Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday Share...Enameling Pens Trial and Error

Good morning, Art Jewelry Readers!  Since I post every other Saturday, I was trying to think of a snappy post title, and came up with Saturday Share. Today, I thought I would share with you my recent trial and error experiments with enameling pens.

Those of you familiar with my work know that I have a huge love of torch-fired enameling!  I learned from the master, Ms. Barbara Lewis!  Her immersion method really works for me when it comes to instant gratification in creating art jewelry components.  Recently, after reading some posts on Barbara's Ning site, and seeing lots of lovely inspiration, I decided to try some new enameling techniques.  After a little research, I decided to purchase a set of Enamel Pens.  These are made by Thompson Enamels and can be purchased individually, or in a set of 9.

They were a bit tricky to get the hang of at have to squeeze the tube and apply a bit of pressure to the tip to get the liquid flowing.  You also have to make sure you shake the pen quite a bit, as the colors tend to separate.  I found some colors are runnier than others as well.

These were the 1st ones I did...I loved the designs, but my background colors got muddy, and they over torched.

The biggest learning curve was torching the pieces after I applied the liquid enamel.  You can't go directly into the flame or your dried designs will pop right off!   This is where I decided to use the tripod and trivet method, so I could direct the flame underneath of the piece. I didn't really get the hang of that method and reverted back to directly in the flame!

I decided to try some pumpkins and are before firing...

 and after firing!

As you can see, the 2nd firing can be tricky, especially if your base coat is a hard color, like white, to keep from getting muddy!  I still think these little guys are pretty scary cute!  Sorry for the shiny photos!

Next, I thought I would try on some bisque-fired lentils I had from Bisque Bead Supply...they are such cute shapes and the enamel finishes with a lovely crackle.  I enameled them, then used the pens to draw faces...Jenny, here is my attempt at an enameled sugar-skull! (Check out yesterday's post on Dia de los Muertes).  Here is before 2nd firing....

and after...

Unfortunately, not a success!  I think the crackle glaze made the drawing run more than when fired on a smoother finish.  See what I mean by trial and error!

The owl was a total last minute experiment, and he actually turned out better than the he is again!  I will definitely be making a few more of his kind!

While not a total success, I have to say that there are real possibilities with the pens, and I will be playing with them lots more. Then onto water colors!!

Thanks for stopping by and letting me share!  What new techniques are you playing with?

~Melissa Meman


  1. Thank you! I am just starting to enamel and have wondered about pens.

  2. Love this post Melissa - so informative! Enameling is something I've dabbled with bit in the kiln and with a torch but I've never had enough time to get any good at it. This looks so much fun maybe I'll just have to make some time!

  3. This is very cool. If I had the money to go back to the metal's studio I'd buy some of these and start playing. Maybe one day...

  4. Melissa, you got some winners ... and some you'll definitely want to revisit! I love the sugar skull and it's nice to know that crackle white will cause the colors to flow. I have found that the second firing doesn't have to be nearly as hot as the first. I think I might be going to about 1300 as opposed to 1500. I kind of fire them as if I were firing a decal. Just enough for the piece to glow somewhat. You're right about white and the darkening of enamel. Unwanted smokey hazes are remedied by an oxygen/propane torch, like what lampworkers would use. When you're ready, it would be a great investment for someone like you, who's really committed to torch firing! Thanks for sharing all of your experiments!

  5. Melissa - that owl is adorable! Enameling on bisque puzzles the clay person in me - do you have to anneal? Will the clay crack if too hot? Was the sugar skull supposed to look crackle like that? I love the idea of the pens... Very interesting! I only enamel on the tripod/one sided ( Melissa Manley style) so this is way hi tech for me. Interested to see more as you keep going!

  6. thanks for posting this to Happy Accidents on FB. I have been wanting to try the pens and now I want to even more! I hope to order some soon.

  7. thanks for the post, it has lots of great information. I am hoping to order the pens soon. It is either the pens or the water colors. : )

  8. "Saturday Shares"...very catchy! I really appreciate your posting "error" pictures! That owl is fantastic! i am considering trecking up to Carol's sometime in the near future to have her teach me...I have Barbara's book, and all the supplies, but have not even come close to mastering the enamel techniques. These are cool!!! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thank you for sharing the trials and errors! That will help greatly when I finally get to try this wonderful technique.

  10. Love Saturday Shares! And I love that you are sharing your learning process with these pens. My favorite is the ghoul. I actually love how the white turned speckly. It's a look I would try to get.

  11. Melissa, thanks for this! I just took a torch-fire enameling class and am dying to start experimenting - then pens look like a lot of fun!


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