This is one of a series of postings about enameling and art metalwork. It is based primarily on my work in the 1980s. I am not a master of these arts, but I hope this fact will be an advantage in communicating the basics, in simple terms, to readers who are not already familiar with them. The series is not intended to instruct in procedures, but solely to impart an appreciation of the art forms involved.
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Healing Fragrance is an enamel of the grisaille technique, with an overlay of transparent colored enamels, mounted on a silver pendant. The technique was developed many centuries ago, but is in relatively uncommon use today.
Grisaille refers to the subtle gradations among shades of gray, in addition to black and white, that are produced by this technique. After seeing the photo of a 13th-century grisaille with color overlay, I was inspired to add this secondary technique.
The basic grisaille is prepared with only two enamels, specific formulations of black and white, fused on metal. On a thick coating of several layers of black enamel, the white enamel is applied in a sequence of layers that vary in number and thickness according to the shade of gray or white desired. The piece is fired after each new layer is applied.
Through a sequence of high-temperature and normal-temperature firings, the image is produced with subtle gradations among the various shades. To produce the color overlay, a thin layer of transparent enamels of various colors is fired over the grisaille image; this is analogous to the hand coloring of a black-and-white photograph.
The work features an approximate likeness of my wife, Jaquelin, as she appeared in the mid-1980s. She was severely depressed over failing health and increasing neurological problems, which eventually led to a major stroke and many years as an invalid. With little success, I tried to divert her attention into more pleasant and relaxed directions – figuratively, to “smell the flowers.” Healing Fragrance presents a fantasy in which she indeed smells the flowers.