Judi Daner: A lifelong passion for the art of enameling
By Paul Collins
On today’s rapidly changing arts scene, enamellists are a rare breed, as the painstaking art form is demanding and punishing. However, for Ashland artist Judi Daner, enameling has always been much more a labor of love than work. Sitting down to talk with this witty and charming 70-something artist, one is immediately struck by the youthful vibrancy and passion that she has for her work. For she has the intensity of a coiled spring, and it’s palpable.
As Daner sits with her shoulders hunched, speaking of her work, it’s as though the years melt away. She becomes caught up in the moment; her voice rings with unbridled enthusiasm, and her eyes light up as she speaks of a half century working as an enamellist. What’s immediately clear is that she keeps her eyes focused on the future and the road ahead and never looks at life through the rearview mirror.
Daner grew up in New York, is a graduate of the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., and settled in Massachusetts decades ago. She has been working in enameling since her first summer after college, when, in her early 20s, she started her career doing finish work at an enamel giftware company in Connecticut. Of those early days, she recalled, “It was a great schooling, but I really didn’t know much about it at all when I started.” Chuckling, she added, “I thought that enamel was something that you put on your fingernails, but oh, it’s so much more.”
Daner explained that the process involves the firing of glass onto metal in a kiln at a temperature ranging from 1350-1650 degrees and “the only limitation that you have is the size of your kiln.” Daner is highly creative and, as such, approaches enameling as an artist, not a metalsmith.
A walk through her home and her studio reveals a virtual treasure trove of brightly colored enamel works that hang on every wall, and her sense of pride in her creations comes through. She explains that patience and focus are of critical importance in this art form.
“I sit at a table working for hours, but it suits me.” Of the art form itself, Daner said, “Enameling seems to attract a cerebral crowd ~ very bright people, and it’s marvelous.”
Age has in no way slowed her down, as Daner divides her time between working in the medium and teaching. An exhibition of her work and that of her students, Honor Thy Teacher, concluded last month at the Worcester Center for Crafts.
As for her advice to young artists, she said, “Don’t be afraid to try something new. Take chances.”