A new enameling kiln is 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. by using kiln wash.
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 will have spilt enamel on the shelf. Just scrape it off and reapply kiln wash dry and with the shelf in place and I am ready to enamel!
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 your enamel designs together and see on paper first, to helps to know your imaginations view will be delivered in your final enameling design.
A set of Winsor Newton Travel Watercolors, with a block of watercolor paper that is Hot Pressed watercolor paper and a #3 Sable brush will be the best to get you started in watercolor painting.
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, 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.
This is a cloisonne piece I am currently working on and thought it
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. But if you are an enamelist I bet you already it is important to be keeping things clean.
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 clean and 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 jewellers 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.
“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.
Here is cloisonne enameling and the
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.