Hot Glass Happenings….

January 29, 2015 , In: General, Inspiration, Metalsmithing, Studio

So fifteen months ago I took delivery of an enameling to go on my Paragon Caldera kiln. I was off my feet with a broken ankle at the time so it got dumped in a corner in its box and ignored for an eternity. It’s been out of the box for a while but still hasn’t been used so this week I decided it was time to christen it. Since all kilns behave differently and because it I haven’t done any enameling for well over two year a little test session seemed in order.

So I made myself some copper blanks and gave them a good scrub with an abrasive cleaner to make sure there were no traces of dirt or grease.


Then I counter enameled the backs of all the pieces – counter enameling balances out the stress on the enamel to stop it cracking or flaking and makes it stronger.


When I apply the enamel I raise the blanks off the bench using skewers which allows me to slip a palette knife underneath and transfer them to a firing trivet without having to touch them.

With curved or domed pieces I apply a holding agent (very dilute wallpaper paste) to stop the enamel sliding off and leave it to dry on top of the kiln.

These could have done with a slightly thicker application but that’s what testing is all about,

With that done I moved onto the fun bit and started adding some colour to my pieces…lapiz blue for the bird and a blended red/orange.

Unfortunately, at this point I got engrossed and forgot to keep taking photo’s at each stage – oops, sorry! After I fired the blue bird I added a layer of green enamel and used a sgraffito tool to create a wing pattern in the powdered enamel which shows up when the second layer melts,

I really like the abstract effect that came from laying multiple colours and firing together.

To add an  extra dimension I played with some other elements such as frit (crush mixed glass), stringer and pieces of cut glass.

With this piece a darker blue enamel was sieved lightly over the paler base coat and glass squares sat on top. The glass pieces melt more slowly than the enamel and slumps but leaves an interesting raised finish.

Here I used a transparent cinnamon enamel over a hammered blank and added frit and like th eglass pieces, the frit doesn’t melt fully leaving a nice texture. I think perhaps the colours I chose were a bit too subtle and a stronger contrast between enamel and frit would have been better.

This last technique takes a bit of practice since it involves melting the glass stringers into the enamel and dragging a sgraffito tool across them while it’s still molten and without cooking you hand! Since the door on the enameling collar is quite small I found this harder than in my old kiln with a full size door but a bit of practice will help that.

You can also see from the thick dark edges and the black flecks that this piece has been over-fired a bit. This is not necessarily a problem as it can produce interesting effects and as with ceramic glazes red and orange enamels are more prone to this.

So now I know how the new kiln performs and I’ve got may hand back in again I’m looking forward to developing this skill more. There are lots of other techniques for using enamel that I’d like to try and I will of course share them with you when I do.

Lesley Watt

Lesley Watt started making jewellery in 2009 with a handful of hobby store beads but quickly discovered art beads and became completely smitten. Taking courses in metal clay, metal smithing, enamelling and etching she began making her own components in 2011 and has never looked back. Always looking to try new things she has branched out into ceramics, bead embroidery, mixed media and textiles.
  1. Reply

    Interesting reading, enamelling is something that I would like to have a go at.
    love the effects you've go with your experiments – particularly love the colours on the birdie!

    • Reply

      Ailsa if youcan find somewhere that does a course nearby that's a good way to start…that's what I did and you can pick it up quite quickly.

  2. Reply

    Very interesting experiment – I love the one with the glass cubes – they look like tiny jelly beads

  3. Reply

    Hi Lesley, Thank you so much for this post. Enameling is something I really want to learn and I appreciate the tips I got from you.

  4. Reply

    I have only tried the torch fired enameling with Barbara Lewis. I got all excited and of course bought all the things you need. I have blanks, beads, the enameling powder in a veritable rainbow of colors, I even have the torch. All I need is the MAPP gas. But when I took the class, where I found I was quite good at it, the flame is just too powerful for my set up in the basement. I don't want to be relegated to the garage, so there it sits, collecting dust. I should just sell it to someone who will use it. I love the looks you have achieved and the fun possibilities! Thanks for sharing the process! Enjoy the day! Erin

  5. Reply

    They look fantastic, I love all of the different effects you can get.

  6. Reply

    Wow, your kiln enameling experiment turned out much better than mine! Love that bird and especially the blue rectangle with the glass squares! You inspire me to try again!

  7. Reply

    Thanks for the inspiration! I've been playing with enamel and this motivates me to do more. Love the glass squares – have looked on line and can't find them? Any idea on a source? Again, thanks so much!

  8. Reply

    Everything looks wonderful! Beautiful! Thanks for sharing all the techniques. I'll never enamel but it's fun to see how it's done.

  9. Reply

    I want to get into enameling but it just isn't in the budget at this time. Maybe if I could curb my urge to buy pretties.

  10. Reply

    Beautiful results! I don't think I would have the patience, but I love what you have done!

  11. Reply

    Glad to see you are on the other side of your injury. I like the bird shape you came up with and the blue piece with the melted glass. I love enameling and many posts on the Art Jewelry Elements blog have provided good tips and some inspiration. I love to see what other artists are creating. Thanks!

  12. Reply

    I am glad to see you on the other side of an injury. I particularly like the bird and the blue piece with the added glass. I am really enjoying enameling at this point in my art journey. Using a torch provide me with the instant gratification that I did not get waiting for my ceramic kiln to cool. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Reply

    I enjoyed reading your article and I love the blue piece with the squares, I thought the subtlety of the colors was quite pleasing.

  14. Reply

    I love enameling and I really need to try some new techniques! The tiny glass squares look nice,I've been looking for something like that, It never occurred tome to look at mosaic supplies. Thanks so much!

  15. Reply

    This was such an interesting post. I loved learning a little about different enameling techniques. Lovely tests!!

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