Written by Harold Nelson, provided courtesy of the Enamel Arts Foundation
Harold B. “Bill” Helwig (1938–2012), a masterful artist and widely respected educator, passed away in Newport, Kentucky on July 12, 2012. Best known for his extraordinarily well-crafted enamels done using a painterly Limoges technique, Helwig was a leader in the late 20th-century enameling field.
Bill Helwig’s enamels are enormously inventive, both formally and technically. While he typically used round, plate-like forms in his early work, around 1972 Helwig began to pierce, cut, open, and eventually give sculptural shape to his copper plates, creating objects of extraordinary beauty, elegance, and power. Similarly, through near-obsessive exploration, he discovered several nearly-lost enameling and glazing techniques and reintroduced them to the contemporary enamels field.
Bill Helwig enthusiastically shared what he learned with his students through classes, workshops, lectures, and demonstrations. In 1989 Beverly Semmes described Helwig’s generosity in an article in Metalsmith. She wrote, “There are no sacred cows in Helwig’s enamel lexicon. He’s an enthusiastic, prolific risk-taker in the enamel studio, and his expertise is unmatched. He encourages students to learn the logic of the process, rather than the process itself. Unencumbered by an academic’s strictures, he reinvents the artform daily, both technically and esthetically.”
In 1982, he served as cofounder and editor of Glass on Metal. Helwig served on the board of the Enamelist Society, and received the Society’s prestigious Creative Arts Award. He also served on numerous Fair Committees for the American Craft Council, chairing the Committee in 1970.
The subject of numerous one-person exhibitions throughout the course of his life, Helwig was most recently featured in Painting with Fire: Masters of Enameling in America, 1930 – 1980, a publication which accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Long Beach Museum of Art in California (2007). Helwig’s work is in numerous private collections across the country. He is also represented in the collections of the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Enamel Arts Foundation in Los Angeles.
In 1977 Helwig became head of the Vitrearc division at Carpenter’s Ceramic Coating Company in Newport, Kentucky (which later became Thompson Enamels). In his role at Thompson, Bill Helwig became an invaluable resource to artists, educators, and the industry, alike on the properties and possibilities of the enameling medium.
Written by Baunnie Sea and Jennifer Cross Gans
merry renk was born in New Jersey in 1921. While in high school she attended Fine Art classes at the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, NJ. She attended the Institute of Design the American Bauhaus, Chicago from 1946-47, and left after completing the foundation course to open 750 Studio, a contemporary arts and crafts gallery with fellow classmates Mary Jo Slick and Olive Oliver. The gallery was one of the first of its kind and well-received by the press, showing the work of well-known artists such as Henry Miller, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Harry Callahan, and Margaret De Patta.
merry spent a year learning enameling techniques through trial and error. She sold the gallery and moved to San Francisco, where she connected with local metalsmiths such as Peter Macchiarini and Margaret De Patta. In 1951 De Patta invited her to attend the first meeting of the Metal Arts Guild (MAG). merry became a founder of MAG as well as its President in 1954. She remained an active Lifetime member through her 90th year.
During the 1960s, merry lost the sight in her right eye and switched to constructing large sculptures of iron, bronze, copper and brass, using the same interlocking ideas she’d used in jewelry. In the spring of 1981, the California Crafts Museum hosted, “merry renk, Jeweler: A Visual Biography and Retrospective, 1947-1981”. After that, she resumed her jewelry production until 1983.
The San Francisco Art Commission presented merry an Award of Honor for her “extraordinary contributions to the Bay Area community,” and she was also named an American Craft Council Fellow. Her oral history is in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.
merry’s work is in collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Arts & Design, e Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Oakland Museum of Fine Arts, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as in MAG’s Permanent Collection.
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SNAG’s new website, created by web firm Social Design House and launched in May 2012, features an elegant new look, updated content, improved navigation, and a new high level of functionality. The Online Presence Committee, Board of Directors, and SNAG staff have all been working diligently with the aim of a superior product, so we hope that you will be pleased with the results. More phases of development are to follow.
As a part of this new site, SNAG has also unveiled the Maker Profile Pages, a location for the online portfolios of our artist members. Our goal is to provide a well-designed, affordable, and easy to use solution for web presence. These pages provide many of the advantages of a full individual website, at only a fraction of the cost. We will be updating these pages and adding new features as they evolve, promoting it as a destination for anyone looking for interesting new work. This is a great way for us to pool our resources in an ever-expanding web universe, and to show the world why the artists, designers, jewelers, and metalsmiths of SNAG are the best in the field.
We would like to thank everyone who generously gave their time, energy, and support to the conference and the exhibition planning and production. If we inadvertently missed someone, we apologize and please
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SNAG appreciates the work of every volunteer who helped out in any way with the conference, including those who worked onsite during the conference and those who worked behind the scenes planning each event. We couldn’t do it without them!
Conference Corporate Sponsor: Rio Grande
Conference Host: Arizona Designer Craftsmen
Conference Co-chairs: Becky McDonah, Tedd McDonah, Lynette Andreasen
Book Signing: Elyse Bogart
Conference Support: Heather Magill, Scott Andreasen, Mona Nigohossian
Conference Tote Bag: Ingrid Donaldson (Coordinator), Becky & Tedd McDonah, Katie Poterala, Michelle Startzman, May Kalcza, Leon Nash, Megan Sottile, Amanda Scheutzow, Sarah Truett, Nikki Olive, Alex Hobbs, Bill Donaldson
Conference Volunteer Coordinator: Michelle Sotolongo
Education Dialogue: Victoria Altepeter (Chair), Wing-Ki Chan, Rebecca Scheer
Education Resource Room & Portfolio Review: Calina “Callie” Shevlin (Coordinator), Anne Mondro, John Rais
Exhibitions Committee: Danielle Embry (Chair), Maureen Brusa-Zappellini, Charity Hall
Exhibition in Motion: Joe Churchman (Coordinator), Michelle Pajak-Reynolds, Michael Dale Bernard
Graphic Designer: Melissa McGurgan
Lifetime Achievement Award: Beth Ann Gerstein (Chair), Mary Lee Hu, Myra Mimlitsch-Gray
Pin Swap Pool Party, Student Mixer, & Final Night Dinner Dance: Katie Poterala (Chair), Michelle Startzman, Leon Nash, Mary Klacza
Photographer: Jewel Clark
Professional Development Seminar: Harriete Estel Berman, Andy Cooperman and Brigitte Martin (Co-Coordinators), Charleen Weidell, Michael Dale Bernard
Room Shares: Cate Yoder
A Smaller Conference Experience (Discussion and Speed Friending): Harriete Estel Berman, Brigitte Martin, Rachel Shimpock
Auction & Raffle for SNAG’s Educational Endowment: Lynn Cool, Bryan Petersen (Co-Coordinators), Betsy Douglas, Donna Lewis
SNAG Board Liaisons: Eliana Arenas (Member Services Table), Karen Lorene (Lifetime Achievement Award), Anne Mondro (Conference Planning, Education Dialogue, Conference Volunteering), John Rais (SNAG Juried Student Exhibition, SNAG Student Presentation, Education Resource Room, Portfolio Review), Marlene True (SNAG Silent Auction, Live Auction, Raffle)
SNAG Juried Student Exhibition: Michael Parrett (Coordinator), French Thompson, Lynn Cool
SNAG Student Presentation: Michael Parrett, Molly Douglass (Co-Coordinators)
SNAG TV / Conference Emcee: Michael Dale Bernard
Speaker Advisory Committee: Kristin Beeler (Chair), Jill Baker Gower, Lauren McAdams
Student Scholarships: Michelle Pajak-Reynolds (Coordinator)
Trunk Show Sale: Natalie O’Neal, Andrew Kuebeck (Co-Coordinators)
Meetings a la Carte: Kate Lichter, Shefali Kubavat, Sara Martinez
Nominations and Elections: Mary Hallam Pearse, Courtney Starrett, Kristi Kloss
SNAG Office: Tara Jecklin, Ellen Laing, Dana Singer
Conference Program Book: Jean Savarese, Melissa McGurgan