The ancient art of enameling offers to the jewelry maker almost unlimited creative possibilities for color, texture, and design. Whatever the imagination inspires, the enamelist can create on her canvas of copper and silver. Because of their versatility in creating bohemian jewelry, art nouveau and art deco jewelry, enamels have become the heart and soul of my wearable art jewelry collections. Indeed, my signature pieces are the butterfly jewelry, necklaces and earrings as colorful and attention grabbing as these visitors to our flower gardens.
Of all the painting or art jewelry techniques I have learned over the years, enameling is the least appreciated and the most misunderstood by the public. The very name brings to mind things like nail polish, lacquers or resins. Perhaps only the enamel artist realizes working with vitreous enamels is "painting with fire".
The art of enameling evolved in early Greece, sometime before 2000 B.C., after the bronze age made possible the soldering of gold and silver. In its earliest and simplest form, vitreous enameling was the process of fusing silica granules, or powders, onto metal. Today it is not quite so simple. Today's enamel artist has available to her a bewildering array of materials, each with its own characteristics of hardness, opacity, granularity, and opalescence - not to mention a nearly infinite choice of colors.
A diverse variety of enameling techniques has evolved over the years, including Basse Taille, Champleve, and Cloisonne. But I prefer my own stylized form of Limoges, which involves "painting" with enamel, and juxtaposing colors without separation. This seems most natural to the artist whose background is in watercolor, pastels, and acrylics. In this way I can produce original works of wearable art.
For the artist who produces unique handmade jewelry - one at a time, enameling offers limitless possibilities. I love to produce pieces that are generous in form, unique in geometry, and intense in color. It often incorporates the same techniques that I used in watercolor: first I "fire" a glass "canvas" onto a sculpted and shaped copper or silver base, then begin painting and layering color with multiple firings.
Imagine the thrill each time a glowing piece is removed from the kiln and begins to reveal itself as it cools, the colors coming to life before one's eyes. This is truly wearable art "painted with fire".