I love the colors, shapes and the nice speckle Jamie Bennett uses for this striking enamel.
Simple lines combined with a restricted color palette make this a beautiful piece of wearable art.
This piece was made 1980 – 1990 according to the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)
To find out more about Jamie and his work, click here.
The weather is cooler and I’ve been very busy in the studio! Lots of color and working on copper. You’ve got to love enamelling on copper, the materials are inexpensive compared to silver so there’s room for playing. My focus was creating a book just on Copper enamelling and I am happy to say that is finished and available on Amazon! So here it is, check it out! Enameling on Copper
The Basic Techniques are clearly described to make it easy to follow along at home.
From preparing enamel powders.
To achieving the perfectly fired surface.
But technique alone is not enough, so at the end of each technique there’s a project to allow you to apply what you’ve learned.
Simply sifted enamel, the most basic technique, nothing fancy, just beautiful by itself.
The Sgraffito project: a lovely Wrapped Ring – one size fits all and no soldering required!
A simple but very effective technique to get beautiful patterns on your enamel jewelry.
Stencils are another fun way to add interest, the possibilities are endless!
Even the simplest designs can be enhanced by surface treatments like these stunning earrings with contrasting Matte & Gloss areas.
Our Tuesday night group is still working with their themed project, we’re getting a little side-tracked occasionally, but still keeping the core theme in mind. Today I want to show you the work done by Heather Mikkelsen.
The project started with a little shrine which would be the display that will hold the individual items. The theme Heather choose for her first project centres around Fossils, both Botanic and Fauna specimens. Heather is an accomplished artist in other media, such as fabric and fashion design and has a strong background in art, drawing & print making among them.
After some research and exploring the possibilities she selected Crinoids, a Botanic fossil and Trilobites, an ancient beastie as her main subjects. The forms in which these are translated into metal varies, plant forms have been cut from the metal that will make up the shrine, this is quickly said, but an enormous job to do!! Working with these large pieces of metal has been a challenge in itself, even requiring a special saw, our normal jewellery ones are just not deep enough!
The Trilobite has a corrugated look about it, so crimping metal was a technique to simulate this. Copper and enamel can be manipulated to look very old and Heather is having a lot of fun with that, using muted colours in the enamel and heat patinas with the metals she’s selected.
The smaller enamel pieces are turning out to be precious objects fit for a shrine, the materials and colours working together and unifying the total look of the project. Exploring new applications of old techniques is one of Heather’s special strengths, she loves to play and push the boundaries, inventing beautiful new combinations for her ‘fossils’ along the way.
It’ll be a while yet before we see everything come together, but it’ll be worth waiting for, the journey is an exciting one and a few of the forms and techniques could possibly translate into a new jewellery range should she decide to explore that direction.
Last week we had the pleasure to try out some great new products developed by Pam East. These products were designed to help overcome some common problems that enamelers face sometimes.
Cracking enamel would be at the top of this list and although there could be a variety of reasons for this to happen, two huge factors are most often at fault.
1. Insufficient preparation of the metal;
Dirty, or greasy metal can repel the enamel, causing it to crack and sometimes chip right off the metal.
2. Counter enamel too thin or not applied at all;
Enamel exerts pressure on the metal and needs to be equalised by a coat of enamel applied to the back of the piece, this is true for all metals, but copper, being very soft, is especially vulnerable.
For the first problem we now have ‘PreNamel’ a powder that you sprinkle onto your metal and scrub with a little water. We were amazed how quickly and thoroughly the metal was cleaned with PreNamel, we tried it on new copper but also on very tarnished, etched copper with a lot of texture, which is notoriously hard to clean and the results were equally spectacular. I love how fast PreNamel works, check out Pam’s video demonstrating it.
Next we had a look at the CounterNamel. We liked the ease of application and especially the fact that it sets hard after drying, this means the counter enamel can be applied, dried and then the front of the piece can be enamelled all in one firing.
This saves time, not only in the firing itself, but it also eliminates having to clean the piece in pickle between firings!
It is simple to mix the powder and easy to apply, the only thing I’d like to see is a greater range of colours. As it is the basic colours available now could always be ‘adjusted’ with a sifting of another color in a similar tone. We often make pieces that are double-sided where the back is as important as the front, so getting the right colour is important for us.
See how easy CounterNamel is to use and apply and see the final fired result in Pam’s video.
We haven’t had a chance to test DeNamel yet, but I’m sure it will be as good as the other products, Pam is very thorough testing when developing her products. DeNamel is applied to a fired enamel, heated and quenched in cold water to make the enamel come off.
Another exiting venture for Pam is happening soon when she starts filming for her new DVDs Enameling on Silver clay & Enameling on Copper Clay, check out her video at Kickstarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pameast/enameling-on-metal-clay-videos/posts/539956
Pam is leading a very exciting life at the moment, first she went Sky Diving for her birthday, developing her new range of products and now filming her new DVDs! What a powerhouse she is, good on you Pam!
We’ve been busy at the studio, lots of great work being done by the students and some experimenting by me:)
We’ve started a longer project a month or so ago, not jewellery, more of an installation of small objects on a theme of the student’s choice. The idea vary from Fossils, to Light, to knitted lace, I’ll be sharing more of these a bit later on.
Today I want to show the work of Jan Brown, Jan’s grandmother has kept a lot of memorabilia from the war years, correspondence with relatives in the trenches and post cards of people traveling around England and Europe at that time, all beautifully kept in albums, an amazing record of the time.
Jan also wanted to work in the ‘Feminine Factor’, how women’s lives changed here at home. They had to adjust to life without their men, on farms, in factories, women took up the slack and ventured into jobs not generally held by them before, this changed their thinking about what they COULD do and had enormous long-term effects in itself!
To symbolise this Feminine factor, Jan decided to use the inspiration from a large crochet tablecloth, made for Jan by her Grandmother. This lacy design is used in the copper Poppies she’s made so far (Poppies are symbolic for the region in Belgium where the men werte fighting)
The first poppies were copper, forged to thin and shape them.
The Lace tablecloth pattern was applied by punching with a simple nail punch, the poppy is made up of a double layer of petals.
Poppy petals were cut from fine copper mesh and the lace pattern punched in, the photo is lovely I think, but you should see this in real life, it is gorgeous!
Jan made a centre from a slightly larger mesh size, made the stamens and is now ready to start enamelling. I’ll update this post when more work is ready!
An interesting side note here: Jan has never seen a real Poppy!!! Her research was done on Pinterest, I had NO idea Poppies were so popular until I saw the searches there!
Painting with Fire used these in her book ‘Toch Fired Enamel Jewelry’
There have been a few ‘issues’ with cracking of the enamel on headpins, so in this video Barbara shows us an easy way to get a better success rate.
Using larger enamel particles, much bigger grains than the normal 80#.
Check it out and see what you think. It might be worth getting a few of your favourite colours for this.
I’d still be careful where to use enamelled headpins though, rings, some hinges and other things that get a lot of wear might not be the best place to put these.
Anyone hoping to make jewellery has to tackle basic metalwork techniques at some point, even the most rudimentary skills can create attractive and original pieces of art. The basic tools can sometimes be found inexpensively in second hand shops, at markets, or online. An aspiring gold, or silversmith can start work even on a kitchen table, as long as they remember not to mix metal work and food and clean up thoroughly after all jobs.
Jewellery can be made from a large variety of metals including gold, silver, brass and copper. The metal comes in various forms such as sheets or wire. Sheet metal is flat and is available in various gauges, or thicknesses. It can be bought in sheets or in ready made shapes such as squares, ovals or round discs. Wire is can be round in cross section but is also available as square or rectangular.
Pure gold and silver are very soft metals and usually are alloyed with other metals such as copper to make them harder and more workable. Copper is usually available in it’s pure form, or it gets alloyed with zinc to form brass.
The first step in designing jewellery is drawing a layout, take time to make an accurate, detailed drawing. For complex pieces you could use paper or thin card to make a model of the piece of jewellery. This is good to help you decide how different parts will fit together and whether they’ll be soldered, riveted or connected in another way.
The initial tools required are a good scribe, calipers, machinist’s square and ruler. The scribe has a carbide steel tip that is hard enough to mark metal. Calipers take precise measurements of the metal, including the gauge of the sheet metal and the size of stones or other inclusions.
The standard tool for cutting is a jeweller’s saw. It comes as a frame and a number of blade sizes are available for different gauges of metal. A lubricant might be needed to keep the saw moving smoothly, beeswax or candle wax works well.
The next piece of equipment is a bench pin where the sawing will be done. These are usually made of wood and can be attached to a table or bench top.
A variety of files are needed to remove the rough edges of the metal after sawing. Following filing the piece is sanded, use different grades of fine wet & dry emery on a sanding stick, start with #400 – #800 and finally #1200 – the piece can then be polished.
An alternative method of making silver jewellery is to use precious metal clay. The clay is a mixture fine silver particles held together with a binder. You can model it like clay into the shape you want, such as earrings or a pendant. When fired in a kiln or with a small torch, the binder burns away and leaves the silver shape.
You can design with surface patterns, like leaves, which will enhance your work further. When using Cookson Gold precious metal clay you will be able to make a pendants, earrings or brooches. Just polish the fired metal product with a brass brush, followed by a jewellery polishing cloth to add lustre.
Enameling is all about adding colour to your work and it doesn’t matter what your preferences are, you might love subdued neutrals or a carnival of colours. But once in a while, when you’re working with a just a few colours, there might come a time when a flat colour just isn’t enough!
Cloisonné or champlevé can keep your colours separated in different cells, this makes it much easier to use several colours together and have them work together beautifully. But things get a bit more complicated when you want to make one colour flow into another, or fade a dark colour to a lighter one, in a nice, smooth gradient.
You might even have planned your design on paper, put lovely water colour washes in your drawing so you know exactly which colours you’ll want to use and where they will go…… but….
The problem is that enamel does not work in the same way as paint, so to apply it like that will not work either. To understand fully how a perfect enamel gradient is achieved, we’ll have to go right back to what enamel is and how it is manufactured.
In the manufacturing process the glass that will become an enamel is formulated to fit certain metals, have a certain melting point, colour, transparency and more. Once this formulation is perfect the enamel is ready for breaking up into lumps, or grinding into the different types of powders we can buy. Then enamel goes through a sifting process where it gets split by particle size into the different types of enamel we can use for various techniques like painting, wet packing and sifting.
For the most part the enamel will stay true to that formulation even when we apply it to our metal and fire it smooth. This is most apparent in opaque enamels, where you might sift one colour onto a contrasting background, black on white for instance. No matter how well the enamel is fired, the colours stay separate in a speckled kind of way, this of course is part of the beauty and appeal of this medium.
Sometimes however, we might want our colours to ‘flow’ smoothly into each other as a gradient, and this is where things get a little more tricky. The enamel particles will always stay true to themselves, they can’t be mixed and blended like paint, so another approach is needed to create a gradient.
It doesn’t matter what your gradient colours are, the way to apply them will be the same, whether you want to go from a very dark blue to the palest version of that colour, or go from orange to green, a smooth transition between these colours must be made somehow. And the planning for this starts before you even buy your enamels, when you colour your final design on paper.
If you use colour pencils instead of water colours you kind of simulate the way enamel will behave, the particles of a colour pencil also stay true to themselves and have to be blended by layering the colours. This gives an optical effect of a gradient, where the eye blends the tiny specks of colour. So when your design is finished you will have a set of pencils laid out and they will give you a good starting point to selecting the enamels you’ll want to use.
The easiest gradient to create is going from a dark to a very pale version of the same colour and the planning for this starts at the colour chart of the enamel supplier, like these from Enamel Emporium.
Here you will find the colours grouped, not only by their colour, but also by their ‘Colour Bias’. Colour Bias is the type of any colour for instance:
So when you organise your colours from darkest to lightest in the same colour bias, how many shades you will need depends on the size of the area they’ll have to cover.
The more shades of the same colour you can practically apply in a given area, the smoother the transition from one colour to the next will be.
This is easier to achieve with Japanese leaded enamels, as they have to greatest range of colours to choose from. When you are working with sifted opaques you might have to make up a few blended colours yourself to get a better gradient.
When you first start out, it is not always affordable to buy every shade of all the colours you might want to use one day. Buy as many as you can afford in any give colour, keeping the colour bias in mind of course. Over time your range will automatically increase as you order more colours to suit your designs. In the meantime a great alternative is to mix a small quantity of two enamels that are close in colour already in a separate container to use as ‘in between’ colours.
This is a bit gentler on the budget too, you can get away with buying a few less colours to start with, you can always add to your palette later. The mixed colour should be clearly labeled so you know what you’ve mixed down the track.
To blend colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel presents the greatest challenge, colours like that can become muddy looking and not very appealing in a beautiful enamel. To counteract this problem we have to be smart and keep them separate where they would normally meet.
The simplest way to do this is to include a thin area of clear in between the colours.
So the gradient would look something like this:
Deep Orange – Mid Orange – Light Orange – Clear (flux) – Light Green – Mid Green – Deep Green
The Light Orange and the Light Green would be blended a little into the Clear enamel and so they would meet nicely in the middle, job done!
Beautiful, luminous colours can be achieved when you give your colours a little thought beforehand. Enamelling can be a long process so a little time spend planning your colours is well worth it. If you do happen to get some colours wrong and end up with something unexpected, all is not lost, in a future article I’ll explain how to modify colours without you having to remove them (except in extreme cases)
So have fun with your designs! Love that colour!
If you have any more questions please use the comments below, I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly!
Sue works on steel for this concertina book. She uses a variety of techniques, including sand blasting to achieve these results.
I just love the contrasts of the solid areas with the delicate tracery of the pierced work.
Sue used the photographs of her own insect collection for this book.
Sue’s blog is a delight and absolutely worth visiting, allow some time, there’s so much beautiful work there!
We’ve been having a LOT of rain here in Queensland over the past month or so, I’m not complaining though, I have just planted a new garden so the rain is good for my new babies!
We’re lucky that our area of the Gold Coast didn’t experience any of the floods that have devastated other areas of Qld. I feel so sorry for the people in those areas, some of them have been flooded twice this season and that would just be too much to deal with I think.
A few mornings ago I woke up to this brilliant sunrise, worth getting out of bed for to take the photo!
With Autumn just arrived the colours are perfect for the season, I think they would make a gorgeous enamel!
Please use this palette for your own work, share it with friends, on Pinterest & Facebook (follow me there!)