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