The Phoenix Arises
School days! The heavy responsibility of the sacred trust of making a positive difference in the lives of 27 little boys and girls in grade 3; teaching them not only to read and write, but to love art. Planning with eager parent volunteers a week of enameling allowed each student to take away a precious pendant made with their own two hands. Excitement runs through the entire small school as my students tell their friends about the kiln and how hot it gets; they are amazed at the glow that comes from the kiln when I open the door. The gasps from the little voices at the miracle of the piece as it is removed from the kiln and they watch the color changes is refreshing. Each year I tape off the area around the kiln, but allow the two students whose pieces I have placed in the kiln to count to 100. This allows them to feel that they are participating in every stage of the production. When I remove their pendant they can see the incredible changes as the piece cools. They are awe struck! Will they return to enameling as adults because I introduced them to enameling in grade 3?
Children love to enamel and so does their teacher. The last months as I moved towards retirement were filled with mixed emotions. The loss of a deeply loved job always awakens emotions and a sense of loss. Yet the anticipated freedom to return to the joy of creating my own art once again with copper and enamel powder remains with me. I miss teaching enameling to little boys and girls, and yet I am filled with a creative energy to return to making my own statements in the kiln. It is this love of enameling that lead me to put time and energy into creating the Canadian Enamelling Association in 1988. The new name and the continued growth of enameling fills me with a sense of pride over this gift that I created and gave to my adopted country – Canada.
Gwen Anderson’s continued support and encouragement helped me to pursue my goal of creating this organization. I invited Bill Helwig in as our first workshop presenter and it was a great success. My role as Enameling Instructor at The Bickford Centre was central to all the planning and ease with which I could host the event at the school. We all benefitted from the wonderful enameling instructors who came to share their knowledge with us. The years flew by so quickly and Bickford was no longer available. Our final project to create a mural and donate it to the school was deeply appreciated and it still hangs on the wall!
My next task of opening a category for enamels at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition would not have been possible without the generosity of Woodrow Carpenter. I treasure my award for Original Art Enamel from that exhibition and the interest in enameling that it awakened in the general public.
My desire to pursue further studies to complete my M.Ed. and the Principals’ Qualification meant putting my enameling on the back burner. Studying part-time and working full time is a heavy load, but teaching the students how to enamel kept me involved with the art. Now, as a new retiree, I am flee to enamel and revisit my dreams of creating with love beautiful art work and perhaps teaching enameling to some children. It is difficult to imaging a more suitable way of engaging the young in a love of color. Enamels and colors bring to children a new joy, and the simplicity of the art at their level allows them to experience success and hang a pendant around their neck. Adults can engage in the art at a more challenging level.
One can never be bored with enameling with so many areas to explore. Grisaille, camaieu, sgraffito, to name a few, allows the enamelist to continue to remain enthralled for as long as one wishes to be an enameling enthusiast. Winning the award for Art in Public Places (1998) allowed me to combine several techniques for this 19′ mural which is permanently housed here at the Maria A. Shchuka Public Library in Toronto. Murals allow one to tell stories and permanent stories using enamels. I look forward to deciding on the particular area in which my enamels will evolve, but I know that it is good to be back. It seems like yesterday when I sat in a hotel room in New York and questioned why I was always going over to the USA from Canada to study enameling. That was the catalyst that gave birth to the idea to form the association. It was time-consuming and a lot of work in those early days, and I am grateful for the help that I received, particularly from my lawyer, Stanley Shier. Finally my idea became reality, and allowed me to put on the hat as the founder and first president of the Canadian Enamellists’ Association. Where have the years gone? Yes, it really was 1988, and it was a good year. We have a new name now in 2006, yet old members (some of whom came on board with me in 1988) continue with the torch. A good idea never dies, and it is good to be back creating with enamels in my studio. Long live enameling!