Charles Bartley Jeffery was born in Paducah, Kentucky. He was educated in the Public Schools of Fostoria, Ohio. He moved to Cleveland in 1928 to attend the Cleveland School of Art and Western Reserve University. In 1932 he earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Reserve University in education and design, as well as a four-year diploma from the Cleveland School of Art. The following year, he earned a master’s degree from the university in art education.
Jeffery devoted most of his time to teaching as it was his greatest passion, dedicating his weekends and holidays, especially summer, to the making of objects. His first foray in the crafts was in ceramics. He began submitting his ceramics to the May Show in 1932, and over the next seven years his work gained prominence. In 1937 two of his pieces, a vase and a plate, won a second prize in the Nineteenth May Show. In the same year he was awarded a prize by the French government for two of his pottery pieces, which were shown as part of the American crafts section at the Paris International Exposition. His first venture into enameling was in 1939, when he exhibited ten pieces at the Twenty-first May Show and one piece at the Eighth National Ceramic Exhibition in Syracuse. This was the beginning of a long and prolific period of producing enamels, which would continue until 1981.
He participated in the May Show forty-one times, winning numerous awards over the years. In total, he submitted 383 works to the May Show from 1932 to 1976. In 1954 the Cleveland Museum of Art awarded him the most prestigious honor in the field, the Horace Potter Memorial Award. He also participated in several other invitational and juried exhibitions, including the Ceramic National (thirteen times) and the Decorative Arts and Ceramics Exhibition in Wichita (thirteen times). His work was included in all three seminal enamel exhibitions of the 1950s: History of Enamels: VII–XX Century
at the University of Pittsburgh in 1950; Enamels
at the Cooper-Union, New York, in 1954; and Enamels
at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, in 1959. Kenneth F. Bates and Edward Winter were the only two other enamelists who were featured in all three exhibitions. Besides teaching in Shaker Heights public schools for twenty-two years, Jeffery taught at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and at numerous other schools throughout the country. Although he worked in a variety of enamel techniques, he made a specialty of cloisonné.
Much of his output consisted of ecclesiastical forms—crosses, votives, and tabernacles. The religious subject matter was derived primarily from Byzantine iconography. He was influenced by Gothic period stained glass, such as the windows at Chartres Cathedral and at Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. Using silver wire to create his design and filling the recesses with a great range of enamel colors, he made works that resemble the stained-glass windows he so admired, but on a much smaller scale. His finished pieces were then mounted on carved wood forms, which were supplied by Joseph Woodell, a craftsman renowned for his woodwork.