The Technique of Enameling

The ancient art of enameling offers to the jewelry maker almost unlimited creative possibilities for color, texture, and design. Whatever the imagination inspires, the enamelist can create on her canvas of copper and silver. Because of their versatility in creating bohemian jewelry, art nouveau and art deco jewelry, enamels have become the heart and soul of my wearable art jewelry collections. Indeed, my signature pieces, the butterfly necklaces and earrings are equally as colorful and attention-grabbing as those visitors to our flower gardens.

Monarch butterfly earrings in enamel

Of all the painting or art jewelry techniques I have learned over the years, enameling is the least appreciated and the most misunderstood by the public. The very name brings to mind things like nail polish, lacquers or resins. Only the enamel artist realizes that working with vitreous enamels is truly "painting with fire".

The art of enameling evolved in early Greece, sometime before 2000 B.C., after the bronze age made possible the soldering of gold and silver. In its earliest and simplest form, vitreous enameling was the process of fusing silica granules, or powders, onto metal. Today it is not quite so simple. Today's enamel artist has available to her a bewildering array of materials, each with its own characteristics of hardness, opacity, granularity, and opalescence - as well as a nearly infinite choice of colors.

A variety of enameling techniques have evolved over the years, including Basse Taille, Champleve, and Cloisonne. But I prefer my own stylized form of Limoges, which involves "painting" with enamel, and juxtaposing colors without separation. This seems most natural to the artist whose background is in watercolor, pastels, and acrylics. In this way I can produce original works of wearable art.

Texture technique in enamels

For the artist who produces unique handmade jewelry - one piece at a time, enameling offers limitless possibilities. I love to produce pieces that are generous in form, unique in geometry, and intense in color, often incorporating the same techniques that I used in watercolor. First, I "fire" a glass "canvas" onto a sculpted and shaped copper or silver base. Then begin alternating painting and layering colors with multiple firings.

Imagine the thrill each time a glowing piece is removed from the kiln and begins to reveal itself as it cools, the colors coming to life before one's eyes. This is truly wearable art "painted with fire".