Two Phoenix Artists Collaborate on New Collection of Statement Pins
Don’t clutch your pearls – the latest accessory adorning stars like Bella Hadid, Nick Jonas and Sarah Jessica Parker is the brooch.
Two Phoenician artists are leading the trend with their first collaboration. Diana Ferguson and Anthony Barbano have teamed up to produce a collection of bead stitched floral pins, featuring hand-blown glass focals with intricate details reminiscent of succulents. These one-of-a-kind pins can be worn to provide a pop of color or displayed on the stand that comes with each piece. Inspired by the flowers of Arizona, these aren’t your grandmother’s brooches.
“I think brooches by nature are happy pieces and lively,” Ferguson said. “It’s different and I think they really stand out.” The pair can also be commissioned for bespoke pins and are planning a collection inspired by the cosmos for fall 2022/winter 2023. We checked in with Ferguson and Barbano to learn more about this new collection.
Q&A: Diana Ferguson and Anthony Barbano
What sparked your collaboration?
Diana Ferguson: I am always looking for beautiful focals for my pins and brooches. I had seen Anthony’s work – we were both participating in the Celebration of Fine Art in Scottsdale this winter. I approached you, Anthony, and asked if you would be interested in collaborating, and we went from there. It’s a wonderful way to elevate what are already beautiful pieces with such a more complex focal than I’ve used in the past. It was just a fortuitous circumstance of two people who had things that we could collaborate on.
Anthony Barbano: It came around very organically. I think it was just in Diana’s mind. She saw the potential and brought me this opportunity. It worked out beautifully.
Tell us more about the inspiration for these pieces and what’s driving the overall collection.
AB: A lot of my inspiration is coming from nature, so with my patterns a lot of them are very floral. The patterns that are straightforward in the glass, a lot of people will see chrysanthemum. In patterns that have movement, those are more succulent or sea anemone. As far as the colors inside of the glass, the colors are coming from 24-carat gold and pure silver.
DF: I’m looking to specific flowers in nature and creating the palette from that. In this case, I was trying to think of Arizona or Phoenix, in terms of flowers that we enjoy. I always think of hibiscus and geraniums at a certain time of year. Of course there will be bougainvillea, which I haven’t done yet.
AB: I have some on my porch.
DF: The intensity is amazing.
AB: When the desert is in bloom, these colors are so vivid and bright. When those cactus are blooming, the bougainvilleas and everything, those colors are like neon orange and hot pink and bright yellow. There are incredibly bright colors in the desert.
DF: Everything’s bright and vivid.
AB: You’ve gotta have that pop, huh?
Why pins, and what’s bringing them back?
DF: I honestly think it has to do with the fact that we were all in quarantine and on Zoom calls all the time. In a business setting, what a great way to draw attention in a pretty way. I think that it might have started there.
And we’re seeing people wear them out now, too.
DF: I think brooches by nature are happy pieces and lively. It’s almost like fascinators a little while back. It was just this really wonderful accessory that you could use to really draw attention. It’s different and I think they really stand out, and the bigger the better, so not your grandmother’s pin.
They seem to be everywhere. I was starting with these last year; I often heard: “I don’t wear pins, I don’t wear brooches. That was something my mom did.” And this year, every pin that I had, I sold, so it’s interesting to see that mentality come around.
What do you think is causing that shift?
AB: Diana caused it. She’s the trendsetter.
DF: I do think people are very aware of what’s going on. You see what people are wearing and doing. Usually it takes time for a trend to travel. Here I think we’re liking to show off a little.
If you put on a pin like this, it’s a happy thing. It’s happy for the person wearing it, as well as for others that are looking at it. They bring a smile and help people enjoy this kind of artistry that we both do.
AB: To combine the two in one piece is so unique, one-of-a-kind. Nobody else has ever seen anything like that. Each individual (piece) has its own unique things about it. It’s a nice way to accent somebody’s personality. They’re fun, bright pieces.
How do you all put it all together? Do you start with the focal piece?
DF: We’ve done it both ways. In the first instance (“Encantada”), I created a pin, and then Anthony created the focal glass based on his inspiration of that existing pin. Anthony brought some really interesting ideas with the harmony of the glass and the beads, and I really appreciated that. On these pins, I actually asked Anthony to create some focals for me that I could take back to my studio. In that case, I was inspired by looking at the focals that Anthony created.
For myself, I’m working with these glass beads. I have, maybe, a thousand different colors and shades. The beads are glass and they have different kinds of finishes on them. I just gather complimentary beads to create pieces. They’re stitched with a needle and FireLine Thread, which is a monofilament thread, so it’s super strong and doesn’t stretch out.
AB: It’s amazing to watch her make them. She takes these little beads one at a time, it’s incredible.
DF: It’s super meditative. I love doing it. It’s very zen.
It’s a peyote stitch that you’re doing?
DF: Exactly. It’s architectural peyote stitch. I am inspired by a beading movement called contemporary geometric beadwork. It is something that an artist by the name of Kate McKinnon has been very, very generous with her time and intellect to share out. I can’t thank her enough for the inspiration that she and her team have provided over the years.
I’ve been interested in beads forever, and I started out 30 years ago doing square stitch, which is a very thread-intensive loomed bead work. More recently, in the last five or six years, I’ve focused on the peyote stitch specifically.
Anthony, can you talk about your process?
AB: I’m hand blowing all the pieces. The specific style of glass blowing that these were created in is known as lampworking. With lampworking, I’m able to get that real tight, intricate detail rather than blowing the pieces out of a furnace. They’re all hand blown with a torch. The process of blowing gold and silver in the glass is a technique that’s only about 30 years old now. It’s a very contemporary glassblowing technique. Where most glass blowing is credited to the Italians, this is an American glassblowing technique.
DF: It is a very beautiful process to watch.
Pins can be used as a statement piece. If your collection could talk, what would it say?
DF: I think if this collection could talk, it would say don’t be afraid to wear something beautiful and to wear a piece that engages others in conversation. Wear your jewelry to create a connection with others, and this is a great way to do it.
AB: I love that. That’s a great outlook. That is a conversation starter, for sure if you’re wearing that. People love to talk about their art whether it’s hanging vertically on their wall or vertically on their body.
What drew each of you to your craft, and how did you get your start?
AB: For me, my first real passion was ceramics and pottery. Glass was a medium that was very elusive. I couldn’t ever find anyone that worked in glass, so part of that was intriguing to me. I’m really in love with the dimension you can get in glass and the way that light refracts off of glass. Another aspect is the fire. I’m a bit of a pyro at heart, so I get to work with glass and fire every day, and it’s a match made in heaven for me.
DF: I was dabbling with art here and there and finally figured out what I wanted to do with the art and saw that I could make a living at it. So, I weaned myself away from the corporate (world) and became a full-time artist in 2008. The first significant contribution I had was “Petals to the Metal” earrings, which are mixed medium – they’re paper, resin and metal. Over the last couple of years, I’ve really been focusing on beadwork and it’s gone very well. I just feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living now.
Where can people buy these pieces and what’s the price point?
DF: They’re available on artfulhome.com and they’re available on the Celebration of Fine Art marketplace. These are around the $550-650 range.