So fifteen months ago I took delivery of an enameling to go on my Paragon Caldera kiln. I was off my feet with a broken ankle at the time so it got dumped in a corner in its box and ignored for an eternity. It's been out of the box for a while but still hasn't been used so this week I decided it was time to christen it. Since all kilns behave differently and because it I haven't done any enameling for well over two year a little test session seemed in order.
So I made myself some copper blanks and gave them a good scrub with an abrasive cleaner to make sure there were no traces of dirt or grease.
Then I counter enameled the backs of all the pieces - counter enameling balances out the stress on the enamel to stop it cracking or flaking and makes it stronger.
When I apply the enamel I raise the blanks off the bench using skewers which allows me to slip a palette knife underneath and transfer them to a firing trivet without having to touch them.
With curved or domed pieces I apply a holding agent (very dilute wallpaper paste) to stop the enamel sliding off and leave it to dry on top of the kiln.
These could have done with a slightly thicker application but that's what testing is all about,
With that done I moved onto the fun bit and started adding some colour to my pieces...lapiz blue for the bird and a blended red/orange.
Unfortunately, at this point I got engrossed and forgot to keep taking photo's at each stage - oops, sorry! After I fired the blue bird I added a layer of green enamel and used a sgraffito tool to create a wing pattern in the powdered enamel which shows up when the second layer melts,
To add an extra dimension I played with some other elements such as frit (crush mixed glass), stringer and pieces of cut glass.
With this piece a darker blue enamel was sieved lightly over the paler base coat and glass squares sat on top. The glass pieces melt more slowly than the enamel and slumps but leaves an interesting raised finish.
Here I used a transparent cinnamon enamel over a hammered blank and added frit and like th eglass pieces, the frit doesn't melt fully leaving a nice texture. I think perhaps the colours I chose were a bit too subtle and a stronger contrast between enamel and frit would have been better.
This last technique takes a bit of practice since it involves melting the glass stringers into the enamel and dragging a sgraffito tool across them while it's still molten and without cooking you hand! Since the door on the enameling collar is quite small I found this harder than in my old kiln with a full size door but a bit of practice will help that.
You can also see from the thick dark edges and the black flecks that this piece has been over-fired a bit. This is not necessarily a problem as it can produce interesting effects and as with ceramic glazes red and orange enamels are more prone to this.
So now I know how the new kiln performs and I've got may hand back in again I'm looking forward to developing this skill more. There are lots of other techniques for using enamel that I'd like to try and I will of course share them with you when I do.