Blogs » A Day with HAROLD BALAZS - by Delia Delapp

A Day with HAROLD BALAZS - by Delia Delapp


    COMING FULL CIRCLE - by Delia Delapp

    -Four years ago, while spending an afternoon at John Killmaster's studio in Middleton, Idaho, I spied a wonderful little table-top enameled copper sculpture. I didn't even know copper could be welded and I was immediately attracted to the piece. I realized it might open up a whole new area of exploration for me. I asked John how he produced it and he told me his friend, Harold Balazs, had created it. John was introduced to enameling by Harold in the early 1970's while he was planning a large outdoor mural for the Boise Art Museum. Two years later, I purchased a tig welder to teach myself how to create three-dimensional enamel sculptures.


    Upon completion of my 14-foot medusa sculpture, which had been commissioned by Barbacoa Restaurant in Boise, I knew I had to meet the artist whose work had inspired me. I contacted the now “mature” enamelist and eagerly inquired as to the possibility of scheduling a visit. He replied in a very welcoming and humorous manner, "Well, you’d better come soon. You never know how long I'll be around!"


    I felt very privileged and soon traveled to Mead, Washington with my husband to meet the famous Harold Balazs, who is considered to be a living treasure. We turned off the main street in town and drove down a little dirt road into what felt like a secret forest hideaway. My eyes got big as several large cement and metal sculptures came into view. I was filled with curiosity and wonder as everything was revealed, from the welded steel strap garden gate, to the wildly assembled brick outdoor kiln, to the combination studio/barn, “Mead Art Works.” The log house was filled with an eclectic array of artwork from all over the world.




    Harold and his wife, Rose were so generous with their time, spending most of the day showing my husband and me his studio and art. Harold also generously shared his expert knowledge with me – wonderful welding and enamel techniques.


    His stencil technique is truly unique and brilliant. He starts with placing a ground coated steel panel on a swivel (usually a lid from a washing machine), and then sifts a very heavy layer of black enamel on it.


    He uses a stencil cutter to cut around intricate line designs drawn on heavy mylar, leaving a border around the design and adding in tabs where needed to keep the stencil connected as one piece. The maze-like framework is flimsy, so he tapes it to a wooden frame for ease of taking it on and off the piece. He then places the stencil down and carefully brushes the enamel out of the open stencil areas, leaving the black line design.



    He then takes the stencil off and brushes away the enamel connection tabs.


    The stencil is then placed back on the piece and he carefully takes his enamel powders, which have holes punched in their lids (rather like a salt shaker), and taps the edge of it to get the powder into the open areas of the stencil.


    He rotates the piece around, working on all sides of the panel. The piece is then fired and afterward, he can go back and add more colors and details in the following firings. The result is absolutely beautiful.

    At the end of the day, I asked Harold and Rose if they would adopt me! They smiled and stated that they are asked that a lot. I felt very compelled to purchase a piece of Harold’s stencil art, so my husband and I said our goodbyes and traveled on to The Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d’Alene. Harold’s art has been on exhibit in this gallery since 1997. My very supportive husband proceeded to show some of my art to the owner and explained the reason for our visit. I was then invited to participate in the upcoming enamel exhibit opening on April 13. I am extremely honored to display my art alongside some of the most notable enamel artists in the country – Harlan Butt, Judy Stone, Mary Chuduk, and Jan Harrell – just to name a few. It is sure to be an evening to relish and enjoy, one that will contribute to the full circle of my life’s path.