What is enamel?
In common parlance, most people hear the word “enamel” and immediately think of enamel paint that can be purchased from the hardware store that gives a solid, glossy sheen. Enameling, as used in metalsmithing, is an ancient technique of fusing ground colored glass to a metal surface. The medium is also referred to as “vitreous” or “porcelain” enamel. The earliest known examples of true enamel date to the island of Cyprus around the 13th century B.C. and has been used throughout the ancient world to color metalwork. I first fell in love with the technique in graduate school when I took a cloisonné enameling workshop at the end of my first semester. The ability to add additional narrative and design through the use of color and detail not possible in metal alone is what drew me to the technique.
I work mainly in cloisonné and painting enamel and experiment with stamp and crackle techniques. When using silver cloisonné I work on silver sheet or foil but otherwise I work over 18g copper. I mainly use Thompson or Ninomiya grain enamels and I use the Thompson, Sunshine, Amaco and Enamelwork Supply painting enamels for my work.
I fire regular enamel at between 1450 and 1500o F. When working with cloisonné, Limoges, or experimental techniques, I can fire a piece 5 to 20 times depending on the desired outcome. Although I may use many layers, each layer is extremely thin to maintain structural stability on the metal substrate.
The vast majority of my work is fabricated from sheet and wire. I use only solid metals, i.e. no plated metals: sterling silver, fine silver, argentium silver, multiple karats of gold ranging from 14k to 22k. I prefer yellow gold. My one-of-a-kind stones are sourced from lapidary vendors/cutters I know personally or from reputable shows. Accent stones are purchased from Rio Grande or Best in Gems. I occasionally use mokume-gane that I have made. I rarely cast but do all my own one-off casting myself. I do have a small casting firm do volume casting on some production work, however I am not currently making that line anymore but which you may see offered on my Etsy site. All of my work is made by me. I have no assistants.
I make 2 different kinds of patterned chains, all in fine silver: woven (sometimes called “Viking Knit”) and loop-and-loop. The woven chains are made with 22g or 24g fine silver wire. The actual technique is closer to a twisted knit stitch in a spiral tube. It takes about an hour to weave approx. 1.5 inches of chain. Once a chain is woven, I fabricate end-caps from sterling silver sheet and wire then solder the chain ends inside. All my chains are tumbled for 24 hours in stainless steel shot to not only polish and work-harden them but to also increase their suppleness. Loop-and-loop chains are made from wire that is wrapped as a coil, cut, the ends put back together and all joints fused to make solid rings. The rings are then woven together in different patterns, the simplest of which is the “single” chain you will see here. There are many other variations of this chain. I tend to focus on the sailor’s chain, double and single.