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Exploring Enamels

In mid-June, I spent 3 days learning enamelling techniques with Bristol enameller and jewellery maker, Jessica Turrell.

Jessica’s approach is on using enamels in a non-traditional way, ( i.e. not bright colours and shiny surfaces) She combines texturing and mark-making in her process. Her pieces are quite sculptural, beautifully made and designed. It was inspiring to see her work and to learn from someone who has so much experience, fantastic skills, and a brilliant eye for design.

We worked on small copper samples exploring different enamelling techniques.


We used adhesive marker pens to draw my design onto the copper, as an adhesive for the enamel. We then sifted black enamel on top and fired the piece. The enamel creates a resist for the etching process.

We then prepared some work to be etched using oil-based pens to draw the designs on the copper. The drawings become the relief with the acid eating into the metal behind.

The copper pieces were then etched.

This piece was inspired by cotton grass, I sifted enamel on the surface and fired (overfiring slightly) Then I stoned down the parts of the drawing to reveal the copper behind. A clear flux was sifted over and it was fired again, giving the copper a rich red colour.

The next two pieces were based on different

ways peat is stacked.

Soft White enamel was sifted over this piece and then slightly overfired again. The black enamel used in the etching process frames the peat clods nicely

This piece was sifted with a clear enamel flux which deepened the colour of the copper in

the background.

The etching process creates all sorts of possibilities with texture and raised areas.

I will be exploring this further in the coming weeks.

Adhesive mark-making and using templates

Using wet pens as an adhesive for sifted enamel, drawing patterns and shapes onto the copper and sifting the enamel over the top as well as using templates.

Left- the 6 squares were created using templates, a piece of lace and some brown paper concertina packaging, the enamel was sifted through these templates and the pieces fired. Top middle piece and bottom right square- After firing I moved or turned the templates slightly and sifted a different colour, then refired.

The 2 oval pieces were created using adhesive wet pens, drawing onto the base colour on the copper, sifting the enamel over and then firing.

The middle piece had a layer of clear enamel flux sifted on which created the red in the copper below.

Right- A variety of samples using different techniques.

Below- Images of sphagnum leaf through the microscope along with the enamel piece inspired by them.

Sgraffito and wet process enamel

The above pieces were created using wet process enamelling, and sgraffito, with two layers of colour, in this case, black and white. I then stoned back some of the enamel to reveal the colour underneath. Both pieces on the right had a coat of clear enamel flux and were slightly overfired. All three pieces represent peat stack patterns.

Painting enamels and enamel inks

The pieces above were done by drawing on a prepared enamel piece with ink-based enamels and using different tools to create different types of line. It's something I think will improve with practice, quite tricky but lots of possibilities.

The piece on the right represents a carpet of sphagnum moss and the one on the left is a drawing which includes different types of mosses, there's a sundew in there, and some match stick lichen.

I covered an incredible number of different techniques on my three days with Jessica. Now it's over to me to do an in-depth study of enamelling and its processes. There's a life times work for me and I'm excited about continuing with it.

Below are my first three pieces of jewellery from the project. A series of brooches based on sphagnum moss leaf through the microscope. The bottom left was created using wet process enamel and the other two, adhesive process, sifting over wet pen drawings on the copper. They are all set in silver. The piece on the left has had the setting oxidised.


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