From the second I saw my first enamel, I knew I wanted to create wearable art using enamels by either painting, making pieces similar to Kimberly Keyworth’s with geometric opaques and how to create deep reflective jewel-like cabachons. I could never figure out how to achieve Kimberly’s look, so to be honest I gave up. And, for the jewel-like look, I did my best, but unfortunately my pieces always felt a little flat. Ricky calls the space between your current knowledge/skillset and desired knowledge a gap. This was my gap.
After taking a week long cloisonné class with Ricky, my gap was dramatically reduced. I learned how to achieve various effects using enamel. Here’s the breakdown of things I didn’t know that now are part of my enameling vocabulary.
General technical tips: How to prep metal quickly: anneal, dome, apply first layer, re-dome any warpage, apply counter enamel, apply Scalex to then fire on fiber cloths in subsequent firings How to flash silver for high reflectivity How to prepare cloisonné wire for use (annealing it) How and when to use Blustick and Klyrfire How to reshape a piece that gets distorted How to create foil using a rolling mill How to fuse Argentium to create cells for enameling or as a setting for a finished piece How to prep lump enamel by grinding it with a mortar and pestle How to fuse fine silver wire to create a bezel
Reflectivity: Foils vs. leaf - their properties and where to lay them to get reflections and to compensate for the thinness How to fuse foil to enamel How to lay down foil for transitions and reflectivity When to use flux to account for chemical reactions To lay down wire flat for a reflective effect To lay down textured foil for a different effect
Grain size: Color depth (large grain size) Gradation (smaller vs larger) and when to use which size When not to use a dark layer as a first layer (if you don’t want it to be too dark at the end)
Opaque effects: Shading and layering with transparents by alternating or blending into one another Use a burr to create cut into several layers of enamel and fill that space with another color (the Kimberly Wentworth effect) Laying down opalescent enamels over sections to create a cloudy, dreamy effect Using lump chunks for effect Using glass beads for effect and how to fill the glass bead center hole
Design elements: How to use simple lines to create a statement How to use bits of foil to add an effect in part of a piece How to add opalescent enamels in sections as well as how to fire them not to burn them How to add opaque enamels in segments
Finishing: Once the colors are how you like them, how to use flux to fill the cells to the top of the wire Using various tools to grind and polish the piece Reasons for grinding and levels of polishing (deciding on when to leave the finished piece with a matte finish, a shiny finish, or a glossy finish) Setting an enamel into a bezel
There were 11 of us in the class with experience ranging from none to highly advanced. Ricky was able to meet each person at their own level, give them just the right amount of information to increase their enameling knowledge while challenging them without overwhelming them. By the end of the week, I believe each person left with a feeling of success.