Dover woman’s wearable art getting national acclaim

DOVER — As a child, Arden Bardol played with Legos and Lincoln Logs. Later, she graduated from Carnegie Mellon Institute with a degree in architecture and continued along that plane for a couple of decades.

But she missed building things with her hands.

“Architects,” she says, “design; they don’t build.”

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Arden Bardol, of Dover, has her jewelry displayed in an Internet-based exhibition in recognition of American Craft Week. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Now, she spends her days mixing, rolling, slicing, adding thin cylindrical strips to paper-thin layers, pressing, stamping, shaping and baking sandwiches, chips and drops of candylike color.

Ms. Bardol, of Dover and a designated master craftsman with the Delaware by Hand arts organization, has been chosen to represent Delaware with her entry of wearable art in the Masterpiece Artists Exhibit and Sale.

The Internet-based event is part of the sixth annual American Craft Week, which is celebrated with more than 1,000 events across 51 states for 10 days each October. This year’s celebration runs through Oct. 11.

For more information, visit

After taking some pottery classes, Ms. Bardol began making her own polymer clay, and finally, creating her own colors from the black and white polymer and powdered gold and silver. Her work is whimsical in a childlike way, yet painstakingly intricate, reminiscent of the child’s cross-stitch sampler that inspired her 10 years ago on a visit to the Delaware History Museum in Wilmington.

She pulls a necklace off a peg in her workshop.

“This is a story necklace,” she says, holding a strand of shapes and sizes and colors. Just as the child’s sampler told a story of the young girl’s life, the story necklace tells the story of the one who wears it.

Ms. Bardol works in her Dover basement studio.

Ms. Bardol works in her Dover basement studio.

“Everyone has colors they are drawn to and we all have common experiences. Each bead represents an event: big ones with smaller ones in between. Then, there are times in everyone’s life when there was a juncture and we went round and round,” she continues, demonstrating with a copper connecting ring that joins the solid forms in a continuum, while still rotating freely.

She turns one of the pillow-shapes to reveal two distinctive sides. One is hollowed by a cylindrical indent revealing its colorful construction; the other contains a carved-out cube with striated walls.

“There are two ways to look at these events,” Ms. Bardol said.

“They can either cause you to grow or cause you to stall.”

The story necklace was her first wearable art design. Each is a limited edition, different enough in color and composition that the experiences of everyone’s life can be symbolized.

“Through it, we experience empathy for each other,” she concludes.

Although famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright called architecture “the mother art,” it was his son, John Lloyd Wright, who invented young Ms. Bardol’s Lincoln Logs, she isn’t certain that her experience as an architect is a huge

One of Ms. Bardol's newest necklace designs she calls "Wings".

One of Ms. Bardol’s newest necklace designs she calls “Wings”.

component in her craft.

She continues to practice architecture as a senior associate of Becker Morgan Group and admits that her first jewelry pieces were, “very architectural; they were gray and black.”

They also were well received. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have one photograph to show of them, but she vividly recalls her amazement when in 2005 Jean Francis at Beyond Dimensions in Dover asked to sell her work. She equally was astounded when it was suggested that she apply to the Buyer’s Market of American Craft, formerly held in Philadelphia each year.

Her recent creations have drifted away from neutral colors and solid forms to some extent, but there is an identifiable continuity to her work. Each year she develops a color “wave” and adds a new design element, while retaining one element she has used before. One of the most recent of these, “wings,” was introduced in 2014.

“It came to me in a dream,” she said.

As with most dreams, there is a process toward reality. Hers are drawn on paper, input into a 3-D computer program and built into a mock-up. From there, apparently, the possibilities are endless.

“My work is getting more volume and becoming more three-dimensional,” she said.

Her displayed works bear witness to the statement. The wings spread out more than tightly compressed beads, and sometime soon Ms. Bardol’s fans may be seeing them on a much grander scale.

Next up is a welding class.

For more information on her work, visit

Dee Marvin Emeigh is a freelance writer living in Milford.

Pictured are a variety of brooches made by architect/artist Arden Bardol, of Dover.

Pictured are a variety of brooches made by architect/artist Arden Bardol, of Dover.

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