Copper. Glass. Spirit.
Houston Llew was 7 years old the first time he got lost in the world of art. Llew was on a family trip, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Wandering along alone, he planted himself on a bench in front of Sandro Boticelli’s “Annunciation” and began silently sketching a rendering of the painting. At once, Llew was lost to his family (who would soon find him) and beginning to find himself and his calling as an artist.
In subsequent years, Llew found the same quiet reflection and love for art in Holland, studying the works of Van Gogh, and in France at the Louvre, pondering da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”
After graduating from Auburn University, Llew traveled the Gulf Coast, and later moved to Atlanta, Ga. However, it was a journey westward that marked a transformative experience in Llew’s life. Fueling his Winnebago along the way with the occasional poker game, Llew eventually landed in Santa Fe, N.M., and met his mentor, the master enamellist Zingaro.
Zingaro introduced Llew to the ancient world of vitreous enamel. Vitreous enamel is the luminous combination of fired glass on metal. Its history dates back to artifacts found in the ruins of ancient Greece, China and the Isle of Man. In both Zingaro and Llew’s work, it is the application of molten glass layered onto blocks of copper. When Llew first experienced his own designs embraced in the fire of a kiln, he knew he had found himself as an artist and again felt like his 7-year-old self, contentedly creating away the day.
It was his discovery of vitreous enamel that has launched Llew to the forefront of emerging American artists and spawned his creation of Spiritiles late in 2008. Created with the vitreous enamel process, Spiritiles are timeless collectibles that capture the spirit of the enlightened moment. Built based upon the Golden Mean, and to be the exact size and weight of the Gutenberg Bible, each Spiritile is entirely handcrafted. Llew starts with shaping and sizing a block of copper mined from the American southwest. Next, he forms colored bits of glass into the designs seen on his finished Spiritiles. And, finally, the tiles are kiln fired to hold the glass in its final, beautiful resting place on top of the durable copper.
Perhaps the most interesting part of each Spiritile is the quote found on its golden sides. For example, Houston’s depiction of fluttering birds titled “Aloft” reads, “To our children we give two things – one is roots, the other wings.” His rose reads, “That love is all there is, is all we know of love.” And Houston’s bicycle piece “Brilliant Ride” states, “I thought of that while riding my bicycle.” The authors of the quotes have their names layered in glass on the top of each Spiritile. Hodding Carter coined the quote for “Aloft,” Emily Dickinson’s poetry is found on the sides of “The Rose” and Albert Einstein had some great ideas while riding his bicycle. Llew signs the bottom of each piece to bring them full circle.
Llew will show his newest collection of Spiritiles today and Saturday at the Art on a Whim gallery in Breckenridge.
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