Adventures in Enameling

Some of you already know that I have a new addiction. I have become enamored with enamels! 🙂 I shared some of my first enameled pieces in a blog post previously. That post shows some simple sifted pieces along with my first experiments in sgrafitto. Since then I have discovered the immersion technique made popular by Barbara Lewis. I’ve made lots of beads using her technique. It’s a fun, simple and no fuss technique that you can achieve instantly satisfying results with. Here are a few pictures of my foray into enameling beads using her technique:

beads crop 1

enamel viking

I had a lot of fun with the beads but I eventually ran out. Not a problem! I just moved on to other experiments – in cloisonnĂ©. I first started with a mermaid, but I was using what I had on hand to play with. I had seen others use round copper wire in cloisonnĂ© with success so I broke some out and began designing. I originally intended to make the Minoan Snake Goddess, but my Muse refused me and insisted on a mermaid instead. Here is my mermaid design all planned out. In this pic, I have counter enameled and added two coats of opaque white on the front.

Originally I wanted to use transparents on this piece, but later decided to go with opaques at least for the most part as I became worried that the oxides in the copper would make my transparents muddy. You can see how the oxides dirty the copper when fired in this picture:


These oxides can be cleaned between firings in pickle. My pickle pot got cracked and I have to get a new one before I can proceed with the mermaid. She has to be cleaned in pickle between firings to prevent the oxides from jumping up onto the surface of the enamel. I don’t want to have come all this way just to ruin her! Having been stopped in my path on the mermaid, my creative lust was unfulfilled. I suddenly remembered that I had some fine silver wire tucked back that I was using on a project a while back so I decided to make another pendant using the fine silver – what a difference it made. The wire stayed bright, beautiful and free of oxides. I should have taken a picture of the second piece at this stage but I didn’t. I was too eager to press forward. So I packed the new design with enamels and hit the torch – SUCCESS! MY first completed cloisonnĂ©. This is my ‘Solitude’ figure that you’ve seen repeated in my art cuffs.

solitude 1

The rainbow moonstone has some beautiful blue flash that compliments the blue in the skyline which unfortunately did not come through in the picture. The pretty little purple stones are tanzanite.

I have a thousand designs running around in my head presently that can’t wait to make it to the torch! I’m drawing them in a notebook because I’m afraid I’ll forget about them before I get to them all. Stay tuned for more adventures!


3 thoughts on “Adventures in Enameling

  1. For ypur future “adventures” with the copper oxides, try this : mix Azotic Acid with distilled water in a max. 10% solution and deep your copper works in it untill the copper will turn bright pink . Beware that sometimes the oxides are already removed , but they still are on the wires , so you’ll have to experiment the time of exposing and take the item out after a couple of minutes and brush it with a brush tooth, under running water ( could be tap water ) .
    If the oxides are removed from the copper , the plastic tooth brush will do very well the cleaning .
    This will be done with cold solution – at the room temperature – and the enamel will not be affected . Otherwise , if temperature is higher , Hypoazotyte gaz may occur and it is very corrosive . If the temperature is at room level , nothing will happen , except a very small odor of azotic acid .
    If you are afraid of strong acids , you can pickle your item with Acetic Acid , which is common VINNEGAR . It works fine , but a little slower .
    This way you will be able to continue your enameling process without worries
    about copper oxides .
    Sorry for my english …

    • Giacomo,
      Thank you for this tip. I just used the usual pickle that I use in metalsmithing but I have noticed that if I leave it in the pickle too long it will cause the enamel to separate from the metal. As long as I keep a watchful eye and pull it out as soon as the oxides are cleaned off and rinse thoroughly it’s just fine. I will have to read up on Azotic Acid. Thank you for the information.

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