All Posts by Maggie

Jamie Bennett Enamel

Opaque Enamel by Jamie Bennett

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.

Introducing My New Book – Enameling on Copper!

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

Enamel on Copper Materials

Who is this book for?

Enameling on Copper is a beginners guide and it covers all the basics:
  • Tools & materials and whether you can get by with just a torch
  • How to prep your enamels and which ones don’t need any prep at all
  • Basic enameling principles and application techniques
  • Firing enamels by torch and in a kiln
  • Decorative techniques – of course this is why we enamel and the sky is the limit!
  • All brought together with easy to follow step by step projects
  • Free download links inside the book will get you printable templates for all the projects
  • And a Color Wheel, designed by me to help you select your colors

Beginners Step by Step Projects

The Basic Techniques are clearly described to make it easy to follow along at home. How to Prepare Transparent enamel

From preparing enamel powders.

Firing Enamel on Copper

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 Spiral Pendant from: Enameling on Copper by Maggie Bergman

Simply sifted enamel, the most basic technique, nothing fancy, just beautiful by itself.

Sgraffito Wrap Ring Project

The Sgraffito project: a lovely Wrapped Ring – one size fits all and no soldering required!

Blue Enamel Pendant from Enameling on Copper

A simple but very effective technique to get beautiful patterns on your enamel jewelry.

Stencilled Enamel Bracelet from: Enameling on Copper

Stencils are another fun way to add interest, the possibilities are endless!

Etched enamel earrings from: Enameling on Copper

Even the simplest designs can be enhanced by surface treatments like these stunning earrings with contrasting Matte & Gloss areas.

So…if you’ve ever thought about trying to enamel on copper, or you might even have tried it before and got lost in the process, this book is for you! I can’t wait to hear how you like it!
You can get it here:  Enameling on Copper
And maybe you’d do me a huge favour and leave a nice review on Amazon, I’d really appreciate that!

1 Shrines & Fossils are Heather Mikkelsen’s Theme

Some of Heather's research and elements for her first Shrine

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.

Crinoids inspired plant forms

Crinoids inspired plant forms

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!

Heather sawing a panel for her Shrine

                                       Heather flat out sawing a panel for her Shrine:)

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.

Trilobite Specimen & Copper before enamelling

Trilobite Specimen & Copper before enamelling

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.

Some of the Walls for the Shrine - a variety of Pierced and Etched metals

Some of the Walls for the Shrine – a variety of Pierced and Etched metals

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.

Enamelled Mesh Crinoid Forms

Enamelled Mesh Crinoid Forms

The War Years Inspire a New Enamel Project for Jan Brown

Copper Poppies with Letter and photos from the war

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.

Copper Poppies with Letter and photos from the war

Copper Poppies with Letter and photos from the war

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)

Jan forging out the Copper Poppy shape

Jan forging out the Copper Poppy shape

The first poppies were copper, forged to thin and shape them.

Copper Poppy with punched lace pattern

Copper Poppy with punched lace pattern

The Lace tablecloth pattern was applied by punching with a simple nail punch, the poppy is made up of a double layer of petals.

Copper Mesh Poppy - note the lovely lace effect punched into the mesh

Copper Mesh Poppy – note the lovely lace effect punched into the mesh

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!

 

Mesh Poppy Centre and Copper Stamens ready for enamelling

Mesh Poppy Centre and Copper Stamens ready for enamelling

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!

Enamelled Headpins by Barbara Lewis

 

Enamel Headpins 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.

Starting with Metalwork for Enamelling

Hand cut Copper Shapes

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.

Hand cut Copper Shapes

                        Hand cut Copper Shapes

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. The 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 its  pure form, or it gets alloyed with zinc to form brass.

The first step in designing jewellery is drawing a layout, take the 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, callipers, machinist’s square and ruler. The scribe has a carbide steel tip that is hard enough to mark metal. Callipers 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.

Using Metal Clay

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.

How To Enamel a Beautiful Gradient – It Pays To Have a Plan!

Colours to use for a gradient

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.

Water color wash

 

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….

Enamel Does Not Work Like Paint!

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.

Enamel is Glass

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.

Enamel Stays True To Itself

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.

Gradient

 

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.

Planning a Perfect 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.

Colour Pencils

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.

 

Dark to Light Gradient

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.

Japanese enamels

Japanese Enamels

 

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:

  • Blue might lean toward Green and give you Peacock blue, Turquoise blue or Aqua
  • Or it might go toward its other neighbour on the colour wheel; Violet. Then it will give you a violet blue such as Ultramarine or Lilac.So when you are planning the perfect gradient you going to have to stay within the same bias of your chosen colour, putting a green blue in the middle of a violet blue gradient will jar badly and be very noticeable.

 

How Many Shades of Grey?

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.

  • For a small area, an inch or so in length, just three colours could work if the transition from dark to light was not too great
  • Larger pieces might need 4 – 5 or even 6 shades eg. 
Dark Blue – Deep Blue – Mid Blue – Light Blue – Palest Blue – Clear

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.

Colours to use for a gradient

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.

Mixing Your Own Colours

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.

Blending Contrasting Colours

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.

Butterfly Champlevé Enamel by Maggie Bergman

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 Brown Combines Enamelling & Handmade Books and Produces Magic!

Sue Brown Enamelled Book
Imagine my delight when I came across the work of Sue Brown on Pinterest.

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!

 

Sunrise over Carrara

Sunrise Enamel Palette

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!)

Enjoy!

2 Wisteria Colour Palette

Wisteria Enamel Palette by Enamelista.com

My Garden at Tamborine Mountain was beautiful and even though we have moved away from there the photos I took are still inspiring me.

This week’s palette comes from the Wisteria that grew over the latice work of the pergola.
Tamborine is a cooler climate than most of Queensland, this is where Wisteria is just brilliant.
It gives very dense leaf cover in Summer, this keeps the heat off the windows, but in winter all the foliage is gone, letting the sun come through and all the flowers appear, I love that!

Wisteria Enamel Palette by Enamelista.com

 

The colours of the flowers are rich and beautiful, just on the cool side of purple. They contrast nicely with the surrounding foliage.
I’ve concentrated on just two colours for the background; a Blue-Green, nearly teal and a bright Yellow-Green That is nearly the perfect complimentary
of the purple. I think this palette would make a gorgeous enamel!

Look at the distribution of the colours I picked, work out a rough percentage of the total area and how dominant it is, try to keep the balance right if you’re planning to use this palette.

If you like this week’s image, please feel free to download the image to your computer (right-click; Save as…) and share it with your friends and followers!

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