enamel workshop

Melissa Cameron meets Elizabeth Turrell.

Images of samples created during the Elizabeth Turrell workshop, conducted at Manifesto Glass in West Perth, April 13, 14 and 15, 2010.

Top image – enamel samples day 1 and 2. Bottom image – final day

During the workshop we were learned to use Tompsons Wet Process enamel, with the main difference in application between this and regular jewellery enamel is that you can paint it directly onto the metal surface, much like a clay slip. In fact, the mainly white above was half clay, half dissolved enamel solution. This once fired becomes a very matte surface, on which you can draw with graphite pencil, as I did in that piece, after which I fired over it a thin layer of transparent enamel, and then fired a transparent layer, painted over the star/flower shape, with the glass granules embedded into it. These were applied while the enamel was still wet.

Elizabeth had on display many different sands and oxides, which were laid directly onto a layer of pre-fired enamel  and re-fired. Not all would stick, (especially if you piled it on) but a thin layer would be attached to the metal after re-firing.  As you can tell I had the most fun with the black, red, white and transparent enamels, with the use of glass grit for texture. This I brought with me, as it’s the media I use in my sandblaster.

She also showed us stamping and transfers, the former using the liquid of the stamp-pad as a glue to hold a thin layer of sprinkled jewellery enamel or oxide (or sandblast media) to be quickly fired afterward. A felt tip pen can be used to the same effect (that’s how I got lines of white and clear grit onto the bottom right sample.) The transfers (top left sample on bottom image; dots on the LHS) were applied pretty much in the same way as a fake tattoo, but the burning out process of the plastic transfer medium was a little more complicated. You can’t afford to let it burn out too quick, as going up in smoke would shift the carefully-placed image.

It was an incredible workshop; each artist involved produced amazing and different works. Everyone was so happy to be there and keen to be experimenting; all the while testing the process, and their skills. Being involved with someone who is such a master of her medium – in the actual mechanics of the material as well as its historical and present-day applications in both the jewelelry and industrial worlds, was truly inspirational. To be honest I’m not impressed with my works, as I feel now that I should have pushed myself harder. Yet having said that, I know that what I did I will actually use in my own studio, so from that perspective my samples are all very successful. And it got me to draw in my work, which is something that I only ever do in a very mediated fashion. It’s nice to see some hand drawings, though it may not happen again for a while.

As I left yesterday I realised that I was actually sad that it was over.