Bernadette Mahfood was a founding member of the River Arts Alliance and a force of nature in the arts community of Winona. She passed away after a brief battle with cancer in December 2015 and this page is a permanent reminder of her amazing artistry.
My fascination with beads began in 1974 when I bartered my wristwatch for some very ancient glass beads while living in Tunisia. I was teaching macramé to a group of young women in a mountain village in NW Tunisia. Visiting Phoenician and Roman ruins as well as Berber and Arab sacred places became a passion. The architecture, friezes, mosaics and murals at these ancient sites, in addition to the ambient color of Tunisia, continue to inspire me. My studies eventually expanded to include ancient Egyptian and Sumerian history. I marvel at each new revelation about our origins, and by the great diversity of ways human beings have lived and interacted with their environment. A curious nature draws me to continue exploring ancient mythology and artwork for clues that they give us about how the cultures of our ancestors evolved.
My affair with glass bead making started with a flame worked glass workshop taught by Paul Stankard at Penland in 1987. Experimenting with the limited supply of glass that existed at that time, I found glass combinations which were compatible and colors which produced unusual effects. Antique beads from my collection inspired my original designs. In the past few years I have revived fiber work techniques for myself by combining it with glass, both in glass tiles and jewelry. I use fine linen, nylon and silk cord depending on the texture and color that I want to achieve. In some pieces the fiber is prominent and in others the glass is prominent.
As my work has evolved it has become more narrative in nature. I think of each piece as a sculpture with a story. The story could be a simple sketch of cosmic energy feeding a flower or a dance in the mythic underworld. Or it might be a tale of wild women holding court with prairie flowers and monarchs, or images of crop circles near Stonehenge.