HOUSTON LLEW - SPIRITILES

 

Biography

 

 

In 2007, Houston had the good fortune of being laid off from his corporate job and meeting his enamelist teacher, Zingaro. He credits the two events as quintessential to the start of the “Houston Llew journey.”

Houston had always wanted to create art and inspire people. He would sketch concepts and quotes wherever he went and whenever inspiration struck. It wasn’t until he discovered the unparalleled beauty of enamel that he had an artistic medium to give birth to those ideas.

The conditions under which Houston developed Spiritiles were meager—he worked and reworked the design in a kiln-hot garage in Atlanta—spending countless hours over ramen and beer, deliberating how to best present the medium’s elegance. Zingaro taught Houston the power of the golden mean, so he sized each Spiritile akin to a novel. Once he found the right depth, the open space on the sides recalled his collection of quotes, and suddenly there was a purpose for each image—its story.

Over time, the artistry of Spiritiles evolved and their desirability grew. Through this journey, Houston grew remarkable relationships with art collectors, galleries, apprentices, and mentors—many who would help to grow his studio. Soon Spiritiles went above and beyond what Houston could handle alone, so he sought artist apprentices who could learn the craftsmanship of enameled art under his guidance.

From enamel student under Zingaro to artist and teacher at his own studio, Houston cultivated an environment of creating happiness and called it “Llewtopia.” Today, Houston’s goal for Llewtopia is to make it a place for an artist’s career that keeps you excited about what’s next to come. Under his care and design direction, the enameling artisans of Llewtopia help him create beautiful American made art at an inspiring and always-growing studio.

ABOUT SPIRITILES

Every Spiritile represents the story of our indefatigable inner spirit and the enduring bonds we hold with the people we love. From the beginning, Houston sought to epitomize this inspiration through a very specific art form—vitreous enamel. A medium as ancient as Mesopotamia, with glorious historical artworks in royal jewelry, imperial goblets, and emperors’ treasures, enamel is an illustrious medium that Houston cast in a new, radiant form.

With its metallic base as canvas and its myriad glass colors as “paint,” what makes this work unique is the story wrapped around the sides of each piece. Some Spiritiles quote authors and poets, others philosophers and fellow artists, but every piece is designed to connect to a motivation of the self.

Each Spiritile is crafted first by laying powdered glass, or “frit,” onto a perfectly cut copper canvas, using a series of stencils for each layer of color, playing cards, and hand sifters to carve out the design. Once delicately aligned and layered, the glass and metal is carefully placed in the red-hot kiln to keep the glass from shifting, and timing is of utmost importance. Once fired, the enameled piece is removed from the kiln and cooled under a planchet.

The natural “crazing marks” that occur in enamel increase the luminescence of the glass. By rolling a pin over the surface of each piece after cooling, the light refraction in the glass increases and the enamel becomes malleable enough to frame.

Discovering how to wrap enamel in three dimensions around a frame was one of Houston’s most significant design achievements. By using a thin sheet of copper and precisely aligning the glass edges, each Spiritile is molded and affixed to a solid wooden frame, wrapping the story, author, and Houston’s signature around the sides.