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 Llew 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” (small cracks in the fired glass) 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.