Saturday, September 18, 2010

My visit at Thompson Enamel!

I'm in Cincinnati getting ready for the weeklong photo shoot for my book ... finally! When I found out that Thompson Enamel was only about 20 minutes from my hotel, I jumped on the chance to take a tour and to meet the good folks there.

I had the pleasure of meeting Woodrow Carpenter, owner of Thompson Enamel, and his lovely wife; Guido Maehren, President of Thompson and in charge of day-to-day operations; Tom Ellis, education guru; Teresa, the lovely lady who I place my orders with and I believe knows the Thompson catalog like the back of her hand; and last, but not least, Bill Helwig, scientist, artist extraordinaire and my tour guide! Many of the people at the helm of Thompson are a blend of scientist and artist ... unique qualities to say the least ... Having struggled with glaze calculation as a ceramics student, I am in awe of the knowledge they possess.
So, on with the show!
This is Bill Helwig, our knowledgeable and very tolerant tour guide. :-) I knew just enough to be dangerous ... and a nuisance! As I peppered him with questions, Bill would patiently say, with a smirk on his face, "We're getting to that."

Part of the interior of the factory. Those bins are filled with enamel!

The smelting area. It seemed that everywhere I turned, there was heat. Not uncomfortably so, but enough to make you aware! I definitely would not want their utility bill!

We kept a watch on the clock because at 3 p.m. this is what happens. A fellow, who still has hair on his arms!, dips a metal ladle into that bucket of water on the lower right, reaches into the kiln, and brings out a ladleful of molten glass. The water creates a vapor that prevents the glass from adhering to the metal ladle.

The fearless fellow pours the molten glass between two rollers that crush the glass into super thin shards.

This is the base to which colorants are added to make the beautiful enamels that we work with daily.

This is some enamel that is waiting to be sifted.

This is the sifting machine. The area behind the white paper conceals magnets that attract any iron particles that result as a part of the sifting process.

Thompson Enamel ... as we know it!

I wish I had more pictures to share. Getting this many was quite difficult because I got so engrossed with what Bill was saying, I forgot to take pictures! By the time I got to the building of the W.W. Carpenter Foundation, which houses the large and beautiful classroom and a comprehensive exhibit of some of the finest ... and oldest ... examples of enamel ... I was gaga! I would like to thank Tom Ellis for taking us through the entire exhibition and for giving us such good information on the pieces.

I took a few pictures of Bill's works of art, which I dare not post here because the lighting was bad. Better for you to look in Linda Darty's book, The Art of Enameling, which I call the bible! There are so many fine examples of his work. He was a watercolorist before turning to enamel, which I think will be obvious in his work.

I'd like to thank everyone at Thompson Enamel who were so warm and welcoming. My husband and I definitely felt as though we belonged to this big, happy family. A belated birthday wish goes to Mr. Carpenter, who celebrated his 95th birthday last Saturday. He and his wife come to work every day, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ... and many times on Saturday! I guess it really is just plain old-fashioned hard work that is the fountain of youth!


Pretty Things said...

Totally amazing, and I'm sure you had a fantastic trip!

That photo of the guy (who still had hair on his arms!) reminds me of a Dirty Jobs episode where he worked in a glass factory -- they made stained glass and it was HOT work.

Thanks for sharing the tour!!!!

Laura Twiford said...

Wow, so exciting! I envy your trip there to Thompson enamels!
Best of luck to you on the photo shoot for your book! Have Fun!!

Leslie @ Bei Mondi said...

What an interesting tour! I bet you were tempting to take some of that enamel off their hands ;)

mairedodd said...

well if that doesn't seem like kismet! what an absolutely perfect place for you to be while you were beginning a new journey in your life...

stregata said...

Lucky you to get such an exceptional tour! So fascinating.
Wishing you a great time during your photo shoot - I just know the book is going to be wonderful.

eve said...

Oh lucky you, love the photos and i would have just loved to have come home with all the enamels.

Emie said...

That's awesome! I am hoping to go there this fall, can't wait to see the amazing facility.

Lori said...

How cool. You were very clearly a kid in a candy shop - experiencing a little slice of enamel heaven.

Silver Parrot said...

Wow...what a fun and interesting experience this was!