Plate - 1950s

Cigarette Box

The Boat #319

Plaque #391

Plaque #411

Bowl #494

Plaque #567

Vessel #572

Bowl #675

Vezelay #682

Bowl #689

Vessel #695

Mountain Landscape

Pewter Box

Vessel #972

Vessel #2011

Wall Piece

Doorway II

Vessel #2087

Vessel #2098

Vessel #2193

Vessel #2210

Vessel #2223

Vessel #2257

Vessel #2289

Vessel #2296

Vessel #2308

Vessel #2360

Vessel #2381

Vessel #2388

Vessel #2397

Vessel #2479

Vessel #2482

Vessel #2483

Schwarcz, June
Constantly exploring new forms and devising inventive approaches to process, Schwarcz has set the standard for enameling while serving as a mentor to generations of young and emerging artists.  For over sixty years she has produced sculptural forms in glass and metal which, while referring to time-honored vessel making traditions, defy convention because, as she wryly notes, “They simply don’t hold water!”  At the advanced age of ninety-six, June Schwarcz continues to be one of the most innovative artists working in the enamels field today.

Born in Denver, June Schwarcz studied industrial design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1939 to 1941.   After working in the New York fashion and design industries for several years, she married Leroy Schwarcz, a scientist, in 1943.  She moved several times with her husband and two children before settling in Sausalito, California, in 1954.  While visiting her family in Denver the previous year, Schwarcz was introduced to enameling by Terry Touff, who had taken a course at the Denver Art Museum taught by a former pupil of Kenneth Bates.  Schwarcz was immediately drawn to the medium’s brilliant color as well as its expressive potential. She has been creating inventive forms in glass and metal ever since.  Her protean imagination which finds inspiration in all manner of artistic practice from contemporary abstraction to Asian textile design, is unbounded as she provides a model of enduring creativity to all those drawn to the contemporary enamels field.  Constantly exploring new forms and techniques, she has said, “I do not believe the visual possibilities of enamel have begun to be exploited!”

A year-long sojourn in New Haven, Connecticut, provided Schwarcz the opportunity to visit Manhattan and meet with Dominique Maillard, the curator of the soon-to-be-built Museum of Contemporary Crafts.  He was so impressed by her work that he included her in the inaugural exhibition of 1956.  In the same year, her work was chosen for the National Ceramic Exhibition in Syracuse.  These were the first of a multitude of exhibitions that were to follow bringing the artist national and international recognition.  In 2009 she was presented with the “Master of the Medium Award” the highest honor that can be bestowed by the James Renwick Alliance of the Smithsonian Institution.

Schwarcz’s work is represented in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art: and many other public and private collections in the United States and Europe.  In 1998, on her eightieth birthday, the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum organized Forty Years/Forty Pieces, a retrospective exhibition that traveled to several museums in America.

In many of her earliest pieces, Schwarcz utilized the basse-taille enameling technique, cutting and etching into the surface of copper plates or bowls to create complex, abstract compositions that were visible through layer upon layer of transparent enamel. When asked early on why she chose this technique, Schwarcz stated, “I felt there were characteristics of enamel you could use that were not available in any other medium…I didn’t want to do what everyone else had done.”

About 1962 she began to experiment with an electroforming process she had learned through a colleague of her husband at Stanford University.  She used this process to produce unique forms in copper that she subsequently enameled.  To create these forms she began with a thin sheet of copper foil.  With her love of fashion design and her rich imagination, she proceeded to form vessels in much the same way that a tailor creates a garment.  After preparing a pattern in paper, she folded, gathered, cut, and stitched the foil until it became the vessel she wanted.  She sewed it with very thin copper wire. She then immersed the foil vessel in a plating tank for up to five days.  The result was a solid and substantial vessel, which, after cleaning was ready to be enameled.

Over time her open vessel forms evolved to become pure sculpture, defying their utilitarian foundations.  In her work the rough quality of the electroformed metal offers a potent contrast to the brilliant color and smooth glassy surface of the enamel.  This dialog between the raw and the refined is fundamental to Schwarcz’s work throughout her career.