Have no doubt about it: Linda Darty is a Renaissance woman. She has been a student, a professor, a craft seller, an author, a pivotal member of numerous jewelry and arts organizations, a program creator at Eastern Carolina University (among others), and an energetic advocate for the integrity and versatility of enameling. She is also a gifted metalsmith who creates amazing jewelry.
Linda received a BS in art education and ceramics from the University of Florida and then taught high school for two years. During a summer break she took a couple of classes at Penland School of Crafts and then started working at the school. What started out as one summer at Penland quickly turned into a year and a year turned into seven. During that time she did everything from secretarial tasks and assisting the director to helping with the management of the school. One of the perks of working at Penland was that she could take as many classes as she liked each evening. Originally she had intended to focus on ceramics and photography, but after taking one enameling class, she was hooked. She went on to take every class in enameling that was offered, studying with more than 30 teachers over the next seven years.
While studying enameling, Linda realized how much she didn’t know about metalsmithing and jewelry techniques, so she decided to attend East Carolina University to get a master’s degree in metal design. It took her eight years to get her degree because she was teaching a children’s art program at the local museum at the same time.
In 1997 she asked if she could give a presentation on contemporary enameling at the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference in Richmond, Virginia and was given a spot. Her meticulously prepared presentation wowed the audience and was a turning point in her career and in the evolution of enameling as an art form, elevating its perception at a time when contemporary makers needed more visibility.
After the presentation, Linda spent $350 on supplies and materials to begin an enameling program at ECU. To aid her teaching, she wrote and handed out notes to her students because the available books covering enameling techniques were not up to date. In 2004 she pulled together those notes, gathered images of work from friends and colleagues and wrote the definitive book on enameling, called simply, “The Art of Enameling.”
What Linda loves most about the art form is not just the luminosity of the glass but also its versatility. It can be used on vessels or jewelry, painted, sifted, dipped, fired in a kiln or torched, and it can be as loose and spontaneous or tightly controlled as the artist chooses. When she looks at the variety of the work from her students, she is amazed at what can be done. Showcasing the limitless ways of working with glass on metal was one of the primary reasons she wrote “The Art of Enameling.”
Linda’s artistic inspiration and philosophy has a lot to do with journaling her life. The vessels with enameled drawings from her children are meant to be raised in a toast to celebrate those memories. Her close relationship with her mother inspires her jewelry, which is also a celebration of her beautiful backyard gardens. The Italy cathedral pieces express the global language of flowers and their many meanings throughout history as a vital part of death, love, sentiment, and the celebration of life. Her art is a way to connect with her family and children. It revolves around sentiment and memory.
Linda also created and currently runs ECU’s Italy Intensive programs. She spends about nine months out of the year in Certaldo, Italy, a breathtakingly beautiful little town perched on the hills between Florence and Sienna. When she returns to the U.S. she teaches workshops all over the country.
A true Renaissance woman, Linda has a few pieces of advice for her fellow jewelers:
“Follow your heart, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to go through an unexpected door that may open.
If I hadn’t gone to Italy in college, I would never have studied art and if I hadn’t quit teaching high school and moved to Penland, I may never have discovered enameling.
Once you find what it is you do well, you’ll want to do it again and again because it will make you happy. Then you’ll look back one day and realize you’ve had an amazing life that you could never have planned.”
You can see more of Linda’s work and find out about her upcoming workshops on her Facebook page.