Creative Caversham – Barbara Goodbun


USUALLY, new works of art or craft are just that – new. However local artist Barbara Goodbun has for many years been creating wonderful works of art using old, recycled materials. Greta Thunberg – eat your heart out!

For a good 25 years, Barbara has been scouring antique shops for old pieces of porcelain, offcuts of glass, and discarded pieces of old jewellery, in order to create beautiful new items – necklaces, pendants, earrings and bracelets. Her interest began when she started to buy earrings herself, after having her ears pierced. Having lost one of a pair, she didn’t want to throw away the remaining earring – and it occurred to her she could use it to create something entirely new.

I was always interested in making something and, for a while before my interest in jewellery, it was patchwork. But it really wasn’t cost-effective, making things and trying to earn some money from it, as people could buy imported patchwork far more cheaply. When I started making jewellery people wanted to buy it, so for me it isn’t ‘just a hobby.’ I need to set my costs right, I have to be sensibly priced, so I can sell and make something from it.”

Barbara has developed her range over many years, and creates both very ‘traditional’ styles of jewellery, such as pearl necklaces using the pearls from discarded broken necklaces, as well as highly creative pieces, where she interweaves old brooches, beads, stones and other items together to make a dramatic fashion statement.

For my jewellery, I use really varied materials. I use my drill to cut shapes from old plates and china, and I also use lots of offcuts of glass. I recycle old brooches, earrings and necklaces. I like experimenting, putting together lots of little ‘bits’. I rearrange things, until they look nice. It makes me so happy, and the end results seems to make my customers happy!”

As well as working with a drill, which Barbara uses to cut small shapes from old porcelain plates, selecting out attractive features, Barbara also has a very small kiln, which she uses to fuse together broken pieces of glass, to create new pieces she can incorporate in her jewellery making. One simple idea is to place the pieces of glass in cookie cutters, from which Barbara makes colourful brooches and pendants.

Occasionally, Barbara is commissioned by her customers.

I have been commissioned to create new pieces from old, my favourites were my ‘lovely ladies’, as I call them! I was approached and asked if I could make a new piece for their mother, using pieces from their grandmother’s jewellery. In fact, there was enough over, so I made a piece each for the mother and both her daughters.” As well as making items for her jewellery business, Barbara is a keen beader and member of Berkshire Beaders.

Barbara explains, “There is a long history of beadwork in Britain. Beads were used to make boxes and bracelets, as well as to decorate clothes, such as in embroidery – beadwork in Britain goes back centuries.” Members get together to learn different patterns and stitches, although nowadays enthusiasts can find a lot of information online about the craft, which is also associated with North America.

Nowadays Barbara sells her jewellery at arts trails in Caversham and the surrounding area, and she also has a cabinet in Antiques on High, in the High Street, Oxford. Through her Oxford showcase she notices how customers react to her recycled designs.

It is interesting to note that American tourists tend to go for my ‘big pieces’ – made from lots of small pieces – whereas UK purchasers tend to prefer to buy ‘classic-style’ such as pearl necklaces. Young people tend to like something which is a bit ‘different’.

Barbara has developed a keen eye for creating something beautiful from something discarded. “I look for things that no one else wants which I can turn into unique new pieces of jewellery. I suppose I was re-using and recycling things before it became fashionable! At one time, there was a sense of, so this is second hand? But now that has all changed.”

Antiques on High, 85 High Street, Oxford

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