My Intro to Enameling: An Asheville Experience


In a previous post about polymer clay Anglo-Saxon inspired brooches, I mentioned the art of cloisonné so prevalent in the past.


In my ideal world, I'll teach simple enameling in the Beowulf Camp so the students get the experience, so I went to Ignite Jewelry Studios in Asheville, NC, to take an intro class.


Before I go through the steps of the process, I want to rave about the studio set up. I'm always on the look-out for how to optimize studio space even though I don't have a permanent teaching studio (yet).



I love the symmetry of the layout and the beautiful desks. I've seen the tool "dashboard" regularly, but usually on metal work benches. This is lovely.


The combination of the Foredom and light is a delightful use of space.


Jewelry-making classes also lend themselves to a COVID environment as this set up shows.


Plus, we're almost always wearing masks in the studio, so we were all in agreement on health and safety (always wear a mask around glass particles and metal particles!).



The Process


1. Sifting the enamel

Our instructor had charms available. She had pulled the fine silver to the top so the enamel would stick to the metal. Using the sifter, we made a thin, even layer of enamel on top.


I chose to put two colors on my bird, so I used a piece of paper to block off half of the bird while sifting color on the other half.


The art to this is maintaining evenness without making the glass dust too thick.


The other art is keeping the two colors from mixing either on the bird or in the bowls. I did not succeed in that art.



2. Firing the charm

At the beginning of class we practiced the process of opening the kiln and putting in/removing the wire shelf. When we got to the actual firing, the practice session provided us with a lot of confidence in facing the heath and putting in the charms without spilling the glass dust.


Using Rio Grand kilns set at 1440, we fired our charms for 1 min 40 sec and then set them to the side to cool for 3-4 minutes.


I ended up firing mine three times because my layers were fairly thin.


After our third firing, we glued a tiny silver bead eye on, heated it, then fired the charm one final time.


3. Cleaning and finishing

After the charms cooled, our instructor placed them into a cleaning tumbler (I'm not sure what solution was in it), put on the jump ring, and then had us choose a chain or put the charms in a branded baggie.


The entire process took an hour with five people.


I was pleased with my bird, enjoyed the instructor, and will be returning for private instruction in cloisonne!

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