- ENAMELLING -
There are several enamelling techniques. Currently my works are mainly Champlevé style, where you apply enamel into hollows on a metal surface and Cloisonné, where you use metal ribbons to create design motifs to be filled with enamel.
To produce one of my pieces using the Champlevé technique is a long and slow process. Once I’ve created my design I’ll cut out two identical pieces of sheet metal. I’ll trace out my design on the one sheet and then cut the design out before soldering the two sheets together. I then pickle this in an acidic liquid to remove any oxidization on the metal. At this point a rubber mould is created from the original master prototype. A Champlevé style enamel technique requires a cast base for the production process. This is due to the temperature differences required between firing in a kiln and maintaining the integrity of the solder used in making a design prototype. Once a mould is created then a piece can be cast into silver or gold.
The next stage is to prepare the enamel colours. I use Japanese enamel powders in my work as their unique properties produce a very fine finish. Any fine particles are removed from the powder pigments as they could ‘cloud’ the fired enamel and then I mix any number of pigments together to create my own unique colours. Concentrated glue made from a sea plant called funori is mixed with the enamel powder before it’s applied to the piece and allowed to dry completely.
I then fire it at a temperature of 760 - 780℃ for a several minutes. After cooling it’s pickled in an acidic liquid for about an hour before being washed with bicarbonate soda. I then apply another coat of enamel and go through the process again. I may do this 3 or 4 times before the piece is ready for finishing.
To finish I use a grindstone or a diamond file to clean the surface before firing in a kiln again. I’ll repeat this stage before giving the piece a final polish with a stainless steel brush. I’ll then wash it with a mild detergent and once dry a new piece is finally completed.
1. Prepare original enamel：Mix base enamel with pigment powder then fire it in a kiln. Afterwards crash it with a pestle and mortar until it becomes a caster sugar texture size. Wash it with water and remove the fine powder as it would create cloudiness in finished enamel colour.
2. Prepare base metal：Cut the metal sheet with a saw and smooth the edges with a file. When it needs curved surface then anneal the metal to soften then pickle in acid solution to get rid of the tarnish. Remove any greasy element from the metal surface by policing with charcoal or cleanser.
3. Prepare counter-enamel：Spray glue, made from cooked funori, dry sea plant, on the back of the metal then apply counter-enamel by sifting on the metal evenly. Counter-enamelling is normally necessary when you use metal with less than 1.2mm thickness. After completely dry the counter-enamel, then fire it in the kiln.
4. Preparing the base enamel on the front：When you use copper as a base metal, spray funori again then coat the surface with opaque white enamel called, Kotsu-jiro with a sift. Dry it completely then fire it in the kiln. This is required as there is a difference between the contraction ratio of enamel glaze and metal after firing so we need to sandwich the metal with enamel on both sides. Afterwards, pickle it to remove the tarnish.
5. Drafting the design on metal：Transfer the design with red carbon paper sheet or draw with a non-permanent marker on the prepared metal.
6. Forming the design with metal ribbons：With special glue, called Hakkyu, made from orchid flower bulb powder, apply thin metal ribbons (1mm to 1.2mm height) by bending along with the design lines on the metal surface to create cells to contain different colour enamel glaze. After completion of planting the ribbons, spray funori glue again then sift transparent enamel glaze and fire it to fix the ribbons securely on the metal.
7. Applying the first enamel firing：Apply enamel in each cell and fire. After cooling slowly, pickle it in acid solution to remove tarnish.
8. Repeating process #7：After firing, the enamel surface sinks as it melts with heat so repeat the same process to refill the cells until the enamel reaches the same level of the ribbon height.
9. Stoning enamel：After the final firing and pickling, start polishing the enamel with various types of stones.
10. Finishing the work：Wash the surface with a fine brush with soap then apply beeswax to add shine on the surface.