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Kiln-Fired Liquid Enameling on Steel!

I’m teaching another liquid enamel on steel class at Danaca Design over the weekend of the 25th and 26th of January (yes, fellow Australians, I’m working in Invasion/Australia Day, even when it’s on a weekend..!)

My last class went really well, or at least well enough for me to be invited back in the next teaching quarter, boom boom! But really, (I know, I was so high-larious there) I had a blast and the people in the class – all proficient enamelers already I might add – learned a little something and made many really interesting samples, so what more can you ask for?

I recently bought a copy of the Thompson Enameling Workbook which I have been studying with the aim of trying some enameling on titanium, so perhaps I’ll insert that material into this course? I’ll have to see how my attempts go… If you are interested in keeping up with all my progress with all things hot and glass-covered check this page out. I update it regularly.

Deadlines October 2013

Deadline Season continues – please feel free to drop me a line if you’ve seen any that aren’t listed. As usual, it’s my ad-hoc list of upcoming opportunities to exhibit, learn, earn or perhaps even teach, from wherever I see ’em.

** New additions ** ***SuperNewFreshoffthePress additions***

Opportunities with deadlines

Talente. If you’re under 35, why not try Talente here? Deadline for applications, October 15 2013.

Light of the Moon – Exhibition with a lunar theme being held at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts’ Sandra J. Blain Galleries, juried by Namita Gupta Wiggers, Director and Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Craft|PNCA. Deadline 15th of October 2013, Midnight!

** Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum 36th ANNUAL CONTEMPORARY CRAFTS exhibition. Juror: Julie M. Muñiz – Associate Curator of Design and Decorative Arts at the Oakland Museum of California. Deadline: Friday 18th October 2013.

Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium. Hosted annually by the Seattle Metals Guild, this one will take place on Saturday the 19th of October. Check it out!

** Choose Your Own Adventure: An Exhibition Without Borders. “Create a work of art that conjures a specific memory of travel and adventure.” Entries due 26th October 2013.

*** Gift-ed. Christmas show for MANO Contemporary Jewellery & Object, Taiwan. Entries due October 28th, 2013.

** 2014 Artist Trust Benefit Art Auction. Washington State residents – donate a jewellery piece for the Buy it Now section of the auction and get free Artist Trust membership for one year and $75 commission (work to be valued at $200). Deadline October 28 2013.

Gemological Institute of America 2014 Scholarships. “Scholarships are available for distance education eLearning courses and for classes at the Institute’s campuses in Bangkok, Carlsbad, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, New York and Taiwan; and at the GIA branch in Dubai.” (thanks to Crafthaus) Deadline October 31st 2013.

Transforming Viewpoints: A National Juried Exhibition (USA). Calling for “work [that] explores issues of multicultural diversity, in any medium”. Deadline: October 31, 2013.

** “Molten” A National Juried Exhibition of Glass and Metal Work. Application Dates: Sep 12, 2013 – Nov 1, 2013 (A second later deadline attracts a larger submission fee. See call for details)

Eco Arts Awards. Annual online thematic arts competition. Application Dates:
Apr 25, 2013 – Nov 4, 2013.

** Lilliputians March: National Small Works Competition. USA residents only, open exhibition of small stuff. Deadline for jurying November 8th 2013.

** 5th Annual Drawing Discourse, at University of North Carolina Asheville. Yup, a drawing show, ripe for you enamellists to step in with some beautiful drawings on metal. Entries due 17th of November 2013.

** Sup Brooch. Already boasting the best title for an exhibition this year, this is an online/catalogue exhibition of brooches for bros, co-curated by my buddy from the Pittsburgh massive, Sharon Massey. Entries due 22 November 2013.

** Ritual. A single sheet book show. No, not jewels as such, but I’m throwing a challenge out to y’all – I wanna see jewellers take over the show with some beautiful images, drawings and such. I’m gonna, whydoncha join me? Deadline November 30th 2013.

REFINED VIII: Maker’s Choice. REFINED is a biennial exhibition of jewelry and metalwork hosted by the Art Metals program in the School of Art at Stephen F. Austin State University. I’ve been in this one, it’s a good show! Deadline 9th December 2013.

** RAGS wearable art show – Get your work into a juried art show whose proceeds go to help those in need. Donated work is for sale and donors receive a healthy commission and the side bonus, a multitude of good karma! From their site:

“The artists who display and sell their work at RAGS agree to give 33 percent of their sales in the marketplace and 40 percent of their sales in the gallery to RAGS. All of those proceeds go directly to the YWCA Pierce County. The RAGS donation – $97,000 in 2011 – is earmarked to fund YWCA programs that specifically address domestic violence in our community.”

Deadline 13th December 2013.

*** Matchbox Microcosms. Make curios? Ever wanted to be shown in a van that’s going to travel around the UK, showing off your work against its other, curiouser, displays. Wanna be shown to school groups, amongst others? Now’s your chance! Open to all nationalities, not just you of the British persuasion (Yup, I checked). Deadline Dec 31, 2013.

** ONoff: An exhibition of makers that work ON and OFF the body. Juried by Susie Ganch. Deadline for submissions: January 19th, 2014.

TOP Jewels – National Jewelry Design Exhibition, “A showcase featuring the very best artists working in the medium of jewelry design to educate the public about their craft.” USA only exhibition opportunity, entries through CaFE. Deadline April 11th 2014.

New Traditional Jewellery 2014. As a part of the SIERAAD arts fair in Amsterdam, this competition has taken ‘ CONFRONTATIONS’ as the 2014 theme. Registration due 1st June 2014.

Undated Opportunities

** Contemporary Metal in Perth have updated their class timetable and there is some great stuff on offer. Check it!

** Dallas County Community College District – Visiting Artist for our Art Metals Summer Workshop in Summer 2014.

Studio 20/17 seeks guest curators. How often does a well established gallery invite people to play inside their walls? Get amongst it!

Patina Gallery seeks Master International Artists. Make ‘Soul-Stirring’ works? Wanna be one of 3 artists added to their stable? No deadline, but post went up Jan 23rd, so perhaps sooner rather than later?

Tributaries: Call for entries. The Metal Museum, in Memphis, has an ongoing call for exhibitions from emerging and mid-career artists. First deadline Feb 2013, for upcoming shows, and they keep applications on file for 2 years.

The Imperial Centre for the Arts + Sciences in North Carolina have a permanent exhibition call out, with shows booked 2-3 years in advance.

Lord Coconut in Melbourne has outdone himself by publishing this listing of opportunities for artists in his gallery. As ever, this is to exhibit jewellery for men. Thanks to Karen at Melbourne Jeweller for the heads up.

Enamel Workshop

The weekend before last I taught an enamel on steel workshop at Danaca Design, located  in the nearby University District (nearby if you’re in the Queen Anne neighbourhood of Seattle.) Dana Cassara’s studio is well suited to teaching enamel – she has a sandblast unit with garnet grit, two kilns (that fact became very important on day two) and a raft of materials from brushes to klyr fire mixes to masks and green glasses and an assortment of jewellers/sifting enamels. And now quite a large supply of liquid enamels.

After ordering via Dana a bunch of extra enamels from Thompson, some low-carbon-steel test squares then having found some mild steel at the local legendary super-hardware store, Hardwicks, and having checked out the kilns and the sandblast cabinet in the leadup to the class, come 10:30am Saturday we were ready to rock. To add to the collection of tools and enamels at Danaca, on the day I took in a bunch of my enamels (my trusty low-fire clear turning out to be the most important) as well as some sgraffito tools, a pre-blasted tin (steel) can, my favourite marker for making linework on a pre-fired surface to stick more enamel powder/sand to (Pentel seems to be the brand, y’all), as well as my trusty Rotring tech pencil (from my hand drafting days) and a graphite ‘crayon’.

My students were the local enamel aficionado Nancy Bonnema as well as two jewellers who had made the trek down from Canada to get involved, Patsy Kay Kolesar and Simone Richmond.01 Class

As it turns out, the GC-16 Cobalt Blue, which I had been relieved to find was the Thompson ground coat earlier in the month was not with the other enamels that we had ordered, so I got to teach enamelling my way – using the exact method of how I treat my steel surfaces. To start we laid down some Thompson Low Firing clear on to a well blasted pieces of a recycled whiskey can (yup, it’s 100% steel, under the paint) and got down to business. We then all had a go at mixing the powdered enamels with water, after which the colour tests began in earnest.

Removing a galvanized surface - the zinc is the lighter coloured material. This needs to be totally removed before the piece is ready to be enamelled.
Removing a galvanized surface – the zinc is the lighter coloured material, the steel coming through underneath is darker. This needs to be totally removed before the piece is ready to be enamelled, as zinc is hazardous at high temperature.

Owing to a small glitch in the sandblast system I ended up taking most of the blasting work home with me at the end of day one to get it into shape in my own sandblast unit. Following this I then searched the basement and office for my supply of enamel decals, to fulfill a request – my Canadian students have a large supply of decals but were yet to have any luck at having them fire correctly. To remind myself of how it’s done I went straight to the source, Elizabeth Turrell’s instructions of course! In my research I found a bunch of links on the internet that also provided some other reliable firing instructions that supported or provided an alternative to Elizabeth’s.

03 Samples

Day two saw the application and successful firing of the decals.  We went the two-kiln method, firing off the plastic slowly using a kiln which had just been turned on from cold, and then pulling them out and straight into the second kiln which was at full temperature, to fuse them properly. It worked a treat. (Nancy, a seasoned decal-er, watched on with interest and shared her method – similar to the second set of instructions linked directly above.) Look out for the decals on the samples above, and my little sample below. They were mostly words taken from a larger decal I had made in Bristol for the Two Mugs exhibition in 2011.

My sample - a fired 'Sydney' decal, over a drawing in graphite by Chloe Vallance
My sample – a fired ‘Sydney’ decal, over a drawing in graphite on enamel by Chloe Vallance

After our adventures in decal-ing, there was many more pieces of steel to work on, so the class got down to the tough business of more experimentation with sgraffito, working with graphite over stoned and porcelain slip surfaces, layering and adding jewellery enamels over the top. Expert enameller Nancy kindly brought in her work to show us, which was suitably ah-maze-ing both conceptually and in execution. She also brought in her supply of P-3 Underglaze (as I learned, they come in the form of little pellets of pigment that can be ground and suspended in oil – this we were told works better than the pre-mix you can buy) and then used it with a dip pen (calligraphy stylez, y’all) to draw onto a pre-enamelled surface. Then she got all inspired and worked with a dash of watered-down Thompson Flame Red to try using the same technique with the liquid enamels,  which seemed to work well.

04 Enamel table

By the end of day two we had a great team of confident steel enamellers in the house, who had all enjoyed the chance to ‘play around’, a change from going into the studio with ideas and outcomes in mind.

Since we finished I have heard from my students over the border; they have made an order from Thompson to get the ingredients to continue working with steel. As we cleaned up on Sunday, Nancy and I also discussed her pleasure at knowing how to enamel with steel without the ‘pinging’ that had turned her away from it previously, as she has some larger steel works on the drawing board. I sense we will see some enamel atop their surfaces… Call it a hunch 😉

Day 1: a perfectly productive mess!
Day 1: a perfectly productive mess!

More on enamel


I’ve cracked the code! This is Thompson Enamel’s ground coat:


Also known throughout the Enamel on Steel – some insights article as Grip Coat and otherwise known as an enamel undercoat, this enamel, when applied as a base layer, will help enamels applied over the top to stick to the steel.

I had mentioned that WG Ball had a version yet despite my inklings that they also did one, I could never find it on the Thompson site. Until now!

I know I’ve said it before, but it’s the small things…

Enamel on Steel – Workshop!!

I’ve finally updated my details and added new photos to my Klimt02 page, and in the process the lovely Karin Roy Andersson of Klimt02 has also added a Workshop listing for my forthcoming weekend workshop.

“What, a weekend workshop?!” I hear you exclaim.

Why yes, gentle reader, I’m going to be teaching Seattlites (an anyone who can get to Danaca Design in the University District of Seattle from 10:30am – 5pm on Saturday and Sunday September 28th and 29th) the basics of liquid enamelling onto sandblasted steel, through a workshop entitled:

Kiln-Fired Liquid Enamelling on Steel!

For those of you who visit this blog to read up/keep up to date with the Enamel on Steel – some insights section, this is a golden opportunity to see my working method IN PERSON! I’ll be teaching the use of Thompson’s enamel on both mild and stainless steel, as well as correct sandblasting technique, and there will also be the opportunity to come and fondle some of the samples that I have posted previously on this site.

Love to see you there!

Monash in the news + New Work!

So while I was off gallivanting around Australia, I missed this in the press, about the Seams Seams exhibition.

I also forgot to update you on the new work I sent to Bilk just before I left.

Melissa Cameron Grid Earrings 2013. Stainless steel, 925 silver, vitreous enamel.
Melissa Cameron Grid Earrings 2013. Stainless steel, 925 silver, vitreous enamel.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Earrings 18 2013. Stainless steel, 925 silver.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Earrings 18 2013. Stainless steel, 925 silver.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Brooch 04. Stainless steel, 925 silver.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Brooch 04. Stainless steel, 925 silver.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Brooch 05. Stainless steel, 925 silver.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Brooch 05. Stainless steel, 925 silver.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Brooch 06. Stainless steel, 925 silver, vitreous enamel.
Melissa Cameron Point-Line-Plane Brooch 06. Stainless steel, 925 silver, vitreous enamel.

BrisVegas and M-town – prequel

As you may have suspected, owing to my less-than-discreet trumpeting of upcoming events that I was going to actually attend in my home country, I’ve just returned home to Sunny Seattle from Australia.

Whilst there I went to a LOT of jewellery related events, spoke at a couple and generally ran around getting my fill of home-town food, comedy, gossip, family, friends and most importantly, jewellery.

Another common thread (beyond just jewellery) through my whole trip was running into people who I have previously communicated with online, with the majority of contact coming thanks to this ‘ere blog. So before I get caught up in talking about all the action of the last couple of weeks, I want to send a shout-out to everybody who came and met me in real-body:

I really loved meeting you, finally! It was great to catch up and please lets keep in touch. 🙂

Suffice to say I was frequently in a position to appreciate the kindness of strangers, and lucky for me getting to ‘talk blog’ in person is just as good, if not even better, as receiving comments online, though believe me I do (still) go mad for comments up here (as I might have alluded to in my presentation at the Seams Seems symposium – I’ll pop that up here soon too, promise.)

And to the lovely lady in Melbourne who had me pointed out at the end of Elizabeth Turrell’s lecture, I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to chat, I didn’t realise you would be departing so soon! Corner me next time and feel free to chide me for being rude…

Now, as usual I was in a flurry of making before I left, firstly to finally to send my works to the My Australia exhibition at the Berkeley River Lodge in the Kimberley in WA and to have a pin ready to swap at the JMGA Pin-Swap dinner. And since I had the kiln on doing some enamelling, I finally got to working on some rings for the La Geometrie series, which I’d had set out ready to enamel on my enamelling bench for several months.

So, since they were enamel, and since that enamel was a theme amongst the people I had been chatting about the blog to, I figured it was time I updated the Enamel on Steel – some insights section of this blog. (And of course no small amount of enamel impetus was provided by the incredible Elizabeth Turrell who was coincidentally teaching a workshop in Melbourne while I was in town.) With the pin and ring works I just finished I have been using graphite again, so I have specifically added more detail and images to the ‘using graphite‘ section. However, if it’s been a while since you’ve read the post I have also responded to a bunch of questions and comments right down the bottom, in an effort to clarify and add more detail to what is written above. In an effort to save you some time in trying to find what I’ve just added today, I’ve re-posted it here in full:

*new graphite experiment results*

So I have been at it again, firing some graphite directly over a clear and a half clear/half red enamel surface. The pieces below were created by firing a couple of very thin layers of enamel (Thompsons Clear and their Chinese Red that was a half/half mixture with clear, a mixture I created to help the red stick first time around or to provide a bit of colour to an undercoat for the red) and then abrading them back with my trusty set of 3M diamond hand pads. On the freshly abraded surface I was able to draw directly with graphite pencil and then fire, and this was enough to get the graphite to stick beautifully. On the broch – the piece in the centre – I added an extra layer of clear over the fired pencil, so with the grey on grey the linework doesn’t come up in the photograph too well, though that is not all in the photography, as in fact in some lighting it’s hard to see with the reflections on the layer of enamel.

d Melissa Cameron_Enamelled Trio_2013

However the Cardinal Point ring on the left-hand-side also has two layers of graphite on different layers of enamel, so you can see the shadowy layer on the top-left of the drawing that is the layer under the final layer of enamel. The Locations ring on the right only has one layer of graphite, which sits atop the second (and final) layer of enamel.

d Melissa Cameron_Pin-swap brooch_2013

A slightly better view of the linework…

And if you were at the conference you might have seen the superlative Mel Young sporting this on Saturday night. More on her and her frequent creative collaborator Lauren Simeoni very soon.


I read Ester Knobel’s book The Mind in the Hand whilst in the enamel studio at the University of the West of England in 2011 (Elizabeth left what I knew was a copy gifted to her by the artist on my desk one morning, so I read it without delay to give it back to her, unenamelled), and wrote down a quote in my (then) new sketchbook. I’m currently reading Lisbeth den Besten’s On Jewellery, and yesterday wrote down what I just confirmed was the first part of the same quote, in another new sketchbook.

“I’m bothered by the fact that theoretical commentary is left to theoreticians who control the words, whereas the artists themselves tend to be inarticulate, locking themselves up in their mute fortresses. But despite the muteness embedded in us, I feel that we have a duty and a responsibility to think, to formulate, to teach. In this series, I am attempting to clarify the [Hebrew] term milekhet mahshevet (work of craftsmanship), which actually has a poetic equivalent in English, namely ‘the mind in the hand.'”

Apart from the ideological issues, perhaps I also had to address my own need to define that evasive and obsessive mental state of the creative process, wherein your thoughts drive you to act, and the act pushes you to think.”

Esther Knobel (in conversation with Tamar Manor-Freidman) The Mind in the Hand, Carmel Publishing House, Jerusalem 2008, p xxiii

Elizabeth Turrell @ RMIT

My good friend Elizabeth Turrell is going to teach an enamelling course at RMIT University in July, entitled Enamel Surfaces – Add and Subtract. Having done a three-day version of this workshop I can honestly say that it changed my career. Elizabeth is an excellent… I was going to say teacher, and while that is true, she is possibly, and more importantly, an even better facilitator. When I look at the output of those three days I am still quite amazed that the samples that slipped from my hands during that workshop were actually authored by me.

Elizabeth Turrell, detail from The Writing on the Wall, 2012. Photograph used with permission of Elizabeth Turrell
Elizabeth Turrell, detail from The Writing on the Wall, 2012. Photograph by and used with permission of Elizabeth Turrell

For some great images of her work check out her posts on the Heat Exchange blog. The course runs from the 17th – 21st July 2013.