Enamel is glass fused by heat to a metal surface. It is one of the most versatile, long lasting and colourful of all art media and yet at the same time it is one where beautiful results can be obtained almost immediately.
Enamel (glass, usually coloured with oxides) is crushed to a powder which is applied to a metal surface by one of several methods such as dry sifting or wet laying. The work is heated in a kiln to about 850 degrees centigrade, when the enamel melts and fuses to the metal. This usually only takes one or two minutes; but often several firings will be needed to complete the piece.
Champleve is a technique in which enamel is placed into hollowed cells cut or engraved deeply into the surface of a piece of metal or metalic object. The whole piece is then fired at high temperature in the kiln and when cooled the object is then stoned and polished to achieve an overall smooth surface. The stoning is usually done using a carborundum stone.
Basse-Taille is achieved when using a low relief pattern engraved or chased on to a metal, usually silver or gold, which is then enhanced by a layer of transparent enamel. When the piece is fired and completed, the light shines through the transparent enamel picking out the relief beneath creating splendid artistic beauty. Basse-Taille is from the French which means 'low cutting'.
Cloisonne is a method where a piece of metal, usually copper silver or gold, has thin wires glued or attached to the surface creating cells which are filled with ground enamel powder in paste form. The paste is "inlaid" into the cells and then the piece is fired. The whole surface, like the champleve technique, is then stoned to a smooth and pleasing surface. The name Cloisonne is derived from the French word 'cloison' which means cell.