Wow friends, what a difference a month makes! For those of you that read my last blog post you will remember me spilling my guts on my fears of attempting enameling in my home studio. After taking an introductory class last September I fell in love with the medium and decided- WHY NOT?!?
I thought I would use this post to tell you about the process of enameling in case you don't know all that goes into making those deliciously vibrant little nuggets.
First off, the art of enamel jewelry is basically adding a coat of enamel onto a sheet of metal. A layer of powdered glass is fused to the metal at high temperatures using either a torch or kiln. In my studio I am using sheets of copper and an enameling kiln to make my jewelry.
The entire reason I wanted to persue this medium was because I was able to cut out my own shapes out of the sheet metal. Armed with a jeweler's saw I spent a few days in my studio cutting out shapes free form. I wanted to be able to recreate my organic shapes that I have spent so many hours painting on canvas, and after many broken blades, (and no missing fingers) I finally got the hang of it.
The next step after cutting is deburring- to smooth all the edges that may be sharp or uneven with a file. It is amazing how transformative this step can be when my cuts may seem a little jagged and rough. A hole is added so that there will be a way to attach the piece to a jump ring for the necklace. The last step before enameling begins is cleaning each piece with soap, water and a sponge.
So the final step was having to get to know my enameling kiln. In all honesty people, this lady has problems operating a microwave sometimes. I had visions of fires and explosions working at such hot temperatures, but spoiler alert, in the end it was all okay.
The copper pieces are lightly dusted with the powdered glass enamel using a sifter. After one side is coated it is carefully balanced onto a metal trivet that is placed into the kiln. This balancing act is not the easiest for me. When I get excited I tend to get shaky and things start flying, especially after a good cup of coffee. One bump or hiccup and the metal falls off and the powder goes flying.
The kiln I own is specially made to fire at temps for enameling, but I aim to get each piece at a solid 1400 degrees for a couple of minutes. There is a visible change in the enamel as it changes from powder to its final glossy stateand it is exciting to see the way the color gradually changes when it is pulled out of the kiln. Some colors are more sensitive than others, requiring more or less time, so I'm still learning and adjusting.
In between each coat there is a step where "fire scale" is removed from the bare piece of copper. The high temperature causes oxidation to form and the enamel will not adhere to the surface if it is not removed. I place my pieces into a crock pot filled with warm water and a compound that helps dissolve the fire scale before doing my next firing.
On each piece there are at least two layers of enameling applyed to make sure the copper is completely covered and the colors are vibrant. Every color is an additional firing, so a multicolored piece can have up to six or seven firings.
Now with all this said, I am still very much at the learning stage, but I cannot tell you how much fun I am having. This has been a great reminder for me to push myself outside of my comfort zones, and allow myself to be a beginner again. For more photos and some process videos you can find me on instagram as @amythemakist, and if you are interested in purchasing a piece they can be seen at www.themakist.shop.
See you next month peeps!