyers and sellers: diamond sellers from India in impeccable suits, German stone-cutters with sapphires and topaz, South Africans with pietersite (a rare form of tiger eye), the Russian “mafia” selling, well, whatever you want.

And Australian boulder opals, which completely entranced me with their irregular shapes and variety of colors: flecks of red, bright green, cobalt blue, yellows, black, pinks, creams and purples. Definitely not your grandmother’s opals (well maybe yours but not mine).

Some opal was being sold in large chunks of the rock it formed in, clearly showing its origins. Opal begins as liquid silica and flows into open cavities in the stone. When it is mined the top is cut off revealing a shimmering river of every color imaginable. Because of the liquid nature of silica, in rare instances, fossils can become “opalized”, turned into opal. In even rarer cases the internal details of the fossil are opalized as well. Opalized dinosaur teeth, bones and entire skeletons have been excavated.

The Australian boulder opal I brought back from Tucson has really inspired me. I hope you will come the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts and see my new work and let me know what you think.


it’s all about the story



“Out Of Abaton” is John Bemis‘ new interpretation of the well-loved tale of Pinocchio. Just as the wooden puppet changes into a human boy, Bemis transforms this classic story with fantastic creatures, alchemy, and the mystery of human emotion–all woven into the magical and glorious landscape of Italy. The artists of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts depict this fantasic tale in paintings, photography, metal, fiber, glass, ceramics, and wood. It is a show for all those who appreciate rich story telling and local art.

About John Claude Bemis:

John Claude Bemis is an award-winning author and also an inspiring speaker and musician. Bemis grew up in North Carolina and became an elementary school teacher after studying Art History and Education at UNC-Chapel Hill. His experiences of reading, exploring, and teaching naturally evolved into a career of writing. He received the Exellence in Teaching Award from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Education and was chosen as North Carolina’s Piedmont Laureate for Children’s Literature in 2013. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.


Feb 24


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The Art of Giving

holiday-rgbEach holiday season the members of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts transform the gallery to showcase original ornaments and hand-made gifts. The gallery’s 21 members work in a variety of media, providing a wide array of art and fine craft for holiday shoppers.

The glass art includes hand-blown vessels, ornaments, solar lights, paperweights, and jewelry. Fiber art on display includes framed collage quilts and hand dyed stitched cloth, knitted scarves; and fabric handbags. The jewelry in the show covers a variety of styles and techniques, from copper and bronze to sterling and fine silver necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, some with gold accents and stones.  Visitors will also find metal sculpture, pottery, turned wood, enamels, and carved ironwood with turquoise and silver inlay. Fine art photography, oil and acrylic painting, encaustics, scratchboard, and mixed media work festively surround the three dimensional pieces on pedestals.

Explore the wonderful art exhibited at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts to find a special gift for that special person.

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Arianna Bara Lapis and Azurite photo by artist

Arianna Bara

In designing the focal pieces for this show I was inspired by a cold and windy trip to the Acoma Pueblo, which lies on top of a 365 foot mesa in New Mexico.  The harshness of the land, the history of the native peoples and the stories of their indomitable spirits and resilience made a deep impression.

The site is the oldest continually inhabited settlement in North America at about 1000 years old.  On top of the mesa, two and three level homes are still made of adobe, with outside ladders leading to the upper stories where people live.  There is no running water, no electricity and no sewage disposal.  For centuries the only access was an almost vertical set of stairs cut into the rock face.

Arianna Bara Tiger's Eye, Plume Agate, Baltic Amber and Garnet, photo by artistThe day I was there was the second of a two-day festival of dancing and ceremony honoring the dedication of the newly-elected leaders.  Native people returned in large number to their ancestral homes on the mesa to participate and there were only a handful of non-native visitors there.  I felt completely immersed within a culture that was foreign to me and honored to be able to observe these dances and ceremonies performed for the Zuni people, not tourists.

The sounds of drums, rattles, chanting, the colors and patterns of traditional clothing and pottery, all stood out brightly against the surrounding brown of the desert and unceasing wind and sand. There was a palpable sense of a living, breathing ancient culture that uplifted me and inspired my work.

My major pieces for “Luminous” are female figures crafted of sterling silver and semi-precious stones like turquoise, carnelian, chrysoprase and lapis lazuli.  The silver is heavily textured and darkened with a liver of sulfur patina making them appear ancient.  They are being buffeted by the wind, perhaps a storm is raging around them, but they are not only still standing, they are strongly rooted.

Arianna Bara Turquoise, Chrysocolla, Carnelian, Amethyst and Lapis

The Art of Giving



Giftable Art Found At The Hillsborough Gallery Of Arts Group Show, The Art Of Giving

Members of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts present their holiday show November 16 – January 3 with an Opening Reception on November 27th from 6 – 9pm

Every holiday season the members of the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts (HGA) transform the Gallery into a wonderland of original ornaments and wonderful gifts of art of all sorts in their group show, The Art of Giving. Gallery members work in many different media and offer works of art in a wide range of prices.

To make holiday shopping easy, HGA offers gift certificates.  It also maintains a Wish List Book that allows customers to select the perfect gift for themselves and have the gallery contact the person they hope will purchase it for them. Purchases can be completed over the phone and the gift either picked up at the gallery or shipped to you directly.

The Hillsborough Gallery of Arts exhibits the work of nine painters: Linda Carmel, Chris Graebner, Lolette Guthrie, Marcy Lansman, Eduardo Lapetina, Jude Lobe, Pat Merriman, Ellie Reinhold and Michele Yellin. Their styles include representational and abstract work in a wide range of sizes, prices and media including oil, cold wax & oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, encaustics, enamels and mixed media. Several of these artists also create wall-mounted folk art.

The gallery also offers textile art by artists Alice Levinson, Ali Givens and Susan Hope who offer framed pieces for the wall, sewn or woven scarves, shawls, tree ornaments and unique table linens.

If you prefer photographs, at HGA you will find framed and unframed photographs by award-winning photographer Eric Saunders and versatile artist, Pat Lloyd who also makes beaded jewelry and gorgeous turned wood bowls.  Are you looking for unique prints or cards?  Many member artists offer both so there is a great variety to choose from.

Jewelry may be the perfect gift for someone on your list. HGA boasts ten artists who create a wonderful variety of jewelry.  Metal-smith, Arianna Bara, works with silver and semi-precious stones; Nell Chandler, make, painted and etched silver, copper and brass jewelry, Pringle Teetor, Susan Hope and Mark Kinsella all make variations of fused glass jewelry, Pat Lloyd creates kumihimo beadwork necklaces, and Lynn Wartski, Jude Lobe, Ali Givens and Pat Merriman create a wide variety of copper, ceramic, painted tiles and mixed media jewelry.

Four of the gallery’s members: Pringle Teetor, Susan Hope, Mark Kinsella and Christopher Burnside specialize in working with glass – blown, kiln-formed, fused and stained. Their work includes both stained and mosaic glass window hangings, lamps with stained glass shades, vases, trays, coasters, solar garden lights, glass balls and more.

Do you love ceramics?  Two of HGA’s members are potters, Garry Childs and Evelyn Ward.  Garry creates gorgeous thrown and hand carved bowls, vases and platters; Evelyn creates beautiful teapots and mugs as well as vases and glasses decorated with her own paintings. Perhaps you prefer a bowl turned from local wood by Pat Lloyd. Or maybe a collectible art doll is what you are after.  Member artist Lynn Wartski offers unique doll sculptures and other works using copper and mixed media.

Come explore the wonderful art exhibited at the Hillsborough Gallery of Arts where you will find exactly the right gift of art for that special person.

Opening Reception

Friday November 27


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Our Art is….

art doll balloon webLynn Wartski

The art doll sculptures I have created for this year’s feature show stretch beyond  interesting little characters. I worked to push gesture and movement to hopefully capture each figure in a moment of a narrative. My hope  is that the viewer finds him or herself wondering what is going on with each individual, or what will be occurring in the very next moment,

The piece I chose for the postcard image for the show, “Balloon”, is a good example of this extension with narrative. A small figure with pigtails is stretching on tiptoe while grasping the end of a balloon string. Is she in the process of loosing her grasp? I she running along with a breeze? Perhaps it is a magically strong balloon that will carry her away? I guess the answer resides with each viewer.

I have also continued my experimentation with new materials and media incorporation into  my art dolls. Though I know that I never would want to fully step away from the copper that has become a trademark of my work, I have enjoyed playing with other materials as the main component of a piece with the metal in a supporting role.

art doll media w

My piece titled “Media” is an example of play and experimentation with materials. Though she still began with a copper face that I hand hammered, the rest of her creation took a number of detours. I shaped her torso, skirt top, neck, and one of her shins from wood. Her head and one arm are paperclay over an armature, and her hair is hand cut parchment. Lastly, her multiple mixed media arms and legs are articulated with joints rather than my usual bendable padded wire frame.

One piece that nicely brings together both the elements of narrative and expanding media is “Paper Alice”. My version of Alice in Wonderland steps out of a story that many already know. I based this art doll on pen and ink illustrations from a classic edition of the book.I fully sculpted her head and arms from paperclay, and metal is found only in her accessories and details. Images and favorite quotes from the tale are worked into her clothing and on her base, and she has a wig made of strips of parchment paper.

art doll paper alice webI thoroughly enjoy creating these art doll figures, and even more, people’s reactions to them.


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What I came here for


Arianna Bara

Before I made jewelry, I tried a lot of different things. I drew, painted, sculpted, took pottery classes. None of them felt like “what I came here for”. I kept asking myself in which direction I was supposed to go and no way became clearly “the” way.

In the 90’s I read a book on lucid dreaming, which is a way to awaken within your dream state so you can ask your subconscious questions about your life: little questions like how to solve a problem, or the bigger ones like “Why Am I Here?” questions. I practiced the techniques and, amazingly, was able, several times, to become aware or “lucid” when I was dreaming.

As you can imagine, this is tricky on several levels. The key is to realize you are dreaming without waking up. One of the ways you can do that is throughout the day and as you fall asleep at night, you ask yourself the same two questions and listen for the answer. You ask “Am I dreaming”? “Can I fly”? As you ask yourself throughout the day, the answer is, of course, no. I’m not dreaming, I’m writing this on the computer. Can I fly? Nope, my feet are firmly on the carpet.

As you ask yourself these questions as you fall asleep, there will be a time when you ask yourself if you are dreaming, and you will be uncertain. You will ask yourself if you can fly and you will. You will fly!


Dream flying is the most exhilarating thing. You just want to fly forever. So the next tricky part is to stop flying and ask your question. One time my question was “What will my art look like”? I saw myself in a gallery and my work was on the wall. It was far away and I kept trying to move in closer to see it but I couldn’t get a clear view. It was small and seemed metallic, but it was hanging on the wall and so was not clearly jewelry.

I had fun with lucid dreaming and had some fabulous flights, but never found exact answers to the questions I asked. It took constant practice and I was unable to keep up with it as the demands of my life took precedence.

I discovered jewelry-making about 10 years later, when a friend invited me to join her in a class. I had recently lost my husband and was stunned and grieving. I had no idea what metalsmithing entailed and next to no interest, but I wanted to spend time with her so I signed up for it. The minute I picked up a pair of round-nosed pliers and wire I began making spirals. Over and over. I was hooked. Then came the hammer and the forging and the torch and there was no going back. All the therapy I needed was in those motions and the creative process.

So, what did I come here for? I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We are here to remember, in the face of love and loss, that we are radiant eternal beings. We are here to “arise and illuminate”, as poet John O’Donohue says. That is what my jewelry is about.


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