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About Joe

Written by Joe

Multi-Torch-Fired Enamelist since 1970.

Joseph Spencer

I won't bother you with the details of my early life other than to say I grew up in Chicago, Illinois and spent 10 years in private and formal study for a career in voice, which was interrupted by three years in the U.S. Navy (WWII). I started work in 1952 selling school and church furniture.  Two years later, I started my own church furniture sales & design company. While in this business, in 1962, I met Harold Martin, Master Enamellist.  Harold also worked with churches doing Cloisonné enamel Stations of the Cross, Symbolism, etc.  Over the next three years I spent many hours in the Harold Martin Studio learning the basics of enameling. Being an impatient soul, I tired of the very time consuming process of kiln fired enameling.  I had the idea that I could make small enamel inlays for church pew ends in the flame of two torches. Harold was not impressed with the idea, but sent me to see Mr. Teeters, VP & Chief Engineer of the Thompson Enamel Company.  Mr. Teeters acknowledged, that enameling was being done by applying the torch fire to the bottom of an object.  He stated that the direct fire on the enamels was not realistic and would discolor or burn the enamel.  With that understanding, Teeters was happy to make the enamel available to me.  That was all I needed to start my experiments of torch fired enameling in full round: One torch on top and one on the bottom. In July of 1976 I relocated to Minneapolis, MN into a 7th floor high rise apartment. Much to my surprise, looking out my window, across the Mississippi River was an old industrial complex and the Smith Torch Company. By the end of the week I was in the Smith offices and their Research and Development staff. I presented my project and the problems with the torches. Within a week they proposed 2 torches, one for the bottom heat source and one for the top heat. Over the next 3 years, this was the break I needed to move the project to completion. Three years later, I happened to see a lamp worker doing a Mall Show (demonstration & sales) with crowds and lots of sales.  Having been an entertainer, I decided this was the way to introduce Multi Torch Fire (MTF) enameling to the public and perhaps make a fair living. In September of 1970 I had the opportunity to do a two week, one man show (with Sales and Demonstration) of MTF enameling at the South Dale mall, Edina, Minnesota. That was the beginning of a six year association with the Dayton Hudson Company, at their four regional shopping malls in the Minneapolis/ St Paul, Minnesota area. In 1973 and 1974 after closing the Dayton Hudson season, my wife, Lois and I left Minnesota heading south for a winter in Florida, and a Tour with the World Art Shows (out of California). In April of 1974 while doing a show in Clearwater, Florida we dined at the world famous Kapok Tree Inn.  After dinner we made contact with the Management and talked about a possible future show. In January of 1975, Lois and I arrived in Clearwater, Florida; two weeks ahead of the World Art Show Tour. We again made contact with the Kapok Tree Inn Management and arranged to do a ten day show in their beautiful gardens.  We stayed seven years, usually working seven nights a week. I have built two studios in Florida. The first in 1976 in Clearwater and my present much larger studio in Safety Harbor (Clearwater Area) in 1983. Multi Torch Fired Enameling is what I've done for 43 years.  Being 88 years old, I don't travel much anymore except for the Enamellist Conventions and my Glass Enamel Bead Making workshops. For me, the lure of the flames is irresistible.