Do you enamel? I do and I love it! If you don’t maybe I can inspire you to try.
The process of melting finely ground glass powders onto metal is a technique which stretches right back to the 13th century BC and there are many styles and techniques. The name enamel is thought to have come from the High German word smelzan (to smelt) via the Old French esmail and most of the traditional techniques still have French names such as cloisonné, champlevé, baisse-taille, plique-a-jour and grisaille.
My first experience of enamelling was at school. I was 12 and in our art room was this large metal box in the corner which was never used. One day we were suddenly allowed to play with this and try some enamelling. We had some simple copper blanks and sprinkled on a bit of enamel with some little millefiori, put them into the hot kiln and melted them on. With health and safety these days we would never have been allowed to have a go like we did then! I certainly don’t recall any protective clothing, but this brief taster stayed in my memory and I was entranced by the whole process.
Many years later when I took up jewellery making as a hobby I decided to teach myself how to enamel from books. I torch fired for the first year until I could afford a kiln and used fine sheet silver and traditional methods. Then along came silver clay into my repertoire and I was fascinated with all the new things I could achieve. Suddenly there were a whole range of extra ideas which didn’t always fit the traditional labels but were great fun!
By using silver clay and now also copper clay we can simply create surfaces to enamel on which would be technically quite challenging with sheet metals. Low relief textures can give wonderful patterns under the enamel. The enamel appears a darker colour in the lower parts of the pattern which gives a lovely light reflecting quality. Not quite Faberge but not bad! Deeper textures will create cells to put enamel into, and this can also be achieved by using syringes lines on the surface of the clay. Cut out card shapes by hand or with paper punches and use on top of a low relief texture or plain paper and roll the clay onto it to create recesses for enamel. Fine silver wires can be fused to the surface of fired silver pieces to create areas for enamelling.
I enamel because I love to add colour to my work. Real glass vitreous enamel has stood the test of time so I know it will last and it is a lovely thought that just maybe some of my pieces will still be around long after I am gone :-)
Joy Funnell is a Senior Art Clay Instructor and Craftsman of the Guild of Enamellers in Hastings UK. She taught at the Guild conference in Canterbury, April 2011 and at MCWC in Chicago, July 2011.
Guild of Enamellers’ Bursary Award for 2013
Congratulations to the winner of the Guild of Enamellers annual Bursary Award – Scarlett Cohen-French, who has recently graduated from Glasgow School of Art, where she successfully gained a BA Hons in Silversmithing & Jewellery. It was during her final year she became fascinated with enamel, experimenting with copper and liquid (industrial) enamels.
The Selectors for the Award were particularly impressed by Scarlett’s strong sense of style and use of liquid enamels, creating very textural pieces. During her BA, she worked along the theme of spontaneous colour and pattern derived from her experimental film work. Movement, pattern and colour were her main concerns when trying to find solutions to her degree show work.
Scarlett will be artist in residence at Glasgow School of Art from September and exhibiting with Dazzle and DJG (Designer Jewellers Group) at the Barbican over Christmas.
The Guild of Enamellers is proud to support Scarlett’s ambition to further develop her enamel skills.
The Guild is extremely grateful to joint sponsors - W G Ball Ltd, craft&design Magazine & Vitrum Signum for continuing to fund the Bursary Award and we look forward to introducing Scarlett at the 2013 Guild Spring Conference where she will have the opportunity to exhibit her enamel pieces, assist a workshop tutor, attend lectures and the master class. In addition to a free place at the popular annual conference, Scarlett will immediately benefit from free membership of the Guild and the opportunity to join any of the workshops in her region and around the UK in the course of the coming year. A programme of events and interesting contributions from enamellers are regularly advertised and reviewed in the Guild’s quarterly journal and on the website. She will also receive a set of Guild teaching DVD’s to help develop her enamel skills & knowledge.
Another award benefit is free editorial and promotion in craft&design Magazine, a one year’s subscription and a one to one business mentoring session with Rachel Chambers, along with £275 vouchers from Vitrum Signum for enamel equipment and supplies.
Runners-up, Sophie Bonakdar, Helen Hulbert & Bryony Gill have also been awarded free membership of the Guild of Enamellers for one year, along with a set of Guild teaching DVD’s and a voucher from Vitrum Signum.
With 24 applicants for the Bursary it was a very challenging role to select one winner, but by having 3 runners-up we hope to share the awards to enable as many of the applicants as possible the opportunity to explore and develop their enamelling skills further.
Such enthusiasm for enamelling expressed by all entrants for the Bursary Award gave pleasure to the judges on the selection panel who meticulously examined each application followed by close discussion. All those who were disappointed not to win the Bursary should not lose heart but continue their personal journey with enamelling and possibly consider re-applying in the future. Thanks to our generous sponsors this year, we are able to award each applicant a one year free subscription to the Guild of Enamellers which we hope will help them continue their exploration of enamelling, in every way possible.
Bursary applications for the 2014 Award will be available on line from next Easter, and the closing date will be 31st July 2013.