Saturday, September 3, 2011


Last Saturday on a sheer whim, I registered myself for a workshop at CREATE Mixed Media Retreat in Lisle. Never been. Always wanted to go. One workshop intrigued me. It was on enameling. I got to make an art jewelry pendant: a ruffly little disk with a nest and eggs in the middle. I managed to get through the three hour class without sticking wire through my fingers, or spilling anything, or burning myself on the kiln, or setting the hotel on fire with the blow torch.

The instructor, Jean Van Brederode, was a natural teacher and appreciator of art. This came through in her comments and observations during the evening. I learned that one of the beauties of enameling is the process of creating a shiny piece out of dust (glass particles, really) that can surprise and delight you as it cools. What you see isn't always what you get. But the end result could tickle your soul. And, as many students found, if you don't quite like it, you may recolor it and fire it again.

I chose a cobalt blue for the background color, but sprinkled in a little pink to see if I would achieve a sort of violet hue. Jean explained that since the particles are glass dust, they don't "mix" together in the kiln. Still, I wanted a little visual texture so I went for it.

The wire bird's nest started out to be a lighter brown. After the first firing, although Jean commented on how I achieved the robin's egg blue color very well on the little eggs, I couldn't just LEAVE IT ALONE..... I had to add a little more color. The second firing affected the brown in the nest, though, and it looks almost gray now. Well. All I can say is..... sometimes more is more. But sometimes it's better to just be happy with whatcha got.

After buffing some bumps out of the enamel pendant, adding a copper jump ring for hanging, and wiring on a little bird, the final step is the wire wrapping. We melted the end of the copper wire using a blow torch, which created a teardrop and a cool oxidation on the shiny copper finish. (I'm not sure that's the word, oxidation, so I hope you get the idea).

The workshop was just what I needed to kick me in the butt creatively. I was inspired by the new ideas and the stick-to-itiveness of my classmates to achieve the desired colors they wanted. Jean was very complimentary of everyone's work and marveled at the final products. Immediately I had the desire to play with more color combinations and copper sizes, and the wheels started turning in my brain..... "How can I do this without actually purchasing a kiln?" "If I went this direction, what kind of crazy cool flowers could I make?" "Maybe there's a co-op of artists in my area who get together and fire enamel, and I could join them?!"

For now, I'll just start a meager list for Santa Claus. If I finished the cluster of projects I already have started, I'd feel better about launching into enameling jewelry. Or, maybe the desire will overwhelm me and I'll be doing blog posts about firing a new color.

Meanwhile, click over to Jean's shop on Etsy, "Charmed I'm Sure," and take a gander.