out of Perth and back to earth

Melissa gets down and dirty… earthy… sandy…? Anyway, she’s back in Melbourne.

An explanation of my title: I’m now back in Melbourne, and am going back (all of 2.5 weeks) to what I learned in Perth at the workshop presented by Elizabeth Turrell, which was, in essence, about how to apply sand to metal.

So, what’s to know about earth then? Well, very kindly, Inari put her hand up to make an order to Thompson Enamel in the US on behalf of a few fellow Victorians. She is currently studying at RMIT and keen to keep using this process in her works for examination, so was quick off the mark with her order, which I have been told arrived yesterday. (Yup, a Sunday…)

For my order I went over to Thompson’s website where I downloaded their comprehensive catalogue (on the main page) and set about trying to find the enamels we had used during the workshop. In the end I ordered (in 8oz dry powdered form) from the section – Liquid Form Enamel, Water Base, Base Coats:
BC-1070 Medium fusing white
BC-969A Low fusing clear transparent
BC-303L Medium fusing clear transparent (not used in the workshop, I just added this one to be a completist)
and in the Liquid Form Enamel Colors:
533 White
930 Chinese Red
772 Black

Being in the possession of a sand blaster (too many posts to note sorry, do a search if you’re interested) I will be testing these enamels (once I have mixed them with water and got them paint-brush ready) on mild steel and stainless steel (why sandblast? Elizabeth suggests blasting the surface to help the enamel stick). And with any luck on some recycled pre-enameled metals as well. One of our group has already approached her local white goods retailer and been given a bounty of fridge doors to attack/beautify.

Now all I need is a kiln. Coincidentally, TurboNerd sent me a link to this little sucker yesterday. It’s maybe a little small (dimensionally and in possible heat output) for my current needs, and definitely lacking in a thermometer, but it’s perfect for my current price range…

For the moment I think I’ll attempt flame-enameling instead.

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.