Detail of enameled vessel by Judy Stone.
Judy Stone, Head of the Enameling Department, oozes patience, dedication, and wisdom. Having taught at The Crucible since the organization’s inception, she’s spent those years building core curriculum, creating innovative pieces, and establishing her reputation internationally. Now, she’s proving that slow and steady wins the race: in addition to showing her works at exhibitions worldwide, she’s also created a cutting-edge course for those lucky enough to enroll.
In this interview, she sits down with Sarah Dabby to discuss her newfound enameling fame and the one-of-a-kind enameling opportunities she’s creating at The Crucible and beyond.
Read the transcript below and listen in on more of their conversation on Soundcloud.
Sarah Dabby: Let’s start with the basics of your craft. What is enameling?
Judy Stone: Enameling is the process of fusing glass to metal at high heat. The metal is determined by the glass, and vice-versa. In our intimate department at The Crucible, we work mostly with copper and silver. In the industrial arm of enameling, we work with a very specific type of steel.
SD: What are some of the outcomes of enameling?
JS: The most common thing the public would see is enameled jewelry, and the most common enameling technique is cloisonné. However, there are many, many enameling techniques. The whole medium is millennia old – there are examples that date back to 600BC from the island of Cyprus – and the history of enameling parallels the history of glass technology. Enameling is in every culture and every country, with an aesthetic shaped by those cultures and countries.
SD: You have a very special class coming up. Can you tell us about that?
JS: The Enameling Department, in conjunction with KVO Industries in Santa Rosa, is teaching a class called “Working Large,” which is about adventures in industrial enameling. It’s got a maximum enrollment of 10 students. It’ll be held at The Crucible, but we’ll be doing field trips to Santa Rosa’s KVO factory to work in the factory, to learn some things from the factory, and fire large pieces in the factory. Industrial enameling a wonderful medium for public artists to produce outdoor dimensional work, or functional work, such as architectural development, tiled backsplashes, tabletops, etc. The outcome of this particular course is that you can build fairly large pieces (up to four feet), and at the end, you’ve got a sellable product, if you wish!
SD: Whom do you recommend enroll for this class?
JS: EVERYBODY! You need no prior experience for this class. It’s especially appealing to people who already paint and draw. We’re going to do painting, airbrushing, drawing, silk-screening, photographic transferring, and more. If people are already comfortable working two-dimensionally, this will add to their repertoire. I’m especially interested in public artists looking at this way of working, because it’s an amazingly durable way to produce 2-D work for outdoor installations.
SD: Art can be an intimate personal journey. Can you speak to that experience for people thinking of enrolling in this course?
JS: I’ve taught everyone – from muralists to enamelists to people who are simply curious about enameling. Everyone’s given the same materials and same instruction and then people play. You learn from each other, and what comes out of it is a building of excitement. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. If we can sustain this, we’ll probably have an ongoing cadre of people who work with the materials in industry – and industry would welcome them.
SD: You’re up to a lot of exciting work right now. Can you tell us what you’re working on and where it’s being showcased?
JS: My work has suddenly become quite popular, for some reason – late-in-life bloomer, I think. My enamel vessels, which are sculptural forms, are being shown all over the place. I just got back from the Smithsonian Craftshow, which is the best show in the U.S. and a very successful experience for me. I’m doing shows in Washington, Oregon, and other places this year. I’m also showing in juried exhibitions all over the place; right now I’m at the Richmond Arts Center in an exhibition called “Innovations in Contemporary Craft,” and I’ll be showing in Kentucky in a month in an international enameling exhibition which is heavily juried. On top of that, I’m planning the establishment of a West Coast enamel center – the first of its kind, in the world, that will be the bricks and mortar, visible entity, for this medium.
To round out the interview, Sarah asked Judy about her artistic process. Listen in on their conversation on Soundcloud!