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METALSMITHING - Enamels BEST FRIEND

  •  We all need to be FRIENDED and so does Enameling!

     

    There are 2 kinds of Enamel Artists:

    Those who started out as Metalsmith students and later were introduced to enameling;

    and the Student who learned Enameling first then began their journey into the world of metal. 

    I began as a Metalsmith, learning to make jewelry in gold and silver in workshops of New York's  jewelry schools. I discovered enameling when we had a Public Christmas Buying Event, and another student displayed a pendant of enamel.  There it lay in brilliant colors surrounded by a bed of shining sterling silver. I was captivated and the first words out of my mouth were, "Where can I learn this?"

    Beginning enamelists with little to know metalsmith experience start out learning the basics with a flat square or found piece of copper - put a hole in the top - sift some enamel powder, fire and Voilá, they have an enameled pendant or earring. As they become comfortable with the process and learn more techniques, then the question becomes "now how do I make it into a piece of jewelry"? The Metalsmith coming out of art school already has learned the basic techniques of bezel making, soldering, metal gauges and the use of a torch and they are ready to drop their enamel piece into their metal design and make a "Best Friend".

    It occurred to me as I attend conferences that the subject most lacking in the roster of workshops is "Where is  Enameling's Best Friend? Metalsmithing : "how to make a bezel" - "how to use a Wax Gun to make a bezel" - "how to make a prong setting"  "how to rivet the enamel" "how to set a stone into the enamel" or "how to set an enamel piece using several techniques." Thanks to You Tube,  books, DVD tutorials, and jewelry publications, you can teach yourself at home, good but not the same as class, but I thank the gods for them, I have a library shelf full.   I recently bought a PDF tutorial from a fabulous metalsmith, Robyn Cornelius on "How to make a Wave bracelet". I thought "Easie Peasie" - and Yes, I made it, but then I had the opportunity in Milwaukee to take her class- which I waited a year for - and the knowledge I gained was worth the long wait. The small details and tips and questions answered that you gain in person are priceless and "Yes" you can friend enamel into the bracelet! cha ching!

    Years back, I had the opportunity to study enamel with renowned Enamelist Felicia Liban for a year as my mentor in her studio.  Not only did I accomplish learning cloisonné but I also learned different techniques to set the enamel piece. She taught me small elegant details like using a quill pen and liquid gold to sign my name - leaving the back open so that you could see it on the enamel and the fine art of swirling a bezel with a wax gun - no easy task and maybe in today's standards it seems out dated but well worth the learning experience.

    Don't get me wrong, I do love to enamel, but the  multitude of techniques in Metalsmithing has been a long and stimulating journey for me that I continue til this day. I growl like a tiger on the prowl when I walk through the tool aisle of Home Depot, sniffing every hammer, file, and machine that I don't need but we still have to make eye contact. 

    Enamels are not the end all to a piece of jewelry. They can be friended by gems and minerals, rivets, stacked stones, the hydraulic press, rolling mill, textured hammers, and organic matter. 

    I recommend to everyone starting out in enameling to combined your studies with metalsmithing and make a new friend.