by Jennifer Zahrt
On a Tuesday evening last August, Crucible instructor Judy Stone presented the world of enameling to a group of women from the Bead Society of Northern California. I first met Judy briefly at The Enamelist Society conference in the summer of 2009, and I was excited to see her again. I had never enameled before — at the conference I took Trish McAleer’s metal corrugation workshop — so I was excited to hear what Judy had to present. She discussed the various tools of the craft, described the process and presented the current state of the craft, including showing work from the emerging artists in the field. Her passion for enameling lit up the room.
After the program, I approached Judy to thank her for her presentation, and I found out that she and I had more in common than I first thought. Her road to enameling began while she was on a Fulbright in Germany, researching German literature before beginning her Ph.D. in comparative literature back in the States. She realized quickly that the academic work she wanted to do wasn’t possible in the atmosphere of academia at the time, so she set about becoming a professional artist. She left her program to pursue enameling full-time. I’m currently pursing my Ph.D. in German literature at U.C. Berkeley and often come to The Crucible to exercise my artistic muscles. After connecting with Judy’s impulse to find artistic mastery while in the throes of a Ph.D. program, I thought to myself, “you have to take her Intro to Enameling class this weekend.” I did. And I loved it.
Judy Stone lives and breathes to bring this art to as many students as possible. She was instrumental in creating the only dedicated enameling clean room this side of the Mississippi right here at The Crucible. Her passion for her craft is infectious. To wit, Intro to Enameling wasn’t on my (admittedly long) wish list of classes to take at The Crucible, but after meeting Judy, I had to get myself into her classroom. I had an absolute blast learning from her. She immerses her students in an experience of what the medium will do. Cerebral people like me want to know beforehand what will happen when you try out certain techniques, but Judy teaches by creating an environment where you learn by doing. She has designed the projects in the introductory class to help your inner scientist come out. She stresses that enameling has a lot to do with learning how to experiment with various techniques to get your desired effects. It’s much more scientific than you’d first expect.
People often say that enameling is difficult to control. But Judy will tell you it can be done, and then she’ll show you how. Her own artistic trajectory is testament to that. Over twenty years ago, Judy had a vision of deconstructed bowls. She experimented and tested various techniques and pushed through over 20 years of trial and error to create her intricate and fantastic bowls. In one short weekend, Judy arms you with her years of experimenting, to give you a sense that, YES, you can learn to control this medium. One of her mantras that sticks out in my mind is the concept of pushing, not painting, the enamel into place. Her extensive experience with enameling also leads her to teach great safety habits right off the bat. She uses stories from her own experiences to drive home safe practices from the get-go. Enameling itself is just as addictive as her passion for it. Judy Stone really is one of the hidden gems of The Crucible faculty. Don’t miss a chance to work with her!