Interview with Barbara Di Renzo with Hanan Awaad
Barbara Di Renzo is a Mixed Media Artist, Jewellery Designer and Art Instructor from Cambridge, Ontario. Her contemporary artwork and jewellery incorporate a variety of recycled metals that she sources from recycling plants and metal industries.
I met Barbara at the Kultrun Market in Waterloo, Ontario. I was impressed with the quality of her jewellery designs and how such beautiful items come from discarded, not-so-pretty scraps of metal. I visited Barbara at her studio, and we talked about her art.
Barbara, thank you for having me today in your art studio and let me start by asking you about the name “Left Align Design Art Studio.” What does it mean?
When I began painting, I experimented with different styles and techniques but favoured abstract art. I remember after completing one of my first paintings, I kept going back to it, feeling it still wasn’t finished. I actually started searching through my husband’s tool shed to see if I could find something to add to the piece! I ended up finding some interesting strips of metal, applied them to the left of the painting and knew instantly that not only was it complete but that it would be my unique style. This eventually became my signature trademark, so I thought it was fitting for the name of my art studio; Left Align Design. I do occasionally create paintings with pieces that aren’t left aligned too!
That is a beautiful story, and I was also impressed by how neat, and meticulously organized your studio is. Frankly speaking, I was expecting a little chaos of creativity.
I believe that having a disorganized studio reflects creativity is such a false stereotype about artists. My studio is my gallery, my office, where I meet with clients and my workshop where I teach aspiring artists and individuals interested in creating beautiful art. My background is also in Interior Decorating so being in an organized, and visually pleasing space inspires me! I am also lucky enough to have an amazing assistant who helps me with larger workshops and makes sure all equipment is returned to its designated place.
As a mixed material artist who uses metal scraps, how could you see beyond the ugly look of discarded material?
There are lots of things about metal that appeal to me; textures, colours, patinas, and the shape. I usually cut, blowtorch or alter the metal to create sculptural pieces but at times will leave it in its natural form, if it is interesting enough. Some people get excited after returning from a shopping trip to the mall, I get excited after finding some great pieces at the recycling plant, I am like a kid in a candy store! There’s also great satisfaction in re-using discarded items that people think are no longer useful and turning them into something beautiful.
Other than metal, what other mediums you use?
I have tried watercolour and oil in the past but always went back to acrylic paint. Very large brushes for my colour blended pieces and palette knives for my textured ones. I also use many tools to achieve my desired look for the metal; handheld sanders, different types of scissors and tin snips, hammering stations, blowtorches and more. I have recently begun creating industrial style metal and wood sculptures which I am really enjoying.
Is there something you want people to know about your art?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions about my art is that because I use recycled metals, I get it for free. Recycling plants have to earn a living too. I pay for my metal by weight and copper is not cheap! Sometimes friends or clients will give me some metal pieces, but for the most part, I do pay for it. I think another misconception is that I just find these interesting metal pieces and place them on my art. Often I spend just as much time altering and working on the metal as I do on the painting.
Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
I am self-taught, but my father Luciano Di Renzo certainly inspired and encouraged me. He was an excellent oil painter and successful woodworker for the St. Lawrence Parks Commission. Some of his furniture designs are actually in the Privy Council Office of the Parliament buildings, and he created a beautiful jewellery box for Queen Elizabeth that he presented to her on her visit to Canada. Growing up, our house was full of beautiful paintings and carvings, like the one you see close to my front door. That environment ignited my passion for art.
As a successful full-time artist, what advice would you give to someone first starting out?
That depends on whether you want to earn a living as an artist or just simply enjoy creating part time. Making a living at it means you need to divide your time between creating and getting your work out there. Apply for different festivals or local art shows, join art groups and don’t be afraid to ask other artists for guidance or advice. Market your work as much as you can. Approach galleries and independent stores and use social media to your advantage, it is a powerful tool. Sharing your passion by teaching workshops or classes is another great way to generate additional income. A positive attitude is number one. Never assume you will not be accepted for any reason and keep trying. I remember the curator at the first gallery I had my work at told me, “They do not just need to like your art, they need to like you too.” Talk to people and tell them about you and your work. If someone decides to purchase from you, aside from it having a special meaning to them, your personality will live through the painting too.
Other than working on your paintings and jewellery, what else do you do?
Lots! I am an art instructor both at my own studio and Homer Watson House & Gallery and teach workshops regularly. I also participate in many local art events, festivals, fundraisers, and shows. Most recently, I have started participating in Toronto art shows as well. I have or have had my artwork/jewellery featured at many locations. In Cambridge; City Hall, Galt Country Club (commissioned paintings), Franklin Medical Centre and Cambridge Centre for the Arts Gift Shop. In Kitchener; THEMUSEUM and WalterFedy and in Waterloo my work has been featured at UpTown Gallery, CIGI (The Centre for International Governance Innovation) and of course the Kultrun Market where I met you!
Originally posted 2016-12-21 17:19:48.