Enamels and Getting Started

Patsy

I am brand new to enameling and it is like being in the Land of Oz. I look at the catalogs and just get lost. There are opaques and transparent and leaded and unleaded and oh yea the grain size stuff. So now that I am sitting here with couple of hundred of dollars on my list I still can’t find the yellow brick road. Can you give me a good starting point on colors and should I grind my own or buy them ground?

Hey Karen,
Welcome to the magical world of enameling. First you need to decide what style of enameling you enjoy. I started with cloisonne as I saw a piece at an art show and fell in love with the colors, clarity and depth. I also love to draw and this was a place I could use my drawings. Then there are books and my favorite is Enamels, Enameling, Enamelists – Glenice L. Matthews. It has good chapters on all the styles and is simple enough without being overwhelming to get you started.

Once you have decided your style of enameling get your metal= which I recommend fine silver for a beginner. It is easier to work with and less frustrating until you get some enameling time in. Then explore other metals. But if you want the look  of Fine Silver and need to keep the cost down you can put Fine Silver foil over the copper. You need flux on the copper sheet, I use my Bovano #3 even thought it is recommended for silver and counter enamel on the back, I add Klyre Fire to the counter enamel ( it is like a thin glue product enameler use) and fire the piece.  This way I can fire once and have the two side complete with enamel on both sides. It eliminates all the copper oxide in your kiln. Then you add fine silver foil to the front, fire it and add flux again to the front foil side, and fire before you start your colors.

Leaded or unleaded, it is up to you. When I started it was all leaded, no choice. So it was too much of a investment to change over. And after years of enameling you have favorites that you know and can count on. I would recommend Enamel Works Supply. For the simple reason you can keep it simple! Call Coral 206-525-9271 she is in Seattle. First look at her color chart online http://www.enamelworksupply.com. You can talk with her. Tell her you are a beginner and want a sample size of your choice of colors. Or she will put together a sample of the most popular colors for you. These are leaded enamels but it less confusing this way. I found Thompson’s catalog in the beginning was overwhelming. So many kinds of enamel and what does what. As I matured in enameling it is great the have all these options, but try to start simple. And grinding your own enamels as a beginner, personally I would keep the investment down and start enameling, buy them ready to go. But don’t forget to wash them!And warm colors want to burn, so as a beginning you might want select a pallet of cool colors. It helps the get going and keep the frustration down!

Oh yes, wash the enamels, first as they are prepared they can pick up trash. Use distilled water and in a small cup, add a teaspoon of ground enamel and fill the cup with the distilled water . After a few seconds pour out the water. Not in your sink but in a bucket. If you are using opaques one rinse is great. I rinse about 8 times, till I see no cloudiness. Some say this is excessive but everyone has an opinion. In opaques you do not need to see through them as in transparent enamels. And I find I get very clear transparent enamels this way. If you are sifting the enamels you can wash as you like, place them on aluminium foil and place in the oven to dry at 200. Store them dry.

You can get started with a trinket kiln, if you are interested in the jewelry size work. No need for a large kiln and a lot of expense. You can now find these at most suppliers.

And go to the Enamelist Society and look for classes in your area. Enameling is very popular and many classes are being offered around the country.

Hope this helps, Happy Enameling! Patsy

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