by Remi Escudie | Photography by Dave Barfield
After almost three decades of teaching at Tallahassee Community College, Barbara Edwards has become a staple in the local photography community. She recently switched venues and mediums to open up “Silver Euphorium,” a small studio and shop in Railroad Square that sells handmade jewelry (and some black and white film photographs, of course).
“Over 29 years, I witnessed the artistic growth of so many talented people. I have several students out in the world working as successful photographers,” said Edwards. “Teaching was the best job I’ve ever had, but it was tough. My dream was to have a studio and shop of my own, where I could saunter in and close anytime I want, and now I’m giving it a shot. If not now, when?”
Edwards planned to have a shop for many years, but with her position as a professor she never found it feasible. It was not until she retired from teaching and stumbled onto a new art form — hand crafting silver earrings, necklaces and rings — that she seized the opportunity.
“I couldn’t wait any longer to do what I wanted to do, so I’m glad a spot was open here,” said Edwards. “Railroad Square is an amazing place — it’s on the cusp of greatness. Our shops are very accessible and I’m surrounded by working artists. It’s a good life.”
With the change is scenery comes a change in lifestyle. The free-form environment of an art park is much more relaxed than that of a university.
“I don’t have people telling me what to do anymore, but I do miss being around young people,” said Edwards. “I love seeing and working with students who are passionate about art, and I felt privileged to watch their growth and be a part of it. Students would tell me years later, ‘you changed my life.’ I was just doing my job, but i’s still very flattering.”
Just because she is nostalgic does not mean Edwards isn’t happy to be living her life for herself. Teaching can be a selfless endeavor, especially if one works in academia for 29 years. This transition comes as a welcomed sigh of relief to Edwards.
“I’m living my dream. It’s fun — I love it. I love not having a set job. I get here around 11 and start making jewelry and listening to music. You’ve got to engage as many senses as you can; I eat something sweet, make jewelry and talk to people that come in. Then, I get to go home when I please.”
After many years of perfecting a craft, it is not common for an artist to abruptly switch their medium. Photography, however, requires an artist to rely on the objects and subjects at their disposal. These objects are not infinite, especially if one has been shooting in the same area since 1976.
“I still shoot occasionally, but I’ve photographed everything within a 200-mile radius, so I usually don’t take a whole lot of pictures anymore unless I’m traveling,” said Edwards.
While she still has a photography studio at home, Edwards now spends most of her time in the shop, which doesn’t allow for much time to be dedicated to photography. She finds the newness and simplicity of her silversmithing a refreshing departure from intricate photographic processes.
“My photography always had to have some kind of story, as well as having strength in form and content,” said Edwards. “The jewelry is different; it’s just pure form. It’s like you’re fabricating tiny little sculptures. It’s a nice change.”
Regardless of the medium, Edwards’ artistic soul is as strong as ever. With new inventive exploration comes renewed inspiration; the thoughts and emotions and soul that form the creative process can now be re-expressed in new ways.
“Everything you experience in life feeds on itself in art. You take in all these things, and somehow they become stirred up in your psyche and get spewed out when you create. A lot of times you don’t know where it comes from,” said Edwards.
It is this beauty in uncertainty that makes artistic expression so valuable, and a thriving creative community so essential to the health of society. Railroad Square is Tallahassee’s hub for artists, and Barbara Edwards’ Silver Euphorium is now a piece of Tallahassee culture. Although Edwards’ is no longer in academia, she will continue to play an important role in the creative development of our city.
Note: In the title, the former “Silver” refers to the silver gelatin process, a traditional form of photography characterized by black and white negatives exposed on film, the latter “Silver” refers to silversmithing.
Remi Escudie is a journalist and senior at Florida State University. He seeks to promote environmental awareness and conservation through writing and photojournalism.