Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Funaki guest posts on materiality 1: Enamel

Last winter during the early pandemic days, Funaki's artists were invited to guest post in Instagram, about anything we liked. I prepared three entries, each about a different material I use and love. Here are those posts, each as their own, starting with ENAMEL. 

I thank my location stars for learning this art, as I studied silversmithing here in Melbourne at RMIT University. They, uniquely, have a long history of enamelling with masters such as Helen Aitken-Kuhnen and Debbie Sheezel having taught there prior to my own brilliant teacher, Dr Kirsten Haydon. 

As patience and fine motor skills are needed in the traditional techniques, my beginnings were naturally full of tears–and this was just the teacher ;) However, a 2010 workshop with Prof. Elizabeth Turrell introducing liquid enamel (also referred to as industrial enamel, see below) was a turning point. The application of a fluid mix and drawing onto it allowed a freedom I’d craved, and eventually gave me enough confidence to keep working with the ultimately very satisfying powdered enamel. 

The traditional vitreous (Latin ‘vitreum’ means glass) enamelling dates back to the 13th century BC. Coloured glass powders are carefully applied onto a base, usually metal, and fused by heat into a strong luminous surface. From the 19th century, enamel began to be used industrially: A liquid glass mix is fired in huge kilns to form a durable coating for everyday domestic wares such as our familiar bathtubs and fridge doors. It’s worth noting too that enamel paint (“cold enamel”) and liquid enamel are two very different things. 

The images (IK 2010-19) show you samples of enamel on steel and copper: Shifted (earrings, pendant); liquid (samples, brooch, vessels), and decals (images in enamel). 

For beautiful pieces in different styles, please also see the work of the artists mentioned in this post. 


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