Jenn Bell

A grouping of “Flowers” showcase how Jenn Bell works with a difficult medium to produce soft, ethereal wall art.

The urge to create has always been there, in a compulsive way,” explains enamelist Jenn Bell. Whether she was making floss bracelets under her desk in high school or building intricate models with her dad, Bell has always been working with her hands. Her early experiences lent what she calls a “muscular vocabulary,” to her hands, so when Bell attended Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, it was only natural that she take every introduction course in every craft medium.

It was there that she fell in love with enameling. During a 2005 residency at Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, N.J., before graduation, she really explored the nuts and bolts of metal beyond jewelry design, including anticlastic raising, casting and hollow forming.

But enameling stuck. At first she tried to adapt it to small tiles in her jewelry, but after working at an independent jewelry shop in Kingston, Pa., she realized she needed to change directions. An invitation from art consultant Rose Reina Brostoski, who had taught Bell as a teenager, gave her the opportunity to participate in monthly rotating art shows of enameled wall art at a local restaurant. Business took off when Bell landed a large corporate wholesale order.

Today, color is the driving force in Bell’s work. The range of colors she sees during up to 10 rounds of firing keeps her constantly inspired. She starts a piece by coating the copper with glass and firing it to create a “canvas.” Then she arranges wire on the surface—either following an idea she’s sketched out or letting the pliable wire determine the design—and returns it to the kiln. Next comes the color, and another series of firings.

Bell’s current work is often derived from nature. Although flowers are literally represented, Bell is going after a shape or gesture, almost implying emotion when she arranges the wire on the glass. “People seem to assign meaning to the pieces they buy,” she says. “I don’t think I can strive for much more than that.”

Find more of Bell’s work at http://jennbell.com.

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