The Enamel Guild/North East came to fruition through the leadership of Marilyn Druin, along with a handful of enamelists from New Jersey who saw the need for a larger regional association to further the art of enameling. In 1988 Marian Slepian was awarded a solo show at a large research company in New Jersey and found that she could not fill the space herself. She asked four others from NJ to participate: Marilyn Druin, Patricia Lange, Peg Miller, and Katharine Wood who then formed the Enamel Guild of New Jersey for this show. They enjoyed success and continued to show as a Guild. Soon there were requests from enamelers outside NJ to join and the Guild decided to expand membership to others outside the state. In 1992 a new Guild was formed, currently known as the Enamel Guild/North East, with five of the NJ members (Marilyn Druin, Peg Miller, Marian Slepian, Antonia Schwed and Katharine Wood) as founding members around whom the new guild was formed.
The first EG/NE meeting was held at the Newark Museum, resulting in 41 charter members from six states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. An enamels workshop was subsequently established at the Newark Museum through a bequest to Marian Slepian from Professor Cooke at William Paterson State College, along with a grant from the First Mountain Crafters Guild. This gave the fledgling Guild a home for future meetings, workshops, and annual seminars. The first board of the EG/NE included Marilyn Druin as President, Isabella Corwin and Geraldine Berg as Vice-Presidents, Corresponding Secretary Jerry McGeoy, Recording Secretary Larissa Rosenstock, and Treasurer Rolin San Juan. Officers included Mel Druin, Ursula Duba, June Jasen, Sandra Kravitz, Felicia Liban, Gail Lyman, Doris Ratz, Elizabeth Shaw, Averill Shepps, Marian Slepian, Marion Theisen, Juan Torres, Vincent Verdi, Ginny Whitney, Katharine Wood, and Yoshiko Yamamoto. The first editor for the Newsletter was Doris Ratz, authoring Vol. 1 No. 1 Winter 1992. That first two-day conference was jam packed, starting with an address by Hortense Green, the Coordinator of Affiliate Relations for the American Craft Council and creator and director of the 1993 Year of American Craft. Presentations were given by Rick Snyderman of the Synderman Gallery and Works Gallery in Philadelphia, PA, on craft marketing and current trends; Milton Naham, master enameler and jeweler, on technical issues; and Barbara Minor, a research associate at Louisiana State University, on sources of inspiration. Barbara also did a workshop on photographing one’s work. There were slide presentations of members’ work, discussion of 3D objects, wall pieces/architecture, jewelry and arts, and a tour of the Newark Museum. The very first financial report showed a balance of $1,286.72, with the year ending at $4,225.26, the majority of which coming from two $600 donations and membership fees. The inaugural exhibition for the organization – “Enamels: Small Works,” was held at the Brookfield Craft Center, Brookfield, CT, from March 16th through April 18th, 1993. This juried show was open to all EG/NE members in good standing for a fee of $15 for four entries. Twenty-three members participated. The second show, Contemporary Treasurers, was open to all enamelers in the US and ran from October 1 to October 31, 1993. Thirty-five enamelists took part in this juried show. 1994 was a productive year,— • The Guild received tax exempt status through the efforts of Mel Druin • The first buy and sell was offered at the 1994 conference • The first group project, tiles with an animal theme, began and was ultimately donated to the Penn Bay Hospital, Rockland, Maine • A pot luck diner was held at the Druins’ • Scholarships were first established From that very first conference the guild has grown to almost 100 members and has conducted annual conferences with pre and post conference workshops; has held numerous other workshops; has sponsored 6 juried exhibitions; has networked with other guilds; and has been active in The Enamelist Society as board members. The Guild has also produced a newsletter highlighting members’ work, activities of interest, upcoming shows, articles on new techniques and products, and general articles of interest. And, what was once a black and white fold over is now a multi-page color, on-line newsletter. Take a bow EG/NE and a special thank you from our current membership to those of you who have contributed so much over the years and who have played an instrumental part in our Guild’s success.
Internationally known for her enamel jewelry, goblets, and art objects, Marilyn gave the world color, depth, and texture with glass and metal. She was primarily self taught. She was twice the recipient of NJ Fellowship grats and exhibited widely at Craft Shows, in Museums and University Galleries. She was gifted, not only in the work she shared with the world, but in her energies she devoted to establishing or growing the crafts community. Her work building and fostering the EGNE laid the groundwork for our organization now 25 years old.
Peg Miller’s pieces were treated as an abstract painting with the copper base as her canvas, yet her plates and bowls are functional, not purely decorative. The patterns resemble satellite views of the earth, with islands and irregular coastal regions projecting into ruby-toned seas. When she leaves certain areas of copper exposed to the 1,850-degree kiln temperatures, oxidation produces a matte finish that looks like burnished dark pewter.
Antonia Schwed was a sculptor but switched to jewelry because of space considerations with raising four children and living in Manhattan. Later she became enamored with enamel which she eventually taught for many years. She created jewelry, (noteably animal and insect motifs) wall pieces, bowls and objects. In the last decade of her enameling career she focused on sculpture that combined both wood and enamel and occasionally ceramic elements.
Marian Slepian is a recognized master in cloisonné enamel. For 30 years, she has created brilliant contemporary works of art in this ancient, virtually indestructible medium. Shown in museums, galleries and exhibitions internationally, her work is in the permanent collections of Merc and Company, AT&T and American Standard. She accepts commissions for the site specific installations in corporate and public spaces.
Slepian’s works for sacred settings are particularly inspired. Her large donor walls, Arc doors and cloisonné paintings infuse the environment with warmth, color and spiritual meaning. Her unique sacramental wine cups, Torah shields and other ritual objects are dramatically contemporary, yet retain the richness of their Byzantine heritage.
Katharine Wood is a second-generation enamelist. Her mother, Antonia Schwed was a well-known New York City enamelist and jeweler. Ms. Wood has been creating and selling enamel for well over 20 years. She has a broad range of inspiration both figurative and abstract and shows her range through technical master of a variety of techniques. She is a devoted teacher and continues teaches in various locations throughout the tri-state area. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.