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Jewels from the Fire: 20th Century Enamels

Because they use similar materials and processes, enamels and ceramics share a close relationship. Enamellists work on metal surfaces instead of clay, creating everything from functional jewelry and dinnerware to wall-mounted panels. They use pigments called enamels in the process, which behave similarly to ceramic glazes. Comprising mineral pigments and a glassy powder called frit, enamels can be painted as a liquid or sifted and sprinkled onto a surface while dry. Enameled metal is then fired in a kiln at temperatures ranging from 1400°F to 1650°F. Artists often add additional layers of enamel after cooling and fire their pieces multiple times, which creates seductive, jewel-like surfaces.

The Everson Museum houses a significant collection of enamels by artists including June Schwarcz, Edward H. Winter, and Ellamarie and Jackson Woolley. Several leading ceramists—for example, Carleton Ball and Jade Snow Wong—also worked in enamel. Exhibition spaces that show ceramics have often championed enamels too, including the Everson’s own Ceramic National exhibitions. After waning in popularity in the mid-20th century, enamels are enjoying a comeback thanks to new technologies and the proliferation of community studios and makerspaces that provide shared equipment and knowledge.

The Everson is supported by the Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation; the General Operating Support program, a regrant program of the County of Onondaga with the support of County Executive, J. Ryan McMahon II, and the Onondaga County Legislature, administered by CNY Arts; and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

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Jose Perotti
The Herald, ca. 1941
Enamel, 11¾ x 9½ inches
Everson Museum of Art; Purchase Prize given by the IBM Corporation, 10th Ceramic International, 1941, 63.59

Ellamarie Woolley
Some Like It Hot, ca. 1965-68
Enamel on copper, 22 x 22 inches
Everson Museum of Art; Purchase Prize given by the Ferro Enamel Corporation, 25th Ceramic National, 1968, 68.78


Edward Winter
Fruits of Plenty, 1937
Enamel on copper, 12 x 14 inches
Everson Museum of Art; Purchase Prize, 6th Ceramic National, 1937, 38.319