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We are all in this together! Enameled work created in Radical Enameling workshop taught by Melissa Saneholtz, fall 2017.

As you know, enamel artists are an inventive, passionate, determined bunch. We have to be, to pursue this medium that is technically demanding, that sometimes feels overlooked and obscure, but which has tremendous power. And we thrive on community–the community of classrooms, shared studios, craft fairs, and online.

As the online enameling community grows, and people seek out fresh imagery, old secrets, and new opportunities, we are excited to be part of that growth by expanding the scope and reach of our blog. As always, we will use this space to explore issues pertinent to contemporary enameling today, and to share the work of enamel artists — we’ll just be doing it a little more loudly, a little more often.

We welcome your work and ideas. Exchanging work, insights and ideas helps keep enameling vital and evolving. That’s part of the mission of our blog. Your blog editor loves to find your work in her inbox — email her at gro.r1516289682etnec1516289682leman1516289682e@gol1516289682b1516289682. We also have a terrific Instagram feed at @centerforenamelart.

In that spirit, here are a few images sent along by our readers recently.

Squished Tanky, enamel, copper, silver, nickel.

Squished Guard, copper, silver, nickel, enamel, cord.

Aaron Decker, a newly minted MFA grad from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, constructed and enameled these killer jewelry pieces inspired by his childhood toys. Each a few inches across, they were just shown at ornamentum gallery at Design Miami. Above, a brooch and a necklace from the series “Glass Cannon.” More of Aaron’s work is at his website, aa214.com, and on his instagram, aaronpdecker.

Jay Leritz, who showed at the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show in November, sent along a detail shot of a large wall piece made from enameled steel. Find Leritz on Instagram, @jay_leritz

 

And we loved the mixed-materials approach from ARTISANworks by Rainmaker Designs, who make large sculptures from carved wood and metal, inlaid with enameled pieces.

Music stand, wood and enamel on copper, Rainmaker Designs

Find more Rainmaker work here.

The enamel community is vibrant, strong, and growing. We are thrilled to be a part of it, and to be building it with you.

The New Aesthetics of Enamel

Quick: If I told you I’d bought an enameled pendant, what would come to mind? Something clumpy and heavy, with garish colors? Maybe a small, jewel-toned piece, carefully polished?

Enamel is a highly technical art form often taught as a craft. Like many crafts, it has been vulnerable to having a few specific aesthetics baked into it (so to speak). Work taught in jewelry or metalworking departments was often small, using cloisonne and champleve, layers of transparent jewelry enamel to create controlled, gem-like colors and effects.

Enamel got looser in the 50s and 60s, when kitchen-table enamelists, using small home kilns and glass threads and chunks, produced a burst of tiny Abstract Expressionist-ish works that had a more primitive, modern aesthetic than the work by their highly trained counterparts.

But the pieces were still small, still usually jewelry, and limited by the scale of the supplies and the equipment. The aesthetic became a cliche.

Since then, though, a shift has occurred, as enamel is taught less as a craft and more as part of the vocabulary of art. It is attracting artists who are discovering the terrific potential of enamels purely in service of visual ideas.

Take these works, for example, by British artist Lisa Traxler, for whom vitreous enamel on steel is just one of several media she works in. With their scale, volume, and attention to line and color, these are like three-dimensional paintings. They have more in common with the crushed metal sculptures of John Chamberlain than Faberge’s precious eggs.

Volume Sculpture A,F, C and D, vitreous enamel on metal, gallery installation view

Zaar, by John Chamberlain, painted steel, 130cm x 174 x 50cm

More work by Lisa Traxler here.

June Schwarcz, of course, was one of the original pioneers of enamel in service of art. She exploded the possibilities of jewelry enamel into pure form and color.

Works from Invention and Variation, at the Renwick Gallery, June Schwarcz’, summer 2017

This Latvian artist has created large images from smaller copper pieces, much like enamelist Fred Ball.

Contrast, enamel on copper, 49″W x 26″H, by Lion Dina

And now back to jewelry: We are starting to see mainstream work that uses enamel for its rich color and permanent quality, but that strays from traditional techniques into a style that is more free, more inspired by visual art, as with this enameled silver ring from Gucci.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have work that pushes the boundaries of the old enamel aesthetic? Show us! at gro.r1516289682etnec1516289682leman1516289682e@gol1516289682b1516289682.

Think Big, Really Big! Enameled Furniture Old and New

From the ’30s to the ’60s, large-scale enamel works like signage were common, and so were the industrial facilities that produced them. Artists like Edward Winter and John Puskas made oversized 2D works on steel, and some innovative designers like John Keal added sheets of enameled copper and steel to wood tables.

John Keal for Brown Saltman end tables, hardwood with enameled panels

But in the mid-20th-century, as CEA founder Judy Stone detailed in a post last year, the signage industry declined and enamel was marketed as a kitchen-table hobby. Enamel became almost entirely a small-scale art.

And yet the potential of enamel on a sculptural scale is unchanged. In recent years, a few designers have revived the medium, bringing a jolt of pure color to their forms.

Kelly Wearstler designed this custom bureau with an enameled front for the Manhattan apartment of Leslie Blodgett, founder and former CEO of the cosmetics company bareEscentuals.

Custom cabinet by Kelly Wearstler in brass with enameled front

And the experimental furniture designer Kwang Ho Lee draws on the tradition of enameling in Korea, where he is based. He creates minimalist forms from thick-gauge sheet copper, and then douses them in color. When he first started showing his work, he says, even veteran artisans didn’t recognize the technique, so completely had it disappeared from the public eye.

 

From the Skin series, small table by Kwang Ho Lee

From the Skin series, enamel on copper, cabinet, by Kwang Ho Lee

 

From the Skin series, enamel on copper, chair, by Kwang Ho Lee

 

From the series Skin, enamel on copper, Kwang Ho Lee

Are you or anyone you know working large scale like this? Drop us a note on Facebook or in the comments below.

All pictures copyright Kwang Ho Lee. Find more of Lee’s work here:

on the web, http://www.kwangholee.com/

on instagram, @_kwangho_lee

T Magazine Features Enamelwork — Without Using the Word Enamel

 

The good news is that the latest issue of T Magazine has a lush spread devoted to enameled jewelry and objects new and old. (Click here to read the article.) The luminous boxes of Jean Goulden rub shoulders with the incredible miniature artworks that are Alice Cicolini’s rings and Morelli’s meditation bells.

It’s interesting, though: In the print edition, there’s no mention of the word “enamel.” The text reads, in full: “Through the Looking Glass: An ancient technique gets a new shine when applied to contemporary jewelry and objets.” (The online version has the more Google-friendly (and accurate) header, “Enamel Adds A New Shine to Small Accessories.”)

The photographs are pretty — still-lifes in dusty jewel-tones, the items scattered on shabby-chic dressing tables as though tossed there at the end of some fabulously debauched evening. Care has been taken with a whimsical mix of props –a bowl of candies, lipstick on a wine glass, vintage hotel keys. But the pieces themselves are lost in the scenery, an afterthought, the details and the colors almost too small to see. And those vintage aqua colored Belperron earrings, that pop so nicely on the page? They are made of turquoise and lacquer, says the website. Not enamel.

Just saying. We’re delighted enameled work is getting such prominent billing. And we’ll be even more delighted when everyone knows its name.

A Wealth of Experience: Pat Johnson’s Landmark Book, Enamelling on Copper

 Enamelling on Copper by Pat Johnson

Crowood Press

reviewed by Judy Stone

 

The simple title, Enamelling on Copper, suggests the two most important aspects of this landmark book. Pat Johnson, who lives in the UK, has written a book that draws directly on her wealth of experience with enamel and its interactions with her chosen metal substrate, copper. Perhaps most significantly, she takes the oft-denigrated technique of sifting, or enamel layering using dry applications, and re-introduces it to young enamelists. Read More →