See this little tool, the Deep Throat Dial Caliper?! This handy little tool will help you measure the thickness of your enamel around the entire surface of your piece. It’s very important for the thickness of the counter enamel to match the thickness of the top enamels, or you run the risk of cracking. So, go on over to Contenti Tools and purchase yourself a pair. Here is the link for the tool: http://contenti.com/measuring-n-testing/calipers-n-sliding-gauges/deep-throat-dial-caliper
A new kiln is most likely the most important investment an enamelist will make. It pretty simple to be sure it will have a long life by preventing the enamels from sticking to the floor of the kiln.
First you need kiln wash. You can purchase this from a ceramic supply store. Very little is needed. Add water, to the consistence of thin pancake mix. The firebrick will absorb the solution quickly, thus you need it on the wet side. Apply first to the kiln floor. From here some artist buy shelf paper, again from your ceramic supplier. Or you can have ceramic shelves that you apply kiln wash.
Let the kiln wash dry over night. I have tried to dry it by heating my kiln only to have it pop off. Over a period of time you have spilt enamel on the shelf. Just scrape it off and reapply kiln wash and enamel away. Shelf in place and I am ready to enamel!
Demo for the Week! Making Color Test Plates.
There are many ways to make color plates so you can really see the enamel color once fired. Here is the way I like to make them. One big reason I go about it this way , is if the colors are all in the same family as here. I can see how close the colors are to each other and use them to shade from light to dark. Another reason, and even more important is to see the different melting times of each.
These enamel dots were all applied at the same time and fired all at once. One did not melt = means it is a harder firing enamel. If you lay it down next to one that melts quicker you will have cracking.
On to making the plate,
You can pause the slide show when you need to.
Clean the Copper sheet of 18ga.using comet cleanser or penny brite. The copper will be bright and the water should run off to know there is no hand oils.
Add counter enamel to the back. My counter enamel is moist then I add a mixture of one part Klyre-Fire to five parts water. Remove excess liquid with the brush.
Sift on clear flux for copper.
Fire the test plate, I use 1450 degrees, for 1.5 minutes.
Prep fine silver foil, using 120 grit sand paper.
Burnish the fine silver foil on the sand paper. This puts small holes in the foil so it will not bubble up.
Gently brush off the back so no sand is in your enamel.
Lay the foil on the fired fluxed plate of copper.
And fire in kiln.
After removing the plate from the kiln burnish the foil down.
Now I am ready to apply flux for fine silver. I am only applying flux here to one side, I want to leave some of this fine silver exposed as I want to use this plate also to test some enamels directly on silver. There are a few that you can fire with no flux, but you have to test to know.
Add my color dots of enamel I want to test,
And now you have a test plate for enamel. This test plate is for enameling on Fine Silver. If you want to enamel on copper just skip adding the fine silver foil. Also if you are enameling on copper turn the temperature up to 1550 and fire to get a beautiful gold color to the copper sheet.
I would like to mention this plate with all the pink colors on it is .5″ x 3″. And the dots are small that would equal one layer of enamels. Not very much. Just remember you want to see the true color of the enamel and be able to see through it specially if you are enameling on fine silver. If this si one layer think about how much it will darken also with 4-5 layers.
Just enjoyed viewing all of your designs! Do you have any suggestions on shading within the cells of your cloisonne or know of any publications I could read to help me out?
Thanks for visiting and I am happy to try to help. I can not recommend one book for this but I can say for me it took time. I was a Fine Arts Major in school and only used pin and ink. My love was drawing. When I first saw cloisonne I was hooked forever and begin a quest to learn colors.
I began photographing everything that was of interest to me. When diving, hiking, walking, always carrying a camera. With these photo I made albums to use as resources. I would take a month or so at a time and draw and paint till I got the impact I needed in my art.
Then it takes time to look and see the colors.One trick I have learned is to take a peice of paper and cut a hole in it. Place this over a picture and you can see better it is a pink white or a red green. There is more than one or two whites in a white flower petal. It makes the jewel much more interesting to use more than a couple of colors in the same family when shading.
The Huma Huma on the front of the site has 29 colors from blue to green.
My color plate of pinks has at least 14 colors on it. Now I know this is way too much for many artist but if I lay in half of these colors next to each other I can create a beautiful image from light pink to dark pink by placing these next to each other.
If you shade in this manner = laying colors of enamel next to each other in the same or similar color family, each time you lay in a layer of enamel you need to shift to the left or right to avoid a line from being created. I like to work from dark to light. This way after a couple of layers of enamel are laid in and fired I drop out the darkest color of enamel, say it was on the right of my design, then shift all my colors of enamel to the right,I can get a very even and beautiful gradation of color!
A book of watercolors I used is “Light Up Your Watercolors” by Linda Stevens Moyer. She has a couple of exercises you can try, and she uses her warm colors to bring the information forward. Also try “Colored Pencil Fast Techniques” by Bet Borgenson. She teaches Juxtaposing Color which is great for color impact. You can use her exercises in watercolors as well.
Happy Enameling! Patsy
Great book on watercolors. She uses the white of the paper to stay bright as we would use our fine silver. Adding warm colors and light to make the information come forward, adding shadows and cool colors to create distance.
Try the exercise she has, it helps you understand more about layering colors to achieve bright colors. Afterwards practice layering in enamels by making test plates and see the results. Enamels have to layer in a different order.
Water colors can layer yellows first then reds and pinks followed by the darker colors, like blues and greens. In enameling our warm color burn out so we need to leave them toward the end. So you just have to apply this in reverse. I start with the darkest colors first. Then medium and light colors. As I layer and fire I leave out the darkest color and continue with the medium and light colors. And finally have my lightest color last.
So enamelist add fluxes to the last layers to fill the cell. I have had this get cloudy on me so I continue with color in the same family but very light. The warm colors you can start adding about half way through the project using flux for several layers first then jumping into the yellows, oranges and reds.
Watercolors are a great way to get into your designs together and see on paper first, if what you have imaged will be delivered in your final enameling design.
Get yourself a set of Winsor Newton Travel Watercolors, A block of watercolor paper that is Hot Pressed and a #3 Sable brush.
The travel kit of colors have 10 – 12 colors, all you need to start designing your enameled project. A block of watercolor paper is just that. The stack of paper’s edges are glued together, because when it gets wet in normal conditions of painting with water the paper would warp , and it prevents that. As hot press is more likely to warp than cold pressed, but it is a smoother paper than cold pressed. Great for small painting of detail. And I find a #3 sable brush is a good size to get the job done.
I begin my enameling classes and my own jewels with design time in
watercolors. The paint can be used in layering very similar enameling, where I apply a layer of enamels and fire before applying another color, watercolors can be apply in one layer of color and let it dry before applying another.
One book that was useful to me is “Light up your Watercolors” by Linda Stevens Moyers. In her book she starts color with the medium color = value, then going to her warm colors = interest points, and then the cool colors this being her darks. We have to layer in a different order as our warm color would burn out if laid in too soon. So I apply them in the order of cool colors first -I start with my dark color, then medium color = value colors and last the warm color to produce the impact.
In designing you cloisonne fine jewelry here is something to keep in mind. I want to show you what happens in cloisonne as wires attract heat and cause the base meal to distort.
would be a good opportunity to show how things can move.
There is a concentration of wires in the top left of my design. As I am layering in enamels the cloisonne jewel starts to bow up in this area.
Here you can see the top left of the enamel piece is higher, and the right base of the enamel piece is bowing. And can cause several problems if not dealt with. One, as you have planned your warm colors in the high area you could sand it all off while trying to make a nice even dome, because you have several layers of flux before you have added the warm colors. Second in setting the right side will be higher and maybe your bezel will not cover the same as on the left side.
And the farther you go without knowing and planning more can go wrong. The counter enamel also likes the heat and will pool under this area, and can eventually cause the enamel jewel to sink in the area as well.
As the points of my piece are lifting and the center starts going down I know I have reached the limits of layering in the enamels.
One way to counter this is by adding cloison wire to the back of the jewel opposite of the wire work on the front of the jewel.
I read everything I can find on enameling. And last year I found a book written in the late 1800’s. There was a chapter on keeping the studio and kiln clean. I was happy to see this as I have heard many many times how anal enamelist are.
One thing most enamelist do not like is to get oxides in their fired enamel piece. It can cause cracking and bubbles. So the best way is to keep your kiln and trivets free of these oxides. The oxidation builds up on your trivets from use. So you need to wipe them off from time to time.
I use a blow dryer every few firings and blow out the kiln. Also the enamel can building up on your trivet, you can scrap it off and add some jeweler’s rouge to prevent this. This jewelers rouge is also what you want to put on the iron if you needed to flatten you work that is warping.
I use distilled water to wash my enamels. And I look prior to using the washed enamels for spots of deterioration. These look like small white spots. And when fired will remain white spots. If you see them and pull them out usually you are okay. But as you continue to work and notice the enamels are floating on the surface, you may have to take further action.
I had a lot of trouble a couple of years ago with enameling going bad. You can throw them away and reorder. You can re-wash them all along way while using the wet enamel. To remove the floaties. This mold like substance grows on wet enamels. So they may not show up in the beginning but hours later while sitting wet. You can rinse them with nitric and water. But not your reds. One problem that arises from this is it hardens the enamel. Meaning it is now a higher fire or longer fire enamel. Which can be used to advantage if you need it.
A tip credited to Valeri Timofeev .
“thick metal = thin enamel, thin metal = thick enamel” This means if you are enameling say cloisonne, you can get pretty thick enamels on the metal plate of your choice, as long as you counter the same thickness. I have enameled to a mm in thickness on 20 ga metal= thin metal. But if you have 16 ga metal and want to enamel on it, you can do so with one layer of enamel and no counter.
enamels are approximately 1mm in depth.
And here on the left is thick metals of 16 ga with one coat of flux and one color of red enamel.
Tuff Break is a rubber product I purchase from Fred Woell. You can find his contact in Resources. I use this for several reasons in all my settings of enamels jewelry. It adds protect the counter enamel while setting, by giving the enamel piece a cushion which help me not crack the piece during this process, and it take care of that tinny sound of the enamel against the metal once the piece is complete.
Many enamelist use glues or a piece of plastic behind the enameled piece and I feel this is a more professional element of the whole jewel.
I wanted to mention when you are designing look at these images. Think about the turtle and the pelican. If you squint your eyes and look at either in the photos you took it is easier to see the turtle as it is dark in the middle of the piece = the turtle and the water right around it is light. The pelican is harder to see as it is very close in color value. The pelican and the background.
Also something that helps make a design show up is to use complementary colors to help off set the desired image. As in this color sample.
I have seen several students, all located in different area of the country with either the wrong metal or impure metal. When you are enameling for fine jewelry it is most common to select fine silver as your base metal. For several reasons, sparkle and clarity of the enamels, and second the enamel fuses to the fine silver. With hobby style resources available for purchasing metal and the introduction of new metals such as Argentium silver it is easy to get the wrong product. Before you begin working with any silver, it is not that easy to tell the difference. But once you have began your project, maybe four layers of enamels later you start seeing the bubbles and discoloration of impure metals. I highly recommend to buy all your metal from one reliable supplier, and only one. Then you know exactly were you purchased it and can hold them accountable if it is fine silver. But more than likely, if it is from a notable refinery they will not have a problem of recognizing metals.