The Enamelware of John Smith

This article showcases the selected works from the enamelist John Smith exhibition at Kaskaskia college. The exhibition took place March 15 through April 4, 2010 at Kaskaskia College, Centralia, IL.

About John Smith

His background is in large scale metal work. He has worked more than 30 years creating and marketing diverse metal pieces nationally and internationally. He is best known for meticulously crafted knives.

John has been a dedicated conservationist of resources for decades. In 1972, he and two other friends started a recycling center in Charleston, Illinois, ‘The Great Leftover Plate ‘ which served the community for several years. Since then, John has recycled, repurposed and reused everyday materials and items as part of a lifetime commitment to responsible living.

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When the opportunity arose to provide work for an Art Show at Kaskaskia College, it was natural for John to incorporate salvaged materials and objects into his pieces. The repurposed items are easy enough to identify and lend an element of whimsy to the work in some pieces and a bit of anxiety to others. Recycled copper sheet was reused as foundation material for the application of vitreous enamel. The body of work displays enthusiasm and energy. It is obvious that John had a lot of fun building the work for this show.

For this exhibition many of his works were based on the theme of “Man in the Moon” and others were realistic sculptural representations of exquisitely executed copper roses.

“Man in the Moon”

“When I started out to build the pieces for this show, I began making various images of the man in the moon that most all would recognize. The challenge was, simply put, to create an image in a more or less, three dimensional manner. As I worked along from piece to piece, things changed, though I did not consciously seek the changing.

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PEACE – 18 inches in diameter. Copper sheet was corrugated from a central point. Then, transparent enamel was applied in two firings. The crescent displays opaque black enamel over copper, also two firings. The face is formed from copper foil and enameled with flux (clear enamel) in one firing. The star shows gold foil over enamel over silver foil over a base of black enamel.

What began as straightforward presentations of images became expressions of emotion and ideas or concepts, and gained energy one to the next. After months of work, and nearing an end, it occurs to me that we of the earth have for all time (up to now)looked at the moon in the night sky and placed it into one context or another without actually effecting much of a change of the moon itself, “one small step for man” notwithstanding.

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THE BLUE MOON – 24 inches tip to tip. Copper disks are enameled using transparent lead-free enamels and overlapped onto a foil surface to create the crescent form. The face is formed from repurposed copper sheet using chasing and repousse techniques, then enameled with a transparent clear enamel.

Soon, clearly within our lifetime , mankind will attempt to colonize the face of the moon itself, and forever alter its appearance by that act. It will be a revisiting of our human nature extended beyond earthly bounds. It is in my mind, inevitable. The moon in the night sky will never be viewed as we view it now, but will always show the fingerprint of mankind upon its face.

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FULL MOON PHANTASM -16 inches in diameter. Copper sheet is cut to shape and textured in order to create interesting lines and surfaces. The eyes, beak and lips are formed from repurposed copper foil. A combination of opaque and transparent enamels have been applied to the copper in multiple firings. Liquid precious metal (gold) was fired over enamel and refired until the desired contrast was obtained and the surface pattern of the eyes was defined.

The newer pieces reflect thoughts and emotions about the coming encroachment. It is my hope that the work as a whole will help raise awareness of the impacts of our human activity. The immutable night sky is about to be changed by the hand of man.”

“Copper Roses”

Striving to create a rose that more successfully imitates the natural beauty of a blossom, John forms, forges and textures copper sheet, coaxing each piece to join with the others to make blooms and leaves that will try to convince you a natural flower has been dipped in molten copper. But beware, the attending thorns are every bit as threatening as those on a freshly cut long stemmed rose. With the skilled application of heat, the copper bloom takes on the blush of red that will further augment the appearance of the
natural flower.

image_4 (3) Enameled Victorian Rose has that lovely old time look. The large open bloom is enameled with three different enamels. The leaves contrast in deep green transparent vitreous enamel.
Transparent colored enamels fired over white enamel onto copper. Candy red, pink – lavender with touches of white – make this rose particularly attractive. Lots to look at from every angle. Transparent green enamel on the copper leaves are fired to nice clarity. image_5 (2)
image_6 Enameled rose in orange and yellow. The big bloom echoes the dramatic colors of the wonderful multi-colored roses found in today’s rose gardens. Opaque and transparent vitreous enamels are fired onto the copper surfaces of the bloom and leaves. Transparent enamels allow the surface of the copper leaves to be seen beneath the glass. Each leaf is shaped apart from the others and so displays it’s individuality. Each petal is colored in a way that contribute to the visual unity of the whole bloom.
By Woodrow Carpenter
Volume 29, Number 3, June, 2010
In association
glass on metal
Glass on Metal is the only publication dedicated to enameling and related arts. Technical information, book reviews, how-to articles and insight on contemporary enamelers highlight each issue.
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