Experiments in Enamels

I’ve long admired the work of enamel jewelers.  At Christmas my mother-in-law gifted me a wonderful book on enamels The Art of Enameling by Linda Darty that absolutely fired (no pun intended) my imagination.  I caught the fever and decided that I had to experiment!  There are so many wonderful techniques covered in the book, it was almost hard to decide where to start!  I decided to start with the simple stuff and put some experience under my belt before moving on to more involved projects.  Below are two of my earliest experiments.  With valentines coming I decided to do some hearts.  My first heart was fired in Oriental red.  Just a simple, single color firing made for a lovely little heart.  But that didn’t fully satisfy me.  I chose to do another one, but this time I used a base of antique white fired on first, then I sifted a second coat of oriental red over the white and played around with the sgrafitto technique, also a favorite of potters, where I scratched a design into the red before firing.  Simple spirals seemed like a good idea.  KISS (keep it simple stupid)!  They made cute valentines necklaces if I do say so myself!

two heart

Seeing how simple sgrafitto could be I decided to take it a little further and see if I could create a piece with my Solitude figure, you know, the lone hiker in a natural setting that is repeated in my metal etchings.  This time, I chose to work in black and white for contrast and to give the appearance of a night time scene.  The results were not perfect by any means, but they were encouraging.  Initially I thought I had a lot of white sifted over the base of black, but after firing I was surprised to see how much of the white disappeared into the black base coat.

small scgrafito

Encouraged by my results, and thinking that to improve upon them I should have used more white I set off to make a larger sgrafitto piece.  I decided to use my Solidarity theme from my etchings (while solitude depicts a solitary figure, solidarity usually depicts a family).  I found that rather than fitting three or more figures into the work as I had originally planned, only two would fit – which is fine.  Solidarity can exist between two individuals, right?  I used more white in this one, sifting the edges to try to give the feel of a heavy snow storm with just a monocle view of our two characters huddled closely together against the storm.  In the end, I decided I had used too much white as I lost a lot of the detail of the trees on either side.  I loved it still, despite it’s imperfections.  Certainly it could be improved upon, but I’ll get to that as I continue with my experiments.

lg scgrafito

This made me think about the solidarity shared in love relationships, and with Valentines coming and hearts on my mind, it wasn’t difficult to decide what to do next.   So here I have done another sgrafitto piece with a couple sharing a view of the evening sky together.  This time I chose to use color instead of black and white as love is filled with many shades and is never just black and white.  I call this one ‘Our Story’.

our story

Having enjoyed the lovely colors in this piece, and learning a few things about layering the colors in sgrafitto, I moved on to create this cute little tree pendant.  If you know my work, you know I love trees, so this one was a no brainer.  I began by fusing a base coat of brown on the copper, the sifting the bright yellow over it and scratching in my tree trunk and a few branches and fired the yellow coat.  I then went back and sifted green, for leaves, over the branches of the tree.  I tried to allow a little light (or yellow) to show through the leaves of the tree and a few branches as well to add a little depth.  Not sure I pulled of ‘depth’ but in the end I liked my little tree very much!


I have had great fun with enameling and I see it playing a bigger role in my work in 2013.  I will continue to experiment – and there are soooo many techniques to play with in enamels.  I cannot wait to move ahead with more experience under my belt and try some of the more complicated techniques!  I now have about 90 different colors to play with … but alas I depleted my oxygen for my torch, so I must pause in my experiments and get back to work creating stock for coming shows anyway.  It’s probably a good thing I ran out of oxygen or I would still be sitting at my torch playing in color and fire!


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