Houston Llew is an artist of vitreous enameling, blending glass and copper to form luminescent works featuring a harmony of depictions and quotes that capture the meaningful moments of life. Each work is designed to tell a story. His works are all created by hand at the Houston Llew Studio in Atlanta by him and his team of apprentices, who create enameled art under his training, guidance, and design direction. Houston's preeminent works are called Spiritiles, found in significant collections in homes and galleries across North America.
Houston Llew Bio:
Houston started enameling in a hot Atlanta garage in 2008, after finding himself unemployed in the middle of the great recession and in need of an artistic medium of his talents. Through fortuitous circumstances, Houston met the master enamelist Zingaro and followed him around, shadowing the artist around his studio until he gave Houston the keys to enameling that would later evolve into his first work - Spiritiles. For months he spent every waking hour over a kiln, experimenting, sketching, living on only "ramen and beer." Houston says that the only reason his art exists today is because he had no other option - no job to fall back on, no security other than what he could create himself. This tenacity kept Houston going so that when one thing wouldn't work, he would step back, retool, and try a new path. Houston is infamous for "spitballing" ideas and trying seemingly crazy things just to see if they work. By harnessing that constant experimentation, his artistry evolved from enameled imagery to a combined image and story design. From the beginning, what pushed Houston forward was the uplifting thoughts and musings. This became the cornerstone of his work- create art that inspires, uplifts, and brings a hopeful connection to life.
Houston’s work in enameling is based on his belief that meaningful art is about emotion. Thus, every Spiritile created reflects a piece of our story. These icons stretch our memory and bring to mind the people we love, the things we cherish, and the passions we pursue. When collected, Spiritiles become a montage of moments that make us smile, laugh, remember, and dare to dream. When Houston first started his artistic journey, he sought a medium to animate this inspiration. Vitreous enamel, the art of glass heat-fused to metal, is as ancient as Mesopotamia, with infamous historical artworks in royal jewelry and imperial treasures. It is an illustrious but little known medium that Houston cast in a new 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, other philosophers and fellow aritists, but every piece is designed to speak to our life and reach our emotive self.
How They Are Made:
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.
Enamel Care & Use:
CARE: Enamel artwork is best polished with household glass cleaner and a soft cloth.
DISPLAYING: These delicate yet durable artworks are made to last, resist fading, shine under light, and fire up a meaningful conversation. Spiritiles can stand up on a flat surface or hang on a prized wall. They can stand alone, but love company. Each piece is sized the same to mix and match for a collection that tells your story.
HOW TO HANG: Drywall screws work great! When affixing the screw, leave a ¼" lip to rest the frame's hollow on the screw head. The artwork will sit securely and flush with the wall. When hanging multiple pieces, the ideal spacing between screws is 7¼" horizontal and 10½" vertical.