Fred Ball was born in Oakland, California in 1945. His father F. Carlton Ball (1911 – 1992) was a prominent and well-regarded ceramist, author, and educator and his mother Kathryn Uhl Ball (1910 – 2000) was an accomplished illustrator and enamelist. From a very early age, he studied enameling with his mother and by the time he was twelve years old, he was demonstrating enameling technique at the California State Fair in Sacramento. After spending several years abroad between 1966 and 1969, participating in the "World Campus Afloat" program at Chapman College, he returned to his beloved city of Sacramento and received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the California State University, Sacramento.
Ball is perhaps best known for the monumental mural he created between 1977 and 1979 on the side of a parking garage in downtown Sacramento. Comprised of more than 1,488 twelve-inch square enamel on copper tiles, all individually fired, this monumental 6 by 62 foot composition entitled The Way Home
is a tribute to the city of Sacramento and to the delta region the artist so loved.
Fred Ball's remarkable compositions using unorthodox enameling techniques were enormously well-regarded in the enameling community. An inspiring teacher and supportive colleague, he helped fellow artists push the boundaries of their medium through his workshops as well as through his widely influential 1972 publication Experimental Techniques in Enameling
Throughout his life, Ball produced a series of envelopes and letters made from thin sheets of copper which he enameled in a variety of colors and textures. These envelopes, variously configured – open, closed, torn, or sealed – were often presented as gifts to friends, acquaintances, and loved ones. Art critic, Victoria Dalkey, a close friend of the artist, aptly described these pieces as "fire-tongued tales of passion…discrete whispers full of delicate nuance. Like Emily Dickinson’s poems, they are his letters to the world."
Sadly, Fred Ball died in Sacramento in 1985 from injuries resulting from a mugging in the street behind his studio. While his life was cut short, his influence continues in the work of a generation of artists who were inspired by his experimental approach to enameling and his commitment to the expressive potential of the medium.