About 15 years ago, Dover resident Arden Bardol started feeling that her day job as a project-based architect didn’t offer enough creativity, so she began exploring the world of handmade statement jewelry—her first step toward a new career.
“I made small objects that happened to be wearable,” Bardol says. Early on, she consulted Jean Francis, owner of Dover’s former Beyond Dimensions gallery. “Jean turned my life around. She wanted to sell it, and she encouraged me.”
Francis’ support led Bardol to expand her horizons to silversmithing classes where she honed her skills. After a 2016 solo show at the Heidi Lowe Gallery in Rehoboth Beach, Bardol got a push from Lowe, this time to apply for a Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowship. “She said, ‘Do it.’ She saw something I didn’t see in myself,” Bardol says.
The artist used part of the $10,000 grant to take a blacksmithing class in Laurel, Maryland. She also spent three years learning to weld through Polytech Adult Education classes. She eventually took to fashioning structures using polymer clay, which now forms an integral part of her work.
With a sense of objects and space from her professional training, accompanied by her newly acquired skills, she began to branch out from jewelry to sculptural projects. In her garage-turned-studio, complete with a custom anvil and surrounded by floor-to-ceiling tools, she creates works such as her Village of Hope pieces that tell stories “about hope for the future to make the world a better place through trust, love, kindness and hope.”
Bardol’s attraction to Native American spirituality and totems, along with her classical musical training, provides inspiration for candlesticks and subsequent Village of Hope items that have been a hit with collectors. It’s a far cry from her original career, but her independence and creativity take precedence. “This is doing what I want to do,” she says.
What’s next? Maybe larger sculptural pieces or more statement jewelry?
“I believe I’m going somewhere with metal. I am never happy once I get to a plateau. I always want to be growing. I’m known at a national level for polymer jewelry, and I want to be known as an interpretive sculptor using metal. The response has been fantastic. At shows, I’m storytelling; it’s all people-based.”
Bardol’s jewelry can be purchased at Gallery 37 in Milford, CREATE in Chestertown, Maryland, and regional fine art shows including the Rehoboth Art League, St. Peter’s Craft Show in Lewes, the Rittenhouse Square show in Philadelphia and Smithsonian Craft2Wear in Washington, D.C.
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