A Brief History of the San Diego Enamel Guild

A Brief History of the San Diego Enamel Guild

As 2018 ushers in the New Year, it will mark the 39th year of the San Diego Enamel Guild (SDEG) in Balboa Park’s Spanish Village Art Center (SVAC).

The San Diego Enamel Guild’s history began in 1976 when Enamel Guild: West formed for west coast enamelists. As membership increased, several regional chapters were organized. The San Diego Chapter was the largest with over 70 members and eventually formed the San Diego Enamel Guild in 1979 after they were invited to lease a studio in Spanish Village.

In late 1979, an enamel show was organized in Gallery 21 for the members of the San Diego Chapter of Enamel Guild: West and included the advanced students of San Diego State University’s (SDSU) Enameling Program. The guild had been looking for a suitable and affordable workplace for its members to set up a large kiln and store supplies purchased from a retiring enamelist. During the show, the President of Spanish Village was impressed with the quality of the work and asked if the guild was interested in leasing a studio. Thus began a long-term relationship as tenants of Spanish Village. The first official exhibition was hung on August 11, 1979.

Our first few years were spent in Studio 15, a small studio in the northeast corner of Spanish Village. In April 1982, the SDEG moved from Studio 15 to our present location on the main plaza, Studio 5, to accommodate a growing membership.

Our original purpose to lease a space for equipment and provide stimulation and motivation to our members has far exceeded our expectations. SVAC has provided a creative and artistic environment as well as a place to display and sell our art. Our door has always been kept open to the public in compliance with City regulations and we continue to carry out the philosophy of the Village to show artists at work, maintain a high standard of excellence, and educate the public about our medium. It’s not unusual to see a studio sitter demonstrating and explaining the enamel process to a group of students and teachers. To help promote enameling outside the studio, enamel classes have also been offered off-site by its members, both privately and through the Community College Continuing Education Program.

For many years, the SDEG enjoyed the benefit of a close association with SDSU’s Enameling Department. [N.B. SDSU Enamel Lab closed in 1990 and the enameling program was absorbed into the Jewelry and Metals Dept.] Over the years, several students were juried in to the studio from SDSU. The SDEG profited from the many guest experts and teachers of enameling who came to the SDSU Enamel Lab, both from this country and foreign countries.

The SDEG has hosted many enamel shows in Gallery 21 in Spanish Village. We have also sponsored guest lectures, workshops and seminars through Studio 5, SDSU, various community colleges and private institutions and residences throughout the city and county.

In 1986, a new program began in which the work of a member is highlighted each month as “Artist-of-the-Month”. This program is still popular today. Many of our members enjoy national and international recognition. As individuals and as a guild, we continue to explore and experiment with the traditional methods of application and also develop new techniques in our field.

Compiled by Pat Aiken, January 2015. Source: SDEG Historical File.