ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: X

More Boxes, Dishes, and Mementos

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.

*        *        *

The story of a boy riding on the back of a dolphin dates back to ancient Greece. I have never done the research to form an opinion on whether this has actually happened, and when. Nevertheless, we know that dolphins are intelligent creatures, and that on occasion they have been both friendly and protective towards people. I like to believe that the picture below depicts a true event, and that it could occur in modern times as well as in ancient Greece. Which is why the boy is clothed in swim trunks.

BoyDolph1

 The enamel is on fine silver and is mounted on the walnut lid of a box with a walnut base and sides of enameled copper. Sterling silver inlays in the wood carry the wave theme beyond the enamel.

In the open box, the dark amber counterenamel on the copper siding can be seen. The edge of the copper is covered with a channel wire of sterling silver.

BoyDolph2                    BoyDolph4

*        *        *

The next box shows the sad face of a clown who suffers among the symbols of joy and comedy at a circus. The mood is inspired by the scene in Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci, in which the clown sings Vesti la Giubba, as he dresses for the show while mourning the love that was stolen from him.

 Clown-03               Clown-04
*        *        *

The box titled “Nantucket” was commissioned by my sister-in-law as a memento, a gift to her partner in real estate, upon their opening of a new development named and fashioned after the theme of Nantucket.

Nantucket           Nantucket(2)

*        *        *

The music box Portofino is a memento of a happy honeymoon there. It was commissioned as a gift for the young bride on the occasion of their first wedding anniversary.

Portofino MusBx2                Portofino MusBx1-06

*        *        *

Another music box, showing here a glimpse of its inner workings, is designed on a Russian theme in keeping with its music.

              RussMscBx2        RussMscBx3
RussMscBx1

*        *        *

Wooden dishes provide another attractive setting for enamel pieces. The dishes are normally produced on a wood lathe. I also had success in using a much less expensive machine, called the Bowl Crafter, in which the wood is turned slowly while the blade of an electric router does the cutting. One dish below shows bobwhites in the field; the other portrays the cottage of Anne Hathaway, born in 1556, who married William Shakespeare.

 XI d BobWhite1-08               XI d Hathaway Cott  04 (2)
*        *         *

Many items were commissioned as gifts to commemorate some special occasion. Most were simple pendants similar to those shown previously. Several of the boxes shown above were likewise mementos. Some of the more unusual items are shown here.

This simMeditationple dome-shaped circular design was specified by the customer as a birthday gift for her fiancé. She was precise regarding the proportions and the colors. It was essential that the red circle reflect light well because he would be gazing into it for purposes of meditation. I complied by including a small circle of gold foil beneath the red enamel. I wondered, with a silent chuckle, just what it was that was being represented here. I soon found out, when she brought me a book on Yoga meditation. It showed exactly the design I was following, as an instrument for meditation.

Meditation 2

 

Several days after I gave her the completed work, she returned in tears. She had an inscription engraved on the silver back, and the birth date was wrong. I could have made a new bezel, but I first suggested a less costly approach: I gave her the exact thickness of the silver, and asked her to consult with the engraver; he could possibly grind away the old inscription and engrave the corrected one. That apparently worked, for I never heard about it again.

*        *         *

The next piece illustrated the blue and white symbol of a local hospice. It was presented as a retirement gift to a lady who had worked there for many years.  XI HospiceRetir -08

*        *         *

One day a young fellow brought me a single cufflink. He had proudly worn it ever since inheriting it from his grandfather. Now he had lost its mate. Could I duplicate it? Well, I was willing to try the complex design, called Blue Wisteria. It would involve the Champlevé technique, tracing the design with resistant asphalt paint, and then etching the remainder with a mordant. But I didn’t think I could match the exact color of the enamel, or the texture of the gold plating, apparently from some industrial process. I suggested replacing both cufflinks to ensure a good match. And so I did, and so the young man went off, content with the thought that he’d done the second best thing, next to not losing the cufflink in the first place.

BlueWisteria2 4

*        *        *

XI Rejoined-14Finally, a memento celebrating the remarriage of some close relatives. After 36 years of a good and fruitful marriage, with three grown children, they divorced.   One year later, there was a happy remarriage that lasted the rest of their lives. The enamel piece was made by a team effort. I came up with the design concept, my son Jasper developed the precise design, and my wife, Jaquelin, a novice enamelist, performed the actual work. The enamel is presented in a box-type frame.

After both of the couple had died, I received the following note and picture from their daughter. It is a response like this that fully rewards an artist or a writer, and instills a pressing desire to continue the work.

“I’m attaching a photo of the small altar I created in memory of my parents. The wood box contains mementos, letters and two small keepsake urns containing some of Mom and Dad’s ashes. I’m sure you recognize the cloisonné piece you created in celebration of their reunion when they remarried; it’s now in a place of honor and I treasure it.”

Freund Altar Rszd

(Photo courtesy of Jaqui Freund)

*        *        *

Enamels decorated the weapons of ancient Mycenaean warrior kings. They adorned important religious objects such as reliquaries and chalices throughout the medieval period. They made superb gifts fit for the most highly honored royalty, such as the Fabergé eggs of the Russian czars and their families. And throughout three millennia, enamels have furnished brilliant and richly colored jewelry for both men and women.

The simple pieces shown in this posting show that enamels can well express celebration and joy over everyday human experiences.

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: IX

High-Firing Experiments

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.

*        *          *

The lead-bearing enamels that I used gave interesting, surprising, and often beautiful results when fired at high temperatures, about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, on copper. (This contrasts with normal firing temperatures of 1,400 to 1,500 degrees.) Transparent enamels often gave unexpected colors and lusters. For example, a pink enamel called tea rose produced a brilliant gold with bright metallic luster. An example of this is shown below in the Celtic Wreaths enamel, previously introduced in part VI.

 XII CeltWreathsEnam

Also, many opaque types of enamel became transparent during high firing, and led to still more colors, always with a metallic luster that is not well rendered in the photographs.

A desk pen set illustrates results of an experiment using both transparent and opaque enamels on the familiar eagle design.

EagleHiFire-12 (2)                    EaglePenset-11 (2)

The experimental piece shown below was an attempt to portray the lights and colors of Paris on a summer evening. Its shortcomings in definition and form, a frequent casualty of high firing, are partly balanced by the richness of color and luster.

Summer Eve-05c

The fictitious scene of a harbor at sunset takes full advantage of the warmth and brilliance that are easily produced by this technique.

Sunset-18                   Sunset-08 (3)

All of the pieces shown here are basse-taille products. The low relief was etched in copper by a mordant and then covered by enamel, built up to a flat or gently curved surface.

High firing was a fruitful area for experimentation. It was the scene for many advances of the art in the 1980s, and the subject of many workshops. In this context, my own experiments barely scratched the surface.

 

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: VIII

Design with Nature: Birds

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.

 *        *          *

As I became more adept at the techniques of enameling, I began to feel daunted by the power of the art form. It offered tremendous opportunities through freedom of proportion, rich colors, and its ability to emphasize line work. Using such features, I realized, was subject to principles and rules that I had not studied beyond the first year of high school, and had never really grasped.

Anxious to learn quickly, I reasoned that most of these principles and rules probably expressed the preferences that nature had instilled in us long ago. Nature, then, was the arbiter of what was artistically sound. My starting point would be to prepare realistic images of natural subjects. Abstraction could come later. I began with birds.

Which was better to start with than the bald eagle? I sensed that nature would not only guarantee the artistic soundness of this image, but would also add a touch of drama reflecting the personality of this fearless hunter. It worked reasonably well, both small (on cufflinks) and large (on a box lid).

 

EagleCfflnks2-06 300

Eagle Lect 14 300

Other species followed in short order. Feeling more comfortable about choice of color, I began taking small liberties with what nature had provided. In some cases, a realistic pendant or brooch might be accompanied by more abstract smaller accessories like earrings and cufflinks.

Bird 1 Pend 300      Humbird 1 Pend 300      MiscBird1-06 300

Of the two pairs of “button” earrings shown below, the pair on the left reflects elements of numerous bird images; on the right, the enlargement of a small detail of a butterfly’s wing.

VIII. MiscBird3Earr 300

VIII. Swallows Feeding Lect 17 300        VIII. MiscBird-03 300       PenguinPnd-07 300

Again, the penguin image on the pendant is a source for abstractions on the first pair of accompanying earrings. Hummingbird images are caricatured on the second pair. In the third pair, the avian origin is mostly lost in abstraction.

PenguinEarr-06 300            Hummbrd Earr-04 (2) 300

VIII. Champleve1-09

Finally, we present a “copy of a copy” of nature. The ancient Athenians used a wise owl to represent their patron Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. And so they used an owl to decorate their silver tetradrachm, considered by many to be the most beautiful of all the coins ever minted. Here is a rendition of the coin in enamel. It was made by the basse-taille (low-relief) technique; relief was obtained by embossing a thin sheet of fine silver.

VIII. Classical Owl tetradrachm 300

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: VII

Long Interest, Short Career

Through most of my working years, I was generally aware of the enameling art and it fascinated me, but I never found time or opportunity to pursue it.

Fascinated? Yes, and for at least three reasons:

  • The known history of the art dates back about 3,000 years. The art continues to evolve and expand.
  • A well-made enamel artwork, reasonably protected, can endure hundreds of years in good condition. Some have endured thousands. It can be a gift to our descendants.
  • It is exciting to watch a workpiece go through a fiery ordeal, come out glowing hot, and then gradually reveal beautiful designs and gleaming colors as it cools.

*        *          *

The time to learn about enameling came with retirement in 1983. Opportunities abounded at that time in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

The National Enamelist Guild, a local group of perhaps 100 members, promoted the art with vigor and imagination. With their initiative and support, annual art shows were held; a curriculum of training courses was set up at Glen Echo Park; advanced workshops were arranged to be given by nationally and internationally renowned artists; and the Enamelists Gallery was established at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

At Glen Echo, I had the privilege of studying under some of the leading masters of their art: the enamelists Gwen Anderson (“Orsini”), Tina Chisena, and Dorothea Stover; and also Susan Tamulevich, an artist of diverse fields including wearable art, jewelry, and other art metal specialties.

*        *          *

Enamels are special formulations of glass designed for fusing onto other materials at high temperature. The enamels that I worked with were designed for use on gold, silver, and copper. They could also be used on steel if it had a primer coat of enamel previously applied in an industrial process. They were produced by an American firm (Thompson) and had been in use for about a century.

These enamels contained lead, which enhanced their brilliance in a manner like that of leaded crystal glassware. In the late 1980s, the entire line of enamels was reformulated to eliminate lead. Lead poisoning had been a hazard primarily to the enamelist who inhaled the fine dust while preparing a piece for firing. My experience was with only the lead-bearing enamels.

The enamels were made in a wide variety of colors in three major groups: transparent, opaque, and opalescent. They were available in several forms: granules (material resembling fine sand), larger lumps and flakes, and fine threads. In the dish shown here, the granules were sprinkled on to form the background; lumps were added to form the pebble-like light-colored and red areas; and flakes formed the petals of the flowers.

 Dish Lect 35                Nantuck Detail

In the enlarged image of a house, white threads were used to form mullions in the windows.

*        *          *

The basicDemo 04 Firing 1 firing equipment includes a kiln, trivets to hold enamel pieces by the edges, and a steel-mesh platform on which the trivets are set. The long fork (with sword-like handle) is inserted beneath the platform to place the assembly into the kiln and to remove it. Various spatulas, tongs, and pliers are used to handle the hot pieces.

Demo 01 Kiln

The box-like kiln (center and left) is the smallest size normally used by professional enamelists. The chamber is 8 inches wide, 4.5 inches high, and 9 inches deep (front to back). The kiln operates on household current (120 volts), whereas larger kilns require 240 volts. Like all enameling kilns, it is front-loaded.  Most of the firing is at temperatures of 1,400 to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit; for some high-firing techniques, the temperature may approach 2,000 degrees.

The smaller yellow kiln at right is primarily for use by hobbyists. It can handle only small flat pieces.

The preparation of a simple cloisonné piece illustrates some basic features of the enameling process. As usual, the process involves several steps, each following by a firing. The result is a layered sequence of enamels.

                                                                  Demo 26 Flux CounterenmlDemo 03 Flux

 

 

(1) Flux and counterenamel.

Flux is transparent colorless enamel that provides a base coat, preventing possibly bad interactions between color coats and the raw copper. After the copper is wetted by a liquid adhesive, the flux is sifted onto it from a fine-mesh sieve.

Counterenamel is an enamel coating applied to the backside of the piece. Differences in expansion and contraction between glass and metal set up stresses that could warp the piece and crack the enamel. The counterenamel balances stresses on both sides of the piece.

(2) Wires and foil of fine silver.

Demo 27 Wires and FoilThe wires are bent to shape, placed in position, and fired; they are now firmly bonded to the flux. Foil, which produces reflective highlights through transparent enamels, is cut to shape, inserted, and fired.

 (3) First color coat.

Color coats need to be clear and brilliant. The sifting technique is not adequate because enamel dust and fine particles tend to cloud the final product. Instead, the smaller particles are washed out with water, and the washed enamel is packed in with a small brush while still wet.

For still greater clarity and brilliance, fresh enamels are made by grinding larger lumps with a mortar and pestle of material harder than glass (e.g., chalcedony).

Yes, fine enameling is a labor-intensive process.

When packing is complete, the piece is thoroughly dried, then fired.

Demo 13 Pack 1      Demo 14 Pack 2     Demo 28 1st Color Coat

(4) Second color coat.

A similar procedure is followed to produce the second color coat…

Demo 29 2nd Color Coat(5) Third color coast, stoned and refired.

…and likewise the third color coat, after which the surface of the piece is ground to a smooth flat or gently curved shape, using wet abrasive stones from coarse to fine.

After the grinding, the piece is fired once more (or buffed with a fine polishing compound) to restore its gloss.

The piece is then ready for mounting.

Demo 20 Stoning

J Demo 29b 3rd Color Coat

*        *          *

In 1984, after about one year of studies at Glen Echo, I joined the Enamelists Gallery at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. As one of eighteen working members, I learned much from colleagues and from the opportunity to display my work. I served for two years as president of the gallery.

After four years at the Enamelists Gallery, my progress in the art slowed notably. Major advances were taking place at that time in enameling designs and techniques, as well as changes in the enamels themselves to eliminate their content of lead. I saw increasing need to take part in advanced workshops, and perhaps also intensive coursework at a full-time school of arts and crafts.

My wife’s worsening health problems, described in part II of this series, Healing Fragrance, precluded further training and diverted more and more time from even the routine artistic work. Near the end of 1988, we found it advisable to move from the Washington area to Charlottesville, Virginia, and thus ended a brief “career” in enameling.

 

 

 

 

 

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: VI

Working with Metals

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.

(A reminder: Pictures can be enlarged by clicking once or twice.)

 *        *          *

I first discovered the joy of metalworking in high school. Prior to that time, I had been a consistent failure in woodworking – and I do mean “F”. I was convinced that wood was a living substance, defiant of my every effort to apply precise measures and shapes to it. As it turned out, there were more flaws in the worker than in the wood.

Metals required more rugged tooling, but their behavior was more predictable and they stayed put once they were measured and shaped. My first metal class involved instrument making in a machine shop.

One of my earliest jobs, during the final months of World War II, was as a helper sheet metal worker in a navy yard.

During the late 1940s, I used these skills to build cars for a model railroad. This involved cutting and shaping sheet metal salvaged from tin cans, creating trim items from wire, and assembling all with soft solder (alloys of lead and tin).

Also, some parts such as couplers and truck frames were cast of Babbitt metal by the “lost wax” technique, in which the pattern was modeled in wax and then covered by plaster of Paris. The resulting mold was heated to remove the wax, leaving the cavity open to receive the molten metal.

These same techniques were used in my first approaches to art metal work, creating sleighs and a carriage to go under the Christmas tree. The carriage is shown below, somewhat battered after about sixty Christmases. The coach itself was built of tin can stock and wires. The driver is a lost wax casting, and only the horse was bought ready-made, a “finding”. All parts were coated with the paints produced for model railroads.

Carriage

Additional techniques were developed, one by one:

(1) Embossed metals, including the Apple Tree, the Nuthatch, the portrait of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, and an image of the Aztec Calendar.  These were formed in thin copper sheet darkened by liver of sulphur (potassium sulfide). The Akhenaten image is highlighted with gold leaf. The Nuthatch is mounted in a walnut dish, turned on a wood lathe. The fifth embossing, Radiance, based on a portrait of Leontyne Price, was hammered into a sheet of lead one-eighth inch thick.

   Apple Tree 2 300       Scanned-05 NutHtch

 Scanned-04 Akhenaten     Aztec Calendar 2 300

Scanned-07b Radiance

(2) A sunken bowl, hammered from a flat copper sheet, adorned with soft-soldered loops and feet of heavy copper wire. It was darkened by liver of sulfur. “Sunken” refers to a bowl-making technique in which the belly is hammered into a yielding material (such as asphalt, rubber, or as in this case even a stack of newspapers) or into a shaped wooden mold. There is also a “raised” technique in which the edges are hammered and compacted upward. For a shallow open shape such as this, the sinking technique is preferred for its simplicity.

Scanned-03 CoprBowlScanned-09 Lamp

(3) A lamp constructed by various techniques from scrap yard materials — brass strips, copper wires and sheets, assembled by a combination of soft soldering, hard soldering (silver alloy), and riveting. Also fabric and electrical parts, all purchased ready-made. What the lamp itself lacks in artistry is perhaps compensated for by the beauty of its light. A sleeve with spiral openings for the light rotates in convection currents over the hot main bulb. A small bulb in the base, when lighted alone, casts graceful spiral patterns upon the walls and table top in a darkened room.

(4) Heavy copper wire, shaped and partly flattened bScanned-09 CoprNcklc1y hammering against an anvil to produce a necklace. The necklace was trimmed with twisted fine copper wire, and darkened with liver of sulphur.

Later, an enamel pendant was added. The completed piece, titled “Celtic Wreaths,” was purchased by a collector of unusual and unique jewelry.

IV. Scanned-08 ScorpFsh           Scanned-08m  CeltWrths

 

 

 

 

 

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: V

Moon Checkers

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.

 *        *          *

Moon Checkers is a workpiece of cloisonné enamel mounted on a wooden box. It was produced by a special version of the technique, known as concave cloisonné.

The conventional technique calls for completely filling the cells with enamel, then honing the surface to a flat or gently curved shape. In concave cloisonné, the cells are only partly filled with enamel, which is allowed to take on its natural shape after firing and cooling. In cross-section, the enamel surfaces within each cell are U-shaped, as the edges tend to climb up the wire wall by capillary attraction.

For some designs, this produces an attractively textured surface. Where transparent enamels are used, as in this piece, their lens-like qualities tend to enhance colors and brilliance. The finished enamel is not honed, but the tops of the wires may be evened up by this method.

V Scanned-11 MoonChkrs3

This design, resembling a checkerboard, responds to a one-time request by the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia, that its artists pursue a “quilting” theme. The title “Moon Checkers” was applied with two meanings in mind:

  • The images of the moon, each placed in its own square in the pattern, resemble the pieces on a checkerboard.
  • The plants growing in each square seem to be checking on the changing phases of the moon as a means of regulating their own blooming cycle.

V Scanned-10 MoonChkrs1

Shown below is one of the earliest pieces, made in an elementary class, mounted on a wooden box, and titled “Village Wharf.” It is an example of the concave cloisonné style with mostly opaque enamels.

V. Scanned-05

V. Scanned-03

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: IV

Scorpion Fish

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.

*        *          *

Scorpion Fish is a pendant enameled in the basse-taille (low relief) technique. The image was etched by nitric acid out of fine silver, and was then completely covered by enamel. Many means other than etching can be used in this technique to produce the three-dimensional image.

The design was based on a photograph of a live fish in deep ocean waters. Its flesh was transparent and the skeleton was visible. This made it an ideal candidate for the basse-taille technique.

IV. Scanned-01 ScorpFsh

Opaque black enamel was used in the first layer in the background area and the pupil of the eye. All subsequent layers of enamel were transparent, some colorless and others in various colors.  These were built up until the entire low-relief image was submerged, and the top surface was honed flat and polished.

Strictly speaking, the silver border is not a feature of the basse-taille technique. It is borrowed from another style of enameling, champlevé (raised field), where a design is created by bare areas of the underlying metal alternating with areas of enamel.

Other examples of the combined use of the two techniques are shown in the pendants and earrings below.

IV. Scanned-08 ScorpFsh   IV. Scanned-04 ScorpFsh

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: III

Alpha and Omega

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.

 *        *          *

 Alpha and Omega is a work that justifies the “metal arts” part of the series title. It achieves its rich color without benefit of enamel. It features a star sapphire, a generous gift from our son, Philip, to his mother. I constructed the setting, a pendant consisting of several sheets of fine silver, each sawn to shape, and silver-soldered together as layers.

In a mineralogy class, I learned that the six-pointed star seen in the sapphire is actually the reflection of a consistent geometric pattern by which the atoms of the various elements are arranged within the crystal. Seeing this evidence of atomic properties seems almost to be an otherworldly experience.

To make the point that the atoms and we are in the same world, I began by enclosing the entire design within the symbols for Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Six silver rays, extensions of the star points, penetrate to the limits of that world.

Scanned-07 Sapphire

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: II

Healing Fragrance

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.

*          *            *

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.

 Healing Fragrance 1

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.

Healing Fragrance

ENAMEL AND METAL ARTS: I

World Askew

This is one of a series of postings about enameling and art metalwork. It is based primarily on my own work in the 1980s. I am not a master of these arts, but I hope this will be an advantage in communicating the basics, in simple terms, to readers 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. 

In the final posting, A Grand Finale, I plan to present several of the world’s great masterworks and other notable enamels.  

*     *     *

World Askew is a workpiece of cloisonné enamel mounted on a wooden box.  The enamel is a form of glass that has been fused onto a metal surface at high temperature. “Cloisonné” refers to the cells (cloisons) created by the insertion of fine wires that are an integral part of the design.

This work features people in darkness and cold, trying to warm their hands over a frigid flame. Meanwhile, they seem unaware of the warmth and light surrounding them. A familiar theme of life’s experiences.

Scanned-18 WldAsk1

In keeping with the “Askew” theme, the mounting appears to be a crooked stack of walnut slabs.

Scanned-17s WldAsk2

Actually, it is a box.

Scanned-10 WldAsk3