Playing with Color: Exploring Jewelry Enameling at Metalwerx

Learn about jewelry enameling on forms in this guest blog by Metalwerx resident Artist, Ellen Carno.

My love of metal work ratcheted up after my first jewelry enameling class. Wow, a world of color! What a joyful addition. For me, enamel is a playful medium: finding color pairings that sing, layering transparents over opaques, overheating, under heating. The list is endless.

Opaque Scarlet Enamel Earrings by Ellen Carno
Opaque Scarlet Earrings by Ellen Carno

So, when Halstead sent over a batch of new Milton Bridge lead-free jewelry enamels to Metalwerx (a wonderful metal school and studio in Waltham, MA where I rent a studio space), I fired up the kiln and made some test swatches.  Many of their colors were beautiful but the shocker for me was the opaque scarlet. I have found it very difficult to find unleaded red enamel with that kind of vibrancy. Here is a piece I made with the opaque scarlet and a couple of tips for successfully firing enamel on three dimensional objects.

Step 1:

I started with a corrugated copper coated steel form. Cleaned and ready for a coat of red enamel.

Corrugated Copper Coated Steel Form

Step 2:

To support my piece I use a steel mesh with two sides bent to 90 degrees. This kind of kiln furniture is often used as a stand.  I simply flip it over and have a support for thin steel rods to sit on either side with my bead strung on the rod.

Kiln Furniture Set-up

Step 3:

The next step is to sift the enamel onto the piece and have it hold until firing. I learned a fabulous method for adhesion from Linda Darty, who wrote the definitive book on enameling The Art of Enameling. Her invaluable trick is to use a mixture of Elmers glue and water to hold her cloisonné wires in place. This method also works well on three dimensional pieces.

Enamel Set-up

Step 4:

After drying I fire and let cool. Play on!

Multiple Colored Beads

Want to learn more about enameling or other jewelry making techniques? Metalwerx offers over 75 workshops and almost 50 weekly classes per year with renowned artist instructors from across the country. Read more and register at www.metalwerx.com.

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Halstead, is one of North America’s leading distributors of jewelry supplies. Halstead specializes in wholesale findings, chain, tools and metals for jewelry artists.

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Ellen Carno
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