March 10, 1983
Generations of former students at Glencoe’s Central school remember Maureen Bogle-universally known as “Moby”-as the well-loved fine arts and crafts teacher with whom they polished gemstones or labored on the murals which decorate the old cinderblock walls. Bogle lived in Winnetka and taught seventh and eighth graders at Central, for 27 years. In 1979 she took early retirement to expand her own artistic horizons and now spends her time working on realistic glass and animal representations of sea life and Flora, much of it from the Pacific Coast or her own native Idaho.
“There is nothing in the literature,” she said enthusiastically of her new interest. “Nobody is doing it this way. Artists are doing landscapes and portraits in glass enamels, and there’s miniature realism, especially in cloisonné, but to the best of my knowledge no one has captured the third dimension.” Bogle painstakingly textures for works through as many as 18 or 20 applications a pattern class, cemented by kiln firing.
In the 1960s, she did some freelance science projects for a Chicago publishing house, producing more than 60 botanicals and zoological charts for school instructional use. “If it’s classifiable, I draw it,” she said of her scientific illustration skills during a recent interview in the room a basement studio of her Chicago home. The basement is separated into centers for enameling and jewelry making, firing, frame making and display of finished works, as well as much mundane activities as washing clothes. A mounted display of dried sea plants from the Oregon coast, as well as counter tops and cabinets laden with shells, stones, weeds, pinecones, see fans and coral await a design inspiration.
“About five or six years ago, I started experimenting with realism,” she said. “My scale of drawing in realism was my strongest asset and I felt my scale in enameling was something I had built to a level of excellence, so why not enjoy it? It became a self-evaluating thing. All my own motivation as a young person had come from realism, from nature. It was like revitalizing myself.”
Noting that there is a trend back towards realism in contemporary art, Bogle smiled. “I came to a point in my life right was free to go to realism. It was very pleasant to find that I wasn’t going to be completely out of it.”
Finding her subjects-small alpine plants, (the kind you don’t notice it lets you get down on your hands and knees,) sea anemones; starfish; shells-is a matter tramping through Wyoming and Idaho on field trips several times a year, or going to Door County and a visiting aquariums. “I don’t dive,” she smiled, “I don’t have the courage.” So, she finds her sea life in the next best places-Scripps oceanographic Institute in La Jolla, California, the Seattle aquarium, Baltimore National aquarium, Chicago’s own Shedd aquarium where her enameled panels are often on sale in the Museum store. She takes photographs, draws pencil sketches, and studies field guides, as well as collecting specimens to ensure authenticity, and plans her enameled to show forms of life which actually would be found together.
Once she is decided on a subject, Bogle applies of thin coat of liquid glass, like a ceramic glazing, to a square plate of copper. When it is dry, she uses a steel scriber to etch the design, drawing from her pencil sketch. When this is fired, the lines become oxidized and hence visible. Then she starts building up the color, by painting the desired portion with a fine seed oil and sifting on a thin layer of sugary-grained colored glass which sticks to the wet surface. To illustrate, Bogle began coloring a pixie cup Wildflower a delicate pearly gray. Another flower already blushed a delicate pale Azure, its opaque white petals powdered to translucent blue. Bogle may spend one or two hours applying the color which will then go into the kiln for 1 to 2 minutes, after which another layer can be applied. The process, she said, is similar to that used commercially for baked enamel cookware and automobile escutcheons.
Bogle, who grew up in Northern Idaho, attended Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles and UCLA, and later was graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue her art training, “I had drawn forever,” said Bogle “but going all the way to the East Coast? No one could imagine that. You have no idea how far away you feel when you live in Idaho. Chicago was the Outer limits.”
After getting her degree, she returned to the West Coast to teach at a small college in Spokane, Washington. “I was trying to do everything in Spokane,” said Bogle, “painter commercial illustrator in an ad agency, crafts consultant to the Spokane Public schools. I was just doing everything, not anything in-depth.” Coming to the North Shore was a career choice which kept her happy for many years, until she realized that teaching was taking it all, and was time to make a break if she was going to realize her personal goals as an artist.
The breakthrough in her new career as an enamellist came, she said. about two years ago when she first was juried into a national craft show in Gaithersburg, Maryland, followed shortly by another in Dallas sponsored by American Craft Enterprises. “The shows,” said Bogle, “are a joy to be on. You are there and there was such quality. It builds your own tension and makes you want to work all the harder. The shows are attended by 30,000 to 50,000 people. They’re indoors, very elegant. All the exhibitors are artist-craftsman. There’s nothing commercial.”
Now, she also participates in a craft show in Frederick, Maryland, held on the local fairground. “I believe I was in the sheep stall, which is transformed for the event with carpeting and lighting.”
In the Chicago area, Bogle has exhibited art shows and fairs in Northfield, Oak Park, Glenview, Winnetka, Woodstock, Ravenswood, at the Wilmette and Northbrook libraries and at the Water Tower and Gold Coast shows. Her enamels are carried at Images in Northfield.
“I’ve yet to get into the 57th Street and Old Town art fairs,” she said, “although this is a goal.” These are fine arts shows and, while she approaches her specialty is a fine art, it is classified as a craft. When she isn’t exhibiting at craft shows or hiking or fishing, Bogle is quite content to work in her studio on a disciplined five day, 7 AM to 4 PM schedule. “I can’t think of anything happier than to keep it up,” she said. “I can see backwards, to my work a few years ago and see a difference. I feel I’m drawing all the time.” Maureen Bogle will exhibit her enamels at the North Suburban Synagogue Beth El Festival of the Arts this weekend.