Have I mentioned to you yet that I am TOTALLY addicted to enamels? Oh my have I been having fun! My journey to addiction began when I tried my hand at some simple sifted enamel pendants. I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with sgrafitto in enamels early on. If that wasn’t fun enough I then discovered Barbara Lewis’ immersion method of torch firing beads and other jewelry components. It helped me to re-familiarize myself with the torch (it’s been a while since I did any serious work with a torch) and gain confidence in my enameling capabilities. I loved watching the enamel fuse to the bead in the flame and playing in all the wonderful color. I find this new art form to be very soothing to the spirit. Therapeutic if you will, though dangerously addictive. After a long period of torch firing beads and emboldened by my success I decided to dip my toe into the world of cloisonné … and I’ve decided I’m never coming back.
After playing around with some 20 gauge round wire to make my first pieces I finally invested in some proper fine silver cloisonné wire, and what a world of difference it has made. I can hardly believe how quickly I’m going through the stuff… I already feel panic setting into my heart as I realized I have less than a foot left today. I’ll have to wait a week to get more. I can’t imagine how I’ll cope when I run out. Did I mention that this art form is like the crack of the jewelry arts? Oh yeah … I’m sick. 🙂
After admiring several pieces of Japanese themed pieces from other artists online I found myself inspired to attempt to make a Karp, or Koi in a pond with a lily pad. I started it yesterday about 5:00 and was a woman possessed, working until 1:00 a.m. to finish it. I had to be up at the crack of dawn, and through I tried to convince myself that getting sleep was the wiser course of action it was impossible to get my mind off of the little carp painting that was coming to life before my eyes.
In the first phase I prepared my copper base by fusing a couple of layers of counter enamel to the back and a base of white to the front. Once the base was prepared I drew my design out to scale in my notebook then I cut and shaped the cloisonné wire to form every detail of my carp and little lily pad. I use a product called Blu-Stick to glue the wires in place as I am setting them. It looks like blue elmers glue and is about the same consistency but it burns off clean in the firing process. You can see some traces of it in the picture. I had not yet fired the wires into place.
In the next phase I pick my pallet of colors and begin wet packing them into the cells created by the cloisonné wire. I add enamel to the cells, fire it in the torch to fuse that layer and then wet pack again. This is a process repeated many times, fusing layer upon layer of glass until all of the cells are full. The wet packed enamel is allowed to dry before firing. The dry enamel looks like colorful sand. The coloring is much lighter before the enamel is fired, and then it darkens with beautiful effects.
Here is the wet packed design unfired:
And here is the design after firing when the enamels have darkened:
After several layers are fused and the cells are full the image is ground back with an alundum stone to level the surface and remove excess glass that may be covering the wire design. I was very pleased with my little coy! I then torch fired beads in matching colors to create a necklace to show off my new friend. I absolutely love the colors, the design and everything about my latest piece. I cannot wait to see what my efforts over the next year will yield if I remain steadfast in my enameling experiments. I am enamored with enameling, so I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.