The Queue: Tracey Beale
Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.
Tracey Beale is a Baltimore-based artist and jewelry designer specializing in sterling, copper, gold, and brass metals. She's a featured maker in the Winter 2022 issue of American Craft and will also be an exhibitor in our American Craft Made / Baltimore event coming up this May.
How do you describe your work or practice?
I create metal jewelry and copper wall art that I describe as modern relics. My interest in ancient, African artifacts and articles of adornment informs a lot of my work. I give meaning and purpose to all of the pieces. Those meanings are usually derived from personal experience, culture, and society.
The past 18 months have presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
I'm not sure if I'm staying grounded or not lol but it's a journey, right? I know that my connection with family, friends, and people that remind me of the bright side of life has a major impact on how grounded and focused I am. Music has been a major source of finding beauty and keeping me grounded. Over the course of the pandemic myself and members of the music collective I perform with, Konjur Collective (@konjur_collective), have been blessed to have artist residency sponsored by CLLCTIVSOUND. So, I'm constantly put in the position of exploring new boundaries as it relates to being a vocalist and how I relate to music and sound. This has become a major part of my visual work too. All of my practices feed one another. I suppose the combination of it all keeps me grounded and allows me to fly at the same time.
The theme of the current issue of American Craft is "Wonder." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
In order to experience wonder we have to remain curious. Lately I've been giving myself space to dream and explore new avenues around my art. I realize that I make accessories on multiple levels—jewelry for the body, wall art for the home and spaces we wish to inhabit, and music for the atmosphere. There is a power in that. And through curiosity and exploration I can stretch the boundaries and definitions of the work I produce. I've been putting the logistical thinking aside (and that's hard for me), spending less time thinking about how I can bring a new idea to fruition and more time searching, exploring, and allowing space for the new to unfold.
What has been the biggest barrier you have had to break through to get to the place you’re at with your career?
The biggest barrier is perspective. Sometimes we decided early on the trajectory we think our career should take. We decide what success should look like. I've found that when I give up on what I "think" I should be doing and just follow my bliss, listen to my intuition, and allow the metal to tell me what it wants to become...the more I do that the better off I am. That's the sweet spot. Yes, there are obligations to fulfill, bills to pay, and things we just have to do. However, I'm learning to trust that inner voice even when it doesn't make sense, and it always leads in the right direction.
What’s one of your go-to/favorite tools in your toolkit that the world should know about?
My favorite tool would have to be my chasing hammers. The textures they provide have become staples in all of my work. I use them in my wall art and my jewelry making. I also enjoy the process of hammering recently fired metal. Though it's not pretty, I love the sounds they make. Once a metal is work-hardened, it makes a sharp pinging sound versus the metal letting you know that it's time to stop and fire it again. Soft metal that has been fired has a totally different sound, and the hammer makes a great imprint and impact on the metal.
If you could purchase any craft artist's work for your home or studio, whose would it be?
There are two artists whose work I'm looking forward to hanging in my home studio. Schaun Champion (@schaunchampion) is a photographer who shoots in film. The depth of color she creates and the way she manipulates light it so alluring. I'm also a fan of SHAN Wallace (@_yoshann), another photographer and collage artist. The freedom in SHAN'S work reminds me to take liberties in life and my own work.
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