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Adventures in Enameling

I have always loved enamel art and jewelry, particularly from the Art Nouveau period. Show me some Tiffany, Lalique or Faberge and I am in heaven LOL

Rough sketches – to final design templates

Enameling is an ancient art form. The earliest known enameled objects were made in Cyprus in around the 13th century BC during the Mycenæan period. However over the centuries it advanced in complexity of technique & gained popularity across the world.

There are several different techniques. My personal favorites are

Cloisonné – The design is created using fine metal wires fixed to a metal plate. The spaces, or cells, are then inlaid with colored enamel that is fused to the background

Champleve – Channels are carved out of metal to make a well which is then filled with enamel.

Plique-a-jour – Enamel is laid between open lattice of thin wires or metal work. Light can then pass through the enamel almost like stained glass.

Once I got my kiln, I decided to try it for myself. I watched a couple tutorials and thought I was ready to give it a whirl. I experimented on some scrap silver I had laying around and just torch fired it. Technically this would be champleve, I believe. I didn’t have the fine cloisonné wire yet and I was impatient to try my new enamels. It worked pretty well and I thought I was ready to bring one of my designs to life.

First experiment with scrap silver

I took my sketches into Adobe Illustrator and created clean vector images to work from. Of course the enameling tutorial I watched was basically 3 wavy lines in a circle, but I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and do a full on complex design – no pressure, right?

Unsurprisingly – Nothing. Went. As. Planned!

I cut a piece of fine silver to act as my base (actually – that went as planned but I have done that before a time or two – LOL)

I then soldered a wire frame to contain all my enamel and started shaping the fine wire details. Discovering, in the process, that these Cloisonné wires are so fine that I had to turn off my ceiling fan because it was blowing them all around the studio! In the Florida heat that is far from ideal… Perhaps I can blame what happened next on the effect heat has on slowing down your cognitive abilites? – sounds like a good excuse to me so I am sticking with it:)

After a couple hours of painstaking wire work, I laid down my first clear coat of enamel which seemed to work just fine – little did I know that I had applied too thick a coat which would come back to haunt me later.

I then, painstakingly, laid all my tiny wires onto my base, learning to my cost that there is a sticky glue you can use to hold these suckers in place – a sticky glue that I did not have… Had I paid more attention to the tutorial, I would have known that, but I didn’t and it was a massive PITA to get everything in place. Oh well next time will be better.

I carefully placed my piece in the kiln – without breathing or jostling the wires out of place – amazingly I managed that without major mishap and here is where things started to go seriously downhill.

I forgot that the outer wire I used was sterling – not fine silver. Which has a lower melting point….
Soooo when I took my piece out of the kiln, I had melted my perfect frame – and this molten silver had flowed into some of the carefully placed cells between my fine silver cloisonné wires and the extra base enamel wasn’t helping matters. AAAAARGH!!!!!!!!

Surprisingly enough, my cloisonné wires had fused to the enamel as planned, so there was one “silver” lining (see what I did there? 🙂

I had put so much time in already that I decided to stubbornly move forward anyway and just see what happened. Due to my cells being filled with molten silver and too much base enamel there wasn’t much room for my colored enamels and since it was my first time using the colors I wasn’t 100% sure how the colors would look. As a result, my moon and base horse color all look the same – although that maybe because there was just too much enamel and it all ran together?

Anyway, the final result is a hot mess – but I learned a ton in the process so I am excited to try again and fix all my rookie mistakes

Onwards and upwards

Love Luck & Horses