EXTENDING THE POTENTIAL
THE ART AND TECHNIQUES OF BILL HELWIG
FEBRUARY 19 – MAY 21, 2023
Martha Banyas, Honoring the Masters - Bill Helwig, 2013. Enamel, copper, silver. Courtesy of the Estate. Photo by Paul Foster.
“Each person working today has to establish their own procedures. Procedures do not transfer from person to person, from brand of enamel to brand of enamel or even from furnace to furnace. What should be looked at here is how to establish a procedure and not the procedure to establish.”
— Bill Helwig, “Color Chips, Test Samples and the Art Enamelist,” Glass on Metal, April 1983
Harold B. “Bill” Helwig was born in Wellington, Kansas in 1938. From a young age, Helwig was encouraged by his grandparents to pursue a variety of interests and curiosities. Helwig enrolled in the Fort Hays Kansas State College (Hays, KS) Pre-Med program in 1956 before changing his major to Art two years later. He initially focused on watercolor but would change direction once more when he first encountered enameling in 1959. Helwig taught himself the art of enameling using trial and error, with Enameling Principles and Practice by Kenneth Bates as his guide. Experimenting with enamel would become a lifelong passion for Helwig.
Helwig became the Assistant Director of the Creative Craft Center at the State University of New York, Buffalo (Buffalo, NY) in 1964. In 1977, he accepted a job as the Head of the Vitrearc Division at the Ceramic Coating Company (Newport, KY). He stayed with the company, which later acquired Thompson Enamel, until 1985. Throughout his life, Helwig taught classes and workshops at SUNY Buffalo, Penland School of Craft (Bakersville, NC), Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN), and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts (Deer Isle, ME).
In 1982, Helwig cofounded Glass on Metal magazine and served as the magazine’s first editor. Helwig served on the board of the Enamelist Society from 1991 to 1998 and was the recipient of the Society’s Creative Arts Award in 2001. As an active member of the American Craft Council, Helwig chaired the Northeastern Regional Chapter Craft Fair (Bennington, VT) and organize a larger ACC fair in Baltimore in 1977.
Helwig’s work has been included in exhibitions around the world including Objects: USA (1969). His pieces can be found in numerous private collections as well as the permanent collections of the Metal Museum (Memphis, TN), the Museum of Arts and Design (New York, NY), and the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI).
A tribute to both Helwig’s art and passion for experimentation, this exhibit explores the breadth and mastery of Helwig’s techniques while detailing the processes behind the art. Pieces from private collections and the Helwig estate are featured alongside contemporary artists utilizing the same techniques, revealing the vast potential of enamel arts.
EXHIBITION & PROGRAMMING SUPPORT
Hyde Family Foundation
Windgate Charitable Foundation
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Community Trust
Tennessee Arts Commission