porcelain enamel fabrication

High Water Mark, 2008 Austin, TX

High Water Mark, 2008 Austin, TX

I spent 5 days in September fabricating  small enamel panels with Dave Berfield on Bainbridge Island, a ½ hour ferry ride from Seattle. The city of Austin has hired me to double the length of HIGH WATER MARK, a project I installed in 2007.  I worked with Dave on the original images, so I went back to work on this second batch with him. The photographs, all showing aspects of historic flood devastation were chosen from the archives of the Austin History Center of the Austin Public Library.

This project was Dave’s last; he closed his Porcelain Co. business the week after we finished. The big porcelain kiln will have a new life in NY state.  Of course I’m glad that he’ll have more time to devote to his beautiful wood-fired ceramics, but so sad that our enamel work together has come to an end.Dave is the irreplaceable MASTER ENAMELLIST; he enabled so many artists to realize large-scale public art projects – Peter Riquam, Tina Hogatt, ….

Recently I dreamed that I was back at his studio, but all had changed. Dave and Annie had moved to a new house at a far corner of their property.   The new owners of the enamel business were a group of large impatient bearded men. They showed me several big blue enameled panels I had ordered, but they were way too flimsy for the project. And then I couldn’t remember what the project was…and where it was going.  I was told if I didn’t come up with the image soon I‘d lose my chance to screen and fire it.  I had the feeling I had a looming deadline, but I couldn’t recall what it was.  Fortunately I awoke before further disasters ensued.

Decals are placed on pre-enamled "skins"

Decals are placed on pre-enamled “skins”

The kiln fires at 1400 degrees, bonding the photo to the enamel under-layer

The kiln fires at 1400 degrees, bonding the photo to the enamel under-layer

A finished, fully fired, porcelain photo

A finished, fully fired, porcelain photo

The photo decal covered enamels await firing

The photo decal covered enamels await firing

Dave Berfield checks the kiln

Dave Berfield checks the kiln

enamel panels for john muir school

Enamel panels at the school entrance

Enamel panels at the school entrance

In 2013 I was contracted by The Lake WA School District to create artwork for an exterior wall at John Muir School in Redmond, WA.   As with all the public projects I’ve designed, the fabrication process begins with drawing and printing in my studio. My finished design is then translated into durable materials through a process of collaboration with fabricators. In this case I worked closely with Dave Berfield at his Porcelain Company shop on Bainbridge Island, WA. The imagery is an array of native plants that I found growing on the school grounds; plants which I thought were particularly appealing to kids – skunk cabbage for its giant size and giant stink, honey suckle for the treat of a taste of honey, and the arbutus for it’s human like limbs.


Drawing plants in the studio

Drawing plants in the studio

The clay relef slab ready for printing

The clay relef slab ready for printing

6 muir screen

Dave Berfield prepares silkscreen

The panels entering the kiln for firing

The panels entering the kiln for firing

The quote from the great environmentalist and naturalist John Muir, is especially resonant at this school with it’s polyglot student body.

The quote from the great environmentalist and naturalist John Muir, is especially resonant at this school with it’s polyglot student body.

Cutting the image into a clay slab

Cutting the image into a clay slab

Setting up the repeat pattern

Setting up the repeat pattern

We printed the panels in two parts

We printed the panels in two parts

The interior panels were intentionally hung low so the  kids can feel the enamel texture

The interior panels were intentionally hung low so the kids can feel the enamel texture

fabricating the scattered bouquet

UHS, San Antonio TX 2013

UHS, San Antonio TX 2013

The Scattered Bouquet is a glass wall in the main lobby of the University Health Systems, the county medical facility in San Antonio.  The piece takes the idea of the traditional hospital gift of flowers and combines that with a field of medicinal plants.  The botanical examples, all native to Bexar County, have been used – historically and/or currently  – in healing practices. The bottom panels present abstracted spider webs , once commonly used to heal skin abrasions.

The 16 panels were factory laser cut , brought back to the Blanco County studio where we put a patina on the surface then encased them between two panels of glass to make insulated units.

Drawing from collected specimens

Drawing from collected specimens

The final layout/sizing document

The final layout/sizing document

The mild steel panels were hung and sprayed with patina chemicals

The mild steel panels were hung and sprayed with patina chemicals

Eric Krause and Rick stacking finished panels

Eric Krause and Rick stacking finished panels

Finished glass unit panel, laid flat to dry

Finished glass unit panel, laid flat to dry

The finished ink drawing, ready for the digitizer

The finished ink drawing, ready for the digitizer

On the floor at the laser cutting factory

On the floor at the laser cutting factory

Fabulous glass fabricator, Rick Oswald, in the studio,  directing the insulated unit fabrication

Fabulous glass fabricator, Rick Oswald, in the studio, directing the insulated unit fabrication

Interior view of gift shop

Interior view of gift shop