My friend and I spent several afternoons last week enameling. This time it was a completely new experience, as we used a small Paragon kiln instead of the torch. What sparked our interest, you might ask? Have you ever seen the work of Angela Gerhard? Enough said!
While we didn't know what we were doing, we had an idea. We made plenty of mistakes, most of them fixable. There were two ways of drawing patterns in enamels, that we knew of. You can first counter-enamel the back of your piece, then enamel a base coat on the front. Brush Klyr-Fire to the front and sift on a contrasting color. Then using a small brush or pointed scribing tool, draw your design in the enamel. When the piece is dry, carefully place it on a trivet and firing rack, then load into the kiln, which has been waiting at 1500 deg. F.
Here's what we did last week. We counter-enameled the back by putting on a fairly thick coat. Then added a thinner base coat to the front and fired again. Instead of using Klyr-Fire and a coat of enamel powder, we mixed a small portion of white liquid enamel with distilled water until it was a thin yogurt consistency. We brushed this mixture over the top of the piece, sifted a coat of enamel on top, and immediately started the drawing process. A very tricky business! You need to have a plan and work fast. If you make a mistake, it can be fixed by using some of the enamel mixture and sifted enamel ... sometimes. But most of the time it didn't work and you had to clean the piece and start over.
The enamels we used are from Thompson Enamel. The white liquid enamel was BC-1070.
Our worst mistake was on the first day. After we counter enameled the back of the piece, we didn't like it. So we added more enamel to try cover it. Remember, we had already given the back a heavier coat. What happened next was that most of the pieces cracked and the enamel fell off the back. Duh. The next day we were able to save those pieces by chipping off the excess enamel, adding a thin coat and quickly adding a coat to the top. It was a matter of surface tension.
I can't count the number of times we dropped the piece we were working on or it fell sideways off the trivet. The third day was an improvement. We had several nice pieces. I'll share a few here. I think what kept us going into the third day was my friend's piece. It had just been removed from the kiln and was gorgeous! The black dots are very small black glass beads!
Here are her earrings from the third day:
I had my successes too. I enameled a number of hearts and a few rectangular pieces.
So much to learn, but we felt we were successful in our first attempt. I want to try scribing zentangle patterns next.