How to create plique a jour with Tom Herman and Patsy Croft.
Plique á Jour is a vitreous enameling technique where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing in the final product, so light can shine through the transparent or translucent enamel. It is in effect a miniature version of stained-glass and is considered very challenging technically.
Plique a jour can be created in two ways, one, by saw piercing a sheet of metal or two, by fabricating a structure of wires.This first images shows the tiny wings above the ruby drops as plique a jour formed in wire and enamels laid in.
Carnival earrings – Front
This second image the plique a jour is created from a sheet of gold that is saw pierced.
With a vision we started.
Plique a Jour Beginnings
Test Plates of Enamels
The first video shows Tom saw piercing the poppy petals to create plique a jour.
This second video I am floating the enamels into the poppy stem leaves.
This should give you a good idea of how to create plique a jour, enjoy!
Poppy construction complete
Matilija Poppy enameling progress
Poppy Project for Mendocino Art Center Where we are today, a few more week left.
I have found in researching alternative ways to provide backing for plique a jour a material form Fusion Headquarters at www.fusionheadquarters.com Carmen at 503-538-5281
A material they carry is called Wet Felt and comes in a 36″ x 36″ roll. This felt material can be cut in sections and shaped to your desired form. At this point you can let it air dry, or oven dry at 350 degrees until the form is hardened about 4 hours. It is still too rough to apply enamels on but if you layer on their fiber coat, as many times as it takes to create a even surface, then you can sand it to get a very nice smooth surface. Apply kiln wash and after all is dry, place plique a jour form on the felt form and enamel away!
I believe the materials are most helpful in creating larger forms such as vessels.
Be sure to wear protection mask while sanding. And one draw back I found is that he shelf life of the fiber coat is short. So make yourself a note to shake it up often and when mine got too thick I added water.
Fusion Headquarters does not have the Fiber Coat on their site due to the short shelf life = 6 months, and the expense. If you call they will have it for you in a couple of days.
What is Plique à Jour and the Plique a Jour Technique
Miniature stain glass window effect in jewelry. Frames of metal holding enamel, with no backing, thus allowing the light to come through. Developed in France and Italy early in the 14th century. There are several methods to create plique à jour.
This jewel of plique a jour is a method of pierced metal. Most artists will use this method with the aid of Klyre Fire, a glue substance, to help hold in the powdered enamels in place before firing. This jewel was created in 18k gold sheet of 22 ga. The use of gold gives you more strength and allows you to create jewels in a thinner gauge.
The Bird of Paradise Pendant is more involved. I have chased the Bird of Paradise in 18k gold sheet of 16 ga. and cut away the negative space. I used 18k flat wire to make the leaves and soldered them in place with hard solder. With such large open spaces the use of foils aid in holding the enamel in place, until fired, then the foil is removed. In this jewel the stone setting took place before the enameling. Less worry of cracking your enameled piece after firing.
This is a pair of cloisonné earrings with a drop of plique à jour leaves and a ruby. I would never get a stone cut like this much less be able to afford it. The leaves above the ruby are made in 18k gold, 18 ga sheet pierced and sawn out, then filled with enamels. Again foil is used to support the enamel while firing.
The enamels in this case were laid in after the ruby was set.
This enamel jewel of plique a jour is made of 18k gold sheet. The pedals have been sawn out and formed in a dapping block. The opens were pierced and filled with enamels using foil for support. And assembled after firing all the enamels. The stones are fabricated on screw post and allows it to be assembled in such away the pedals all turn.
A few helpful points I have come across in my research,
Millenet in Enamelling on Metal states to use larger granules of enamels, consistent in size for plique to acquire a clearer transparent. Also he puts the Klyre Fire against the cell wall then adds the enamel.
Another point is to use soft firing enamels= higher expansion rate enamels, which mean these enamels melt sooner than others allowing it to fuse faster and not fall through the openings.
If necessary to use Klyre-fire to hold the enamels in the opening while firing, use one part klyre-fire in 5 parts water in your enamels. After washing your enamels pour off all the water then add the Klyre-fire mixture to the enamels. Too much Klyre-Fire will cloud your enamels, so pay attention as the day goes, the water evaporates and makes the mixture stronger of Klyre-Fire, so add a bit of water though out the day.
The use of a consistent gain size gives the best clarity but also using a smaller grain size can be used such as 150 mesh, as it is lighter and easier to fill the openings without falling through. It is a bit tricky, but you are making a water bubble with your brush in the opening. I place my brush parallel to the surface of the metal and opening, and just touch the edge with the brush and move it across the opening, this usually makes a water bubble. There is enamel on your brush at this time, and a good bit of water.
Fire the enamels just to orange peel until you have the cells filled with your enamels, then carefully fire to maturity. This way the enamels are less likely to fall through.
And check out The Ada Brooch, an amazing piece of Plique a Jour
In my research of alternative methods used in Plique a Jour I can across this article in Glass on Metal, by Carmen Lombardi and yes she uses a torch to create Plique a Jour.
Carmon uses sterling silver as her metal to pierce out her plique design, and titanium to support her enamels, remember..enamels do not stick to titanium.
Make a pair of earrings by using 950 alloy and a 0.90 mm thick metal sheet. Cut out the design internally, so as to make the carved areas have the maximum length of 5.00 mm and be at least 3.00 mm distant from the borders, and by keeping between them a minimum distance of 1.50 mm. Those measurements are necessary in order to guarantee a steady frame for the silver and to prevent the enamel from damaging.
Put the pieces on a titanium sheet and apply wet enamel in light colors using a number 0 (zero) brush (the silver piece and the titanium sheet must be very plain and they must be one even with the other). Dry off the enamel very well during the application to keep it from becoming soaked and from running down the piece. The titanium is used in this technique because the enamel doesn’t adhere to its surface.
Handle the titanium sheet by picking it up with the third hand tweezers and by being careful not to move the piece from its place. Heat up the titanium underneath by using the torch, first with the candle flame (closing partially the air flow valve) and after with the hard flame, since it is necessary much heat for the enamel to melt. Let it cool down and repeat the enamel application and the burning procedures as many times as it is necessary for the enamel to reach the thickness of the silver metal sheet.
Make the finish on both sides with the diamond point by cleaning up very well the part that was in contact with the titanium and after that sand them by using all the sandpapers up to 600. Wash the pieces in running water by utilizing a toothbrush with smooth bristles.
Melt the pieces again in order to make them gleam. For that you should rest the pieces on small metal sheets of titanium and be careful not to let the latter touch the enameled areas. Let them cool down. Then, place them into the acid to make the silver get brighter, and finally polish them up.
The ‘plique-à-jour’ technique is perfect for making earrings, making a bigger enamel transparency effect possible.
Thank you Carmen for sharing!
A few notes to add. If the sheet of titanium is too thin, it will warp. If it is too thick, it will require a mega-torch to heat adequately. Regardless, titanium (like most metals) will oxidize when heated in the presence of oxygen. This won’t be a problem for the first piece that you make, but the oxides will have to be removed from the metal before subsequent pieced can be made. The oxides can’t be removed by pickle. They have to be ground off. To purchase titanium sheet visit http://www.alphaknifesupply.com/ti-sheet.htm
Brenda Radford of Radford Studios joined me last fall at the FSG Wildacres Masters Workshop where we work on alternative backing techniques for Plique a Jour. We researched and experimented with different products to allow us to create large cell openings to hold the the enamels.
She is kind enough to share her work after returning to her studio in Ontario Canada. 18k White and 18k Yellow Gold, and Diamonds.