Art on a Whim in Breckenridge hosts artists Zingaro and Llew | SummitDaily.com

Art on a Whim in Breckenridge hosts artists Zingaro and Llew

Daily News staff report

Vitreous enamel is an ancient art form. The medium dates back thousands of years, but it is rarely seen these days. This weekend, two of the artists chiefly responsible for keeping vitreous enamel alive are in Breckenridge at Art on a Whim Gallery to show off wide-ranging collections of their work. The stories of how they began working with such a unique process are as steeped in history as the medium itself.

Vitreous enamel is the process of combining glass to metal through the use of heat. It is defined as a vitreous, glass-like coating fused to a metal base and is best explained as glass on metal. The medium was born in fire. Today, the fusing process typically takes place in a kiln. The materials are fired at temperatures ranging from 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Firing the glass to metal bonds the work, making it scratch-, chemical- and fire-resistant, all necessary components in the medium's rich history.

History of the medium

The first use of decorative enameling dates to 13th century B.C. Six gold rings decorated in cloisonné enamel were discovered in a tomb on the island of Cyprus. Together, they are known as the Kouklia Rings. They were created with gold, twisted wire and glass. Later, a gold scepter and orb decorated with white, pink and green glass were found. From here, cloisonné was born; centuries later, Faberge eggs appeared as perhaps the best-known use of vitreous enameling.

More recently, large-scale iterations of the medium have taken a turn toward the fine arts. Fred Ball was born in 1945 and died far too early in 1985. His experiments with vitreous enamel gained him critical acclaim as an artist, and many of his massive murals are still visible today. Ball passed on his knowledge and expertise to Craig Ruwe, who in turn was responsible for teaching the artist Zingaro beginning in 2001. Ruwe, too, died at a young age. Just before his death, he charged Zingaro with teaching more young artists how to work with the ancient technique. Zingaro kept the tradition alive by introducing the young Houston Llew to vitreous enamel.

Zingaro's background as a painter has allowed him to approach the medium in a painterly manner. He is a master of color, movement and design. His formal art training began at the age of 11 as a student at the Swain School of Design. At the age of 16, he traveled from his home in Massachusetts to Tucson, Arizona, where he was employed as a commercial mural artist and signwriter. His years as a professional artist are now measured in decades, and his studies have taken place with several masters of their mediums, including Ruwe, George Mandevellis and David Michael Kennedy.

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Master to student

Zingaro's student Llew has taken vitreous enamel and quickly become one of our country's young emerging artists. Llew began apprenticing with Zingaro in 2008 and quickly developed his own style within the ancient art form.

Both artists will be in Breckenridge this weekend inscribing their work for collectors. Their work is always on display at the Art on a Whim Gallery. Viewing their vitreous enamel work is even more fascinating than the story behind it. Luminous and contemporary yet rustic, each original work of art glows.

The story behind the work and the artists responsible for carrying the torch of the ancient medium, just serves to enhance the brilliance that is vitreous enamel.

If you go

What: Meet artists Zingaro and Houston Llew and view their works

When: 7-8 p.m. Friday, July 25, and Saturday, July 26

Where: The Art on a Whim Gallery, 100 N. Main St., Breckenridge

Cost: Admission is free

More information: Visit http://www.artonawhim.com