Mark Baldridge has a B.S. degree in art education from State University College at Buffalo and a M.F.A. degree in metalsmithing and jewelry from Cranbrook Academy of Art, with a minor in design. He taught two years at the University of Evansville and forty two years at Longwood University, retiring in 2014. He taught jewelry, two and three dimensional design, wood, and stained glass classes. He has a strong focus on design and states all media is simply used to create designs, whether it be in paint and canvas, wood and glass or gold and precious stones. He says his biggest work of art is his house and surrounding land, which continues to evolve through the years.
Baldridge has participated in over 150 local, national and international exhibitions including at the Virginia Museum, the Mint Museum of Art, the Cite’ Internationale des Arts (in Paris) and the Vatican Museum (in Rome). He has received numerous awards such as Merit Award, “Goldsmiths '77”, Phoenix, AZ and University of Seattle; First Prize, “3rd Biennial Lake Superior International Crafts Exhibition”, Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth, Minnesota; and Most Creative Functional Design in any Media, “Tenth Biennial Crafts Exhibition”, Creative Crafts Council, Washington, DC. In addition, he has conducted 26 workshops in 14 states on jewelry or design at prestigious places like Arrowmont School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts, Brookfield School of Crafts, Peters Valley Craftsmen and for organizations like Washington Goldsmiths Guild, Pennsylvania Society of Goldsmiths, Michigan Silversmiths Guild, SoutheastRegion of the American Crafts Council and Florida Craftsmen. Also, he has organized and coordinated four American Crafts Council Southeast Region (ACCSE) conferences including the last ACCSE conference at Arrowmont School of Crafts in 2007.
In 1975 he created the first newsletter for the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) and served as its editor for five years as he quickly expanded it into a pamphlet (Golddust), then Goldsmiths Journal, and finally Metalsmith magazine. He continued to assist with Metalsmith for an additional five years as co-editor, associate editor and editorial advisory board as well as serving two four year terms on the society’s board of directors. Because of this, the society which had been floundering with a membership of less than a hundred, is now thousands of members strong and has continued to publish Metalsmith as a full color magazine for the past twenty years representing the society’s artistic achievements to the world. In 2014 SNAG awarded him lifetime membership for his outstanding service to the society. In 1982 he initiated and co-organized the "Founding Fathers of the U.S. Metalsmithing Movement" conference at Smithsonian Institution. For fourteen years, he also served as a book reviewer for Jewelers Circular Keystone, the nation’s (and perhaps the worlds') largest commercial jewelry magazine. In 1999 he presented the keynote address at the Association of Virginia Artisans’ conference in Fredericksburg. Currently he serves as the coordinator of the Virginia atelier at the Cite’ Internationale des Arts in Paris.
For the past several years, all his art projects have revolved around his house. It has involved building three towers, benches, fences, decks, pools and more, using wood, water, stained glass, glass blocks, stained glass windows, light panels, mirrors and aluminum in dynamic and creative ways to play with the element of light. Baldridge has personally designed and built at least half of this house. He continues to create stained glass windows to add jewels to the house, often sitting atop vertical glass block strips he also installed, as he continues to add sparkle to the house. His background in jewelry and love of color and light, can be seen throughout the house and grounds. He is now designing and creating a large sculptural light feature for the back side of the exterior chimney combining existing light fixtures with stained glass, glass tile, wood, aluminum and will be a three dimensional design that adds light to that side of the house. He states "as a jeweler, stained glass, wood and design fanatic, I am trying to make my entire environment a work of art with each individual creation, but also collectively unified, an example of the design goals I teach. By using mirrors, dichroic and vertical glass block strips (sometimes back-lighted), aluminum, glass tile and more, I am attempting to treat the house and grounds in the same way as when I made jewelry; playing with light and color. I call it architectural jewelry, often with stained glass windows serving as crowns of energy, sitting atop glass block strips to channel the energy within, and direct it vertically except for horizontal exceptions, but always outward. Sometimes I build light fixtures or towers with no purpose other than to make the house dynamic, often setting up spatial tension for additional interest. I’m trying to create a superb three-dimensional environment in which to live, as an example of the energy forces of the house, often adding water features for more light, movement and sound. Contrast and movement are dynamic, but always using as much variety as possible that is unified and organized, my golden rule. Play with viewer’s eyes, minds and involve them as much as possible.” When the house is finally completed, it will represent his abilities as a craftsman, and a dynamic example of his teaching and design philosophies, and hopefully a "work of art". His house and work are featured in the 2017 April/May issue of American Craft magazine, pp. 52-57.
However, Baldridge admits his greatest creations are his four children Zachary, Tyson, Taya and Kaeson. His oldest son Zach has built upon his fourth generation family heritage of life-long master carpenters, but fused his artistic designs into a very successful creative career, designing and building dream houses for his clients in the Lynchburg/Smith Mountain lake area. He finished his second dream house a year or so ago, near the top of a small mountain top complete with 120 +/- acres. Check out his pictures and web-site at: www.truecustomva.com