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Enameling is a tool and media in which I express myself.
Here is my Journey.
My interest in the Arts came early and developed on very fertile ground right after World War 2 in Berlin, Germany, in 1946.
I wanted to be a commercial artist and after High School I received a scholarship to the Academy for Fine and Applied Arts with electives in Art History, Painting, Drawing, Lettering and Lithography. There was also an Enameling class that looked like fun, but I thought one could not make a living with it.
I remember one special teaching trick of our Professor. He asked us to draw the street lamp outside the front portal from memory. He said, “You pass it every day when you come in”. Well, no one did very well! So we were sent back the next morning to really look at it—and draw it again.
During the 4 years of working, studying and thinking like an artist in a cultural environment surrounded by Opera, Symphony and Theatre, I did not feel the short comings of our lives; we ate the soup that the American Air-lift program delivered and bought bread on the black market, when there was not enough to go around. We became artists.
I studied more English at the Berlitz School with my mother and I met my future husband and practiced my English on him.
In 1952, I flew to America in the TWA “Rainbow Clipper Evening Star”, and then came to Cleveland, Ohio, where his family lived nearby. We got married. I was ill prepared to work in an American Commercial Art Studio, but I soon landed a job at American Greeting Card Company until I was expecting my first child and then I free-lanced. We also worked a large garden.
Soon I discovered that Cleveland also was a hot bed for enamelers, originating in the Cleveland Institute of Art at which time Kenneth Bates taught enameling and John Paul Miller goldsmithing. There is also a wonderful Art Museum which has a piece of the famous Guilph-Treasure of Welfenschatz, Berlin, dating back 1,000 years.
During the time I was raising my family, my husband supported my interest by giving me my first kiln for Christmas. I took my first enameling class at the Unitarian Church and created my first box, made of wood with a copper enamel glued on top!
I soon moved on to evening classes at the Art Institute with Charles B. Jeffery. Bates had just retired, but I bought his book. I was hooked. Soon I started selling a few of my pieces which allowed me to buy more supplies. They were available everywhere in Cleveland!
In 1970 my husband was transferred to Milwaukee, WI, with his job. I said “Ok, but only if there would be an Art Museum and a Symphony!! Milwaukee had both and we took a look and bought a house. Another hard move, I cried a little on the way to Milwaukee and we started over again. It was a cold day with 2 below zero when we moved into our new house. It had a studio room on the lower level and the basement for larger equipment. It was all in place when spring arrived. I had to work very hard for my first LAKE-FRONT-FAIR that accepted me. Nature was rich in inspiration.
I joined “Wisconsin Design Crafts Council" and became active in that group and also made new friends. The need to expand my knowledge in metal work took me to classes at an excellent Community College in down town Milwaukee. I learned raising, etching , soldering and discovered the Basse-taille technique. My idol was June Schwarz. I also admired the work of Margaret Seeler and her approach to figuring things out which helped me out when I made a box from a hammered piece of copper pipe that needed a bottom and could not be soldered on. Since solder interferes with enamel I came up with the idea of hammering the bottom on over a stake.
I joined the Enamelist Society and went to all their conferences and workshops. I also sutdied metalsmithing classes at Arromont, TN. In particular, Ricky Frank. I also discovered what a hydraulic press can do for my etched copper.
I also was lucky to still study with Fred Ball in Colorado and last but not least with Bill Helwig. Without him I would not have made the transition to lead-free enamels.
My life in Milwaukee turned out busy: teaching enameling at the Community College, traveling to Germany, gardening, which is still my most loved activity, and skiing in the earlier years as a family sport. I had many exhibits, “1-3” men shows, art fairs around the state and was show chairperson for WI-Designer Craftsmen. I was a contributor to Glass on Metal Magazine.
I taught enameling courses during summers in the Peninsula Art School in Door County, WI, and established myself in a wonderful Art Gallery in Fish Creek, Edgewood Orchard Galleries, for 34 years.
In 1999 we left the empty nest and the snow and moved to Florida to a retirement community – but I am not retired! I teach enameling as a volunteer to people in the Lapidary Club. This keeps me focused to keep producing for my Gallery up North. Also for a start I was included in the book by Karen Cohen in a chapter on Basse-taille. I made a bedroom into a studio with a water view. I reduced some of my equipment and no longer have a gas-tank. So I learned wire-wrapping to make my jewelry settings. I am still a full-time enamellist, but without the art fairs. It does not make me rich, but keeps me happy.