A brief interview with 2016 Open Studio Tour artist: Maria Louise High
Artwork by Maria Louise High

Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do in your studio?
A majority of the work I do, in either medium, is custom made, taking a single person into consideration during the entire process and creating something special to them even if it is not one of a kind.

In making my Blooms, I am inspired by form and volume and how far I can push that to make a piece that is still wearable in either an everyday context or for a special occasion. I love generous use of rich materials whether they are larger pearls or onyx beading or several layers of tiny seed beading, the layering of texture over the primary volume and form.

Most of my metalwork is done by electroforming and its creative process is opposite to my fabric work in that the texture usually takes first consideration with form and volume following after. In designing this work, I try to focus on personal nostalgia and specifically the way we collect tokens or specimens – sand, shells, pebbles – to remind us of places or people. In creating custom portable objects with a client’s personal specimens, they can share their stories about their tokens as they wear them, rather than having these natural elements sitting in a jar on on a shelf located where little conversation takes place. My production work typically focuses on textures and shapes found in marine life and abstracted to varying degrees.

Artwork by Maria Louise High

What drew you to the medium(s) that you are currently working with?
It’s been an interesting chain of experience. Painting and illustration led to fabric work and at the request of a friend who was Director of the Woman’s Industrial Exchange, I did some blooms for the shop. So I sort of fell into that, and just worked at creating pieces that were more innovative and unique from what others were doing at the time. It garnered me a commission for a magazine cover and has landed my work in over 20 countries, which still amazes me! Something was still missing, though. After a couple years of that work, I wanted to reinvest in my skills and thought I would take some classes at MICA to further my painting. That’s when I discovered the jewelry department (now the Baltimore Jewelry Center) and everything about it clicked neatly and quickly into my life. I come from a family full of carpenters and ironworkers going back over 100 years, so I guess there’s a genetic component. My tools are just a lot smaller.
Artwork by Maria Louise High

What is something that you think is unique about your studio or practice?
I do work in two distinctly different media, fabric and metal. Because of switching back and forth, I don’t experience creative block and a break from one medium to work on another keeps the studio busy but balanced. It’s been an interesting journey over the past few months, finally bringing the two media together in a small collection of pieces I am excited to debut during the tour!


What is one thing you love about being an artist in Baltimore?
Art is so accessible here. With family roots in Philadelphia, I thought I would naturally end up living there. Then for a time we were planning a move to NYC, but in the end I couldn’t leave Baltimore. It’s been exciting to see the art movement in Baltimore swell and now flow into the maker movement. There is so much going on and it is all one step off of your stoop.
 Artwork by Maria Louise High

What are you most excited about for this year’s Open Studio Tour?
It’s my first time participating!
Artwork by Maria Louise High

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