Disaster - the Enamel that Fell off a Wall

Dorothy Cockrell

Silver foil with transparent enamels over a copper base is not a new idea. Over a hundred years ago sisters Margaret and Mary Gilmour ran a very successful production and teaching studio in Glasgow. For about 50 years they produced a wide range of metal work often set with such enamels, the colours applied in a random abstract design. My mother was one of their students and the family have several examples of her work.

When the owner of a badly damaged enamel from a brass wall plaque was advised to bring it to me, I recognised its origins at once. The plaque has no signature, so it was probably made by another of their students.

It had fallen from a height a long time ago; the brass was bent where it had hit the floor and the enamel was shattered. Some pieces must have been beyond saving and the rest had been glued back into place leaving areas of bare copper. The lead solder securing it to the brass had broken and been replaced by layers of sticky tape – several times. Later, a large quantity of Brasso had been spilled over it, getting into all the many cracks and under the glued sections. Even if a full restoration was possible, it was uneconomical – the cost would have been much greater than the value of the entire undamaged piece. Just to remove the visible Brasso would take hours of painstaking work and then there were the cracks which contained dirt as well and the glued on pieces which would have to be removed and cleaned. Then would come matching the texture of the foil, making invisible joins, matching the colours …………..