Enamelling as an art form
Enamelling is the ancient and difficult art of creating images with finely crushed glass powders. Through centuries it is used in various ways and it is very durable. The colors are brilliant and are not harmfully influenced by light or air.
The more we make use of uniform and disposable articles, the more the desire to possess or create lasting materials.
The art of enamelling produces beautiful final products with a matchless lifespan. Long before our era, enamel was used to decorate bronze objects. These objects are often found with excavations and can be seen in several museums. Enamel is used by enamellers as a technique to decorate or as an independent creative artform by artsist who are a member of our society.
Enamelling technique Enamel can be used on the following metals: copper, silver, gold and (stainless) steel. Mostly artists will use copper and gold- and silversmiths will use precious metal. (Stainless) steel needs a specific fix to make enamelling possible. There are many kinds of enamel for sale and many of them are adapted to the choice of the metal.
Enamel is brought on (the chosen object) with the use of a spatula or a paint-brush, by sifting, spraying or dipping, dependent of the form and nature of the object. Dependent of the kind of enamel the enamel is burned in on the object at a temperature which varies between 690-880°C. In spite of the method of working a lot of experimenting has to be done first. This is also the challenge of enamelling: you are never proficient. Enamelling is fascinating from the easiest piece of a beginner until the perfect results of an individual.
A COUPLE OF CLASSICAL TECHNIQUES
Email-Marquette This technique was already in use with the Celts. In this technique pieces of colored glass are put together in a certain motive or drawing on a bronze or red copper plate and held together by a frame. De spaces in between are filled up with glasspowder. By heating the glasspowder it melts and attaches itself to the surrounding glass and the underlaying plate.
Email-Cloisonné First, a network of “cloisons” (cells or compartments) is formed by attaching thin metal wires to a metal surface. Crushed glass enamels of various colors and optical properties are then placed in the various cells. Through repeated application of the enamels, firing and polishing, the cloisons are filled with the jewel-like enamels. The result is an enamelled jewel decorated with a pattern of gem-like colours separated by polished metal wires.
Email-Champlevé In this technique, the enamel colours are applied to depressed areas in the base metal. This can be achieved by sawing out areas of a second sheet and fusing it to the base sheet, etching or engraving. This process was first worked by the Celts in the British Isles in the 3rd century AD.
Email Peint The metal generally used in this technique is copper. It is cut with shears into a plate of the size required and slightly domed with a burnisher or hammer, after which it is cleaned with acid and water. The enamel is laid equally over the whole surface both back and front, and subsequently the object is fired. The first coat of enamel being fixed, the design is delineated by drawing with a needle through a layer of wet white enamel or any other that is opaque and most advantageous for subsequent coloration.
Email en Ronde Bosse Technique of enamelling the irregular surfaces of objects or figures in the round or in very high relief. Both opaque and translucent enamels are applied to these small-scale sculptural objects, which are usually made of gold. The great technical problem is to devise methods of supporting and protecting these objects during the firing. Frequently, plaster of paris is used to envelop parts of the object, leaving exposed only those parts on which enamel is to be applied and fused.
Email Grisaille Grisaille (grey) enamelling is where fine white opaque enamel is sifted onto a pre-fired black or dark enamel base, a design is then scratched through and fired, areas are built up in layers to produce a complete shaded picture.
Email Plique à Jour Like cloisonné enamelling, plique-à-jour begins with a lattice of thin metal bands. The cloisons between the metal bands are filled with transparent enamels, but, unlike cloisonné, there is no metal backing. When completed a plique-à-jour jewel transmits sunlight like a miniature stained glass window. Particularly stunning examples of plique-à-jour work were created by Russian masters during the mid-1800’s and the jewelers of the Art Nouveau period.