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I’m often asked by my students which of the crafts that I teach do I like best?
That’s such a hard question. What I do like in constantly discovering new things to try (or add to the list) and that is especially so with Enamelling. The number of different techniques you can try is mind-blowing and then there are all the different design possibilities. Artists such as Sandra McEwen spend a lifetime marrying up their metalsmithing skills with their enamelling ones and specialising in one or two of these techniques in Sandra’s case Cloisonne and champleve. Like everything else the more you do the better you get – everything takes practice.
For those interested in Enamelling here is a brief guide to how to enamel using a kiln.
I would also like to add here that often artists and enamellers do things in slightly different ways, as with most things, you make it work for you and can only teach from your own experience, so I would never say you can only do things my way and I am always happy to learn – hence my passion for teaching.
What is Enamelling?
In this case we’re talking about vitreous enamel, which is the fusing of glass to metal using extreme temperatures ((750oC and higher).
What is it used for?
Pieces of jewellery, or decorative items such as pictures and bowls. You’ll also see signs on the underground and even car badges that have been enamelled – these require specialist equipment.
1 Choose your metal
Generally, silver or copper are used although other metals do work. You need to pay particular attention to the metal temperature of your metal to ensure it won’t melt before your glass (enamel) does.
2 Prepare your metal
Fine silver needs little preparation but sterling silver needs to be fired and cleaned several times to reduce the amount of copper on the surface layer. Copper reacts in the kiln causing copper oxide or firescale which is a black layer that needs scrubbing off. Copper needs to be cleaned thoroughly prior to firing – usually with a scouring pad and detergent.
3 Prepare your enamels
You can buy enamels from several suppliers – WG Ball supplies to Cookson Gold in the UK, Vitrium Signum are also very popular with British enamellers as are Corby Kilns but do an internet search and you’ll find suppliers where you are based. Some enamellers never clean their enamels and others always clean them. If you clean your enamels, it produces a clearer glass and is particularly useful when using transparents.
4 Prepare your surface
You’ll need to balance your blank between something (I use two piles of coins) in order to be able to pick it up once you’ve applied enamel powder. You’ll also want to work on a clean sheet for each colour used as this helps to prevent contamination of colours.
5 Counter enamel
Counter enamel, or enamelling the back is done for 3 main reasons. 1 To ensure equal tension on the front and back of the piece – or the glass may break off. 2 To reduce the amount of firescale that builds up. 3 To stop the piece that’s next to your skin tarnishing or causing your skin to go green.
5 Once enamel has been sifted on it can be fired on a stilt or a trivet.
6 Clean firescale off your blank
7 Add more layers to the back if necessary
8 The kiln
Although you can torch fire enamel I prefer to use the kiln for more successful results. Firing times vary depending on colour, size of your blank and what else may be applied, hence it is something you can only really pick up with experience. You’ll be amazed how quickly you just react to what has happened to your piece and troubleshoot timings. However, as a quick guide firings are around 30 seconds to a minute from 750oC.
8 Firing the front
A layer of enamelled colour can then be added to the front of your piece and fired.
9 Add further decoration or master further techniques by continuing to fire several times.
So those are the basics! There’s a lot to take in to start and I really see Enamelling as something that you keep returning to and experimenting with. One of the reasons that there aren’t lots of people teaching Enamelling (or not that I have come across) is that there are so many variables that can affect a piece. It is our job as Enamelling teachers to explain why things have happened and to try to enable students to resolve those issues, or reduce risks of things happening to help them achieve as close to their design aims as possible, for that reason people can get frustrated by it and for others (I consider myself highly in this camp) that is what makes it so interesting.
Making mistakes + troubleshooting = learning
Molten glass + Metal + kiln + experiments = Exciting results
If I’ve interested you and you are thinking about taking a class, here are a few that I have coming up:
Click here for classes in my workshop in Colchester (one to one or one to two) I can also organise dates to suit. These represent great value as you have lots of tutor interaction and I can easily tailor lesson to what you want to learn.
Watershed Studio – 19th July Enamelling for Beginners and Improvers (St Osyth, Tendring)
EJart – Sat 21st May Enamelling on Silver Clay (Woodbridge, Suffolk)
FSC Flatford Mill 3 day jewellery making course – 15th – 17th July inclusive, this a jewellery making weekend including silver clay and Enamelling (residential and non-residential students welcome). (Suffolk)
Any questions do ask. Best wishes, Toni
Well, it’s been a funny old year so far. Sadly my mother-in-law died in February and this week was her funeral – those of you that frequent craft fairs will probably have met Jenny with her ‘Bags to Colour’. Later in the year her sister Sherrie, daughter Lou, nieces and granddaughters will be running a stand at Clare Priory in her memory and raising money for some of the cancer charities which helped her. I’ll post more about that nearer the time but given how time is flying that could be the week before it happens!
We’ve also had a missing cat (fortunately he came back within 24 hours) and my eldest daughter fractured her wrist just before she was to do two guitar performances… she took up left-handed tambourining (is that a word) instead…craziness is the new normality.
Speaking of normality I’m actually of to ExCel London tomorrow for the Creative Craft Show. I’ll be helping run the ‘have a go’ sessions with the Guild of Enamellers, so if you are at the event pop along and have a go. We’re in Halls S7 stand A25. I’ll post some pictures on social media tomorrow.
Don’t forget the usual classes are available to book here. I’m always happy to have a chat about tailoring dates and classes for you, for example this year I’ve run a silver clay class for a group in the host’s lovely home, ran a silver clay class for a group of 10 ladies celebrating a 40th birthday in a cottage hired for the weekend, and I am just planning a felt making session for a family. I now teach a weekly art session for a dementia group which features in some of the pictures below, as well as my more usual classes for adult creatives.
Pictures from recent sessions.
Happy Crafting, Toni
Usually, January and February are times when I get on with planning and sorting out, but for various reasons it’s been a slow start. Who doesn’t like a deadline though? No sooner had I started sorting through all the STUFF in my workshop, I took a booking for this week. Just look at the mess! Still having a sort out is good and now hopefully most things are easier to find (she laughs). I even have a dedicated space for works in progress and believe me I have a lot of those!
I also have a few ideas brewing for classes, such as combining soldering and silver clay to make cufflinks and earrings and for myself, I always intend to build on my silversmithing skills.
What skills do you want to build on this year?
It’s been a challenging year again for all of us with isolation together and then lots of isolation apart but in between, we’ve managed to squeeze in some fun. I’ve also added to my skills by successfully completing the Camp PMC 101 class at the beginning of the year and the PMC Soldering and fusing class towards the end of this year and I hope to add elements of both those classes into what I offer next year.
Thank you to all my students who came and had a creative session with me this year – the photos show just a few of the wonderful pieces that were made in classes. I also taught more art this year for regular groups and that has been a steep but enjoyable learning curve – I am now obsessed with buying art supplies as well as all my usual crafting items.
Finally, if you’d like to book a class voucher for Christmas, there is still time. I can email a gift letter out to you as late as Christmas eve. Do email me for more details.
Have a restful and healthy festive break I look forward to starting more creative journeys with you in 2022.
It’s been a busy few months what with constantly having to reschedule classes due to Covid but I have managed to come up with some earring designs that are now made to order so do take a look at my shop page. I have also added some dates for classes, so you can choose a date, or buy a gift voucher and enable the recipient to choose their own dates. As usual, I run small classes so there aren’t lots of people here to mix with and am happy to discuss any Covid concerns with my students. Class gift vouchers make great presents – an experience plus you get to make something to wear home.
Right on to writing my own wishlist now! Do you think Jason Issacs is available?
Eek! Busy behind the scenes trying to get dates sorted and generally confusing myself left, right and centre. Don’t forget a booked class or voucher makes a great gift, it’s a day out and something made is something treasured (hopefully).
Once I am less confused I will post more about what I have been up to.
Saturday 22nd January – Beginner’s Silver Clay @ EJart
Thurs 10th Feb – @ EJart TBA
Tuesday 22nd Feb – Encaustic art @ CG Crafts
Thursday 24th Feb – Silver Clay Jewellery at the Sunshine Room – Pin Mill
PMC Silver Clay Camp 101 class – 4 weeks, 5 projects – Thursday 3rd March, 10th March, 17th March, 14th March
Fri 4th March – Flamework @ CG Crafts
Sat 5th March – Private Class
Tues 8th March – Flamework @ CG Crafts
Fri 11th March – Silver Clay Jewellery @ CG Crafts
Sat 12th March Enamelling @ CG Crafts – SOLD OUT
Tuesday 15th March – Enamelling @ Watershed Studio, St Osyth
Friday 18th March – Enamelling @ CG Crafts
Sat 19th March – @ Ejart TBA
Sunday 20th March – Flamework @ CG Crafts
Friday 25th March – Silver Clay @ CG Crafts
Sat 26th March – Encaustic Art @ CG Crafts
I also teach feltmaking.
Get in touch for more info about any of the classes.
I thought once the girls went back to school I’d be able to get on with everything again. Ha! Covid hit home with 2 positive test results, conveniently 2 weeks apart so it left us with a month of isolation. Fortunately, no one was too ill but it has meant another batch of postponed classes, lost income and admin hassles! Oh dear, get out the violins.
On a positive note, it has meant I have been able to work on my Camp PMC 103 – Soldering and fusing class (pictures below). So I am now much happier with my soldering skills and look forward to incorporating those into classes in the future.
Once half term is over I’ll update you on course dates and things planned for the next few months. Can’t believe we are at this end of the year already! Don’t forget craft class gift vouchers make great presents so do get in touch if you are interested in buying one for this class or any others that I offer: Enamelling, Felt making, Flamework, Silver clay and Encaustic art. Do get in touch to find out more.
Summer holidays are now over so I have more time to work through my to do list for CG Crafts Craft business again (or so I hope).
Here’s a link to my You Tube clip about the Enamelling technique: Sgraffito, which means to scratch through. It’s a basic video to give you an idea of how it works. I hope to refine or re-record later but in the meantime it’s good just to get it on the system.
Next sgraffito class is at EJart Creative, Woodbridge on Thursday (9th September) do message me for details.
I’m very excited to be trying a Facebook live event this weekend with ICHF – book here.
From 12 – 2pm on Saturday 10th July, I am going to be myth busting Encaustic art. What do I mean by that? Well I just want to give you some ideas about how versatile and vibrant it is as an artform. Of how it can be used in conjunction with many different crafts and tools that you already do or have. It is also a great artform in its own right. I like using it for mixed media work and sell my watercolour/encaustic art work in the form of printed cards.
Like everything else, skill level depends on how much you practice and you’ll find your own style but it is really satisfying for the absolute beginner too – the artwork being dry in moments. I’m going to demo at least 6 different things in my two hour slot.
So grab yourself a cuppa to watch, or if you want to join in you’ll need a travel iron, non absorbant card, encaustic waxes, backing paper and tissues. I will also have my heated stylus out and some rubber stamps. All supplies can be purchased from Michael Bosson (my original teacher and the master of UK Encaustic art as we know it) at Arts encaustic ltd – mention me if you order as it would be really useful to know how many people took the plunge after the session.
Lessons coming up – I generally teach in Essex and Suffolk and also on zoom by request
I am doing two short classes in August (Sat 14th and Thursday 19th) at EjartCreative in Woodbridge, Suffolk – book here
I hope the tech all works smoothly and my demos help you to get a flavour of the fun and creativity you can unleash when doing Encaustic art. Thanks, Toni
For those of you embracing an actual staycation – i.e staying at home and going to visit places, here are a few courses coming up during the summer at the beautiful FSC Flatford Mill – technically you can stay there but I will leave that up to you.
The main course I want to tell you about is my Jewellery making weekend at FSC Flatford Mill, here’s the link to book, which you need to do with them directly. During the weekend I will cover both Enamelling and silver clay techniques and you will have the opportunity to add to your skills, or learn from scratch as a complete beginner. By the end of the class you will have enamelled at least 5 pieces and using 10g of silver clay you’ll have made 2 – 3 items of fine silver jewellery. It’s a lovely venue and as we work into the evening (if you want to) it is a chance to take a more relaxed look at jewellery making and talk over ideas with fellow students.
The jewellery weekend class runs from Fri 23, July 2021 16:00 – Sun 25, July 2021 16:00
I also have one day classes running at Flatford Mill in the summer, so if you prefer to just concentrate on one craft at a time then these may be for you.
Silver Clay Day – Friday 20th August 9.30 – 5pm – book here
I have recently completed my PMC instructor certification and so have some new tips to share with you. We will be using 10g silver clay but also a choice of either syringe or sheet clay too, so something new to add to your designs or experiment with.
Enamelling day – Sat 21st August 9.30 – 5pm – book here
There’s plenty of time on this one day class to learn some of the techniques involved in the ancient art of enamelling, or to add more to your repertoire. We’ll be fusing lead free enamels (glass powders) to copper using a table top kiln which fires at 750 degrees C and higher.
You’ll make around 5 pieces in this relaxed one day class.
Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas for the summer and don’t forget there are always individual classes here at my workshop in Colchester and other class venues listed on my website. Have a safe and great break – if you get a chance.
Do get in touch if you have any questions about classes or crafts in general.
Best wishes, Toni
Here’s a little video put together by the PMC Studio for all instructors who have successfully completed their PMC training. I am really looking forward to sharing all the tips I have built up as well as introducing you to Camp 101 and a few other courses I now have ideas for. The video shows you a little about my PMC journey. I hope it inspires. Do get in touch if you’d like to book a class.
You can sign up to my mailing list to get up to date class info and subscriber discounts as well as hearing more about my experiments and discoveries.
I know I won’t be the only one who has spent a great deal of the last year building on existing skills or learning new ones. Creativity is something that can really keep you going at the best of times and most especially now. It has also given me time to have a think about offering themed classes or classes focusing on a specific technique, which I do to a certain extent but I think I need to be clearer about it! Haha she says as she waffles along.
I’m going to post some photos of work I have been doing with @pmcstudio as part of my silver clay certification, some of which I already offer but have learn some extra tips for you. Do let me know which techniques particularly intrigue you, or what others you might like to learn. Some of the classes may be taught online (I am offering a few via @ejartcreative at the moment). Later in the year I hope to be able to tell you more about Camp PMC 101 which I hope to be able to teach soon.
I am also learning papercutting (pictured is a great kit by @KatySuedesigns but I am working on some basic ideas for a class for those who need to be guided a little more and this will be @watershedstudio later in the year (hopefully).
I know some techniques get people really excited, whereas others they can take or leave, so it would be really great to get some feedback.
I’ll tell you a little more about dates etc in my newsletter. If you’d like to sign up do get in touch.
Keep safe and creative.