Thursday, April 14, 2011

Enamel Workshop Part 3 —
Cloisonné at Liloveve Studio

At the table next to me someone asked “Are you making googly eyes?” My eyes were a bit strained but he was actually talking about my cloisonné strip. This ancient enamel technique is time intensive, but well worth the effort.

Thin flat wire is shaped into small partitions called cloisonnes.These chambers are with filled with glass paste and fired numerous times to achieve a jewel-like affect. Cloisonné requires many firings to build layers of color. So get used to wearing gloves, and don’t wear anything flammable.

Instructor Emilie Shapiro gave us a detailed demonstration. First she prepared a copper base kiln-firing it with an opaque layer of color. This creates a perfectly smooth glass surface. After cooling and cleaning it was brushed with an even layer of Klyr-fire adhesive.

Small cloisonnes made from silver wire are placed in a simple design and kiln-fired. These simples circles were made by wrapping and cutting with needles nose pliers. The Klyr-fire adhesive held them in place but kiln-firing adheres them to the glass.

This small kiln can reach temperatures of over 1500° F. This sample piece was fired for only about minute — the steel trivet turned from dark gray to a bright orange. Immediately after removing from the kiln, the cloisonnes are tapped with a metal spatula to make sure they set into the base layer before it has cooled.

After cleaning the interior of the cloisonnes are wet-packed with a contrasting color of opaque glass paste and set aside to dry, then fired again. This process of firing and wet-packing in and around the cloisonnes is repeated until the glass barely covers the wires. Spills cleanup easily with a paper blotter.

Although I made what appears to be googly eyes, cloisonné has adorned everything from exquisite urns, swords and daggers, and delicate jewelry. The samples below show how this ancient craft has been refined over a long history as it.

I didn’t have enough time to finish my sample, but this is just one small step towards the big project.

Mycenaean bronze sword hilt from grave excavation (c. 16th century BC)
Athens National Archaeological Museum

left: Byzantine cloisonné medallion (c. 1100 AD)
right: Ming porcelain (Xuande Period c. 1426-1435 AD)

Enamel Easter egg from Moscow (Feodor Ruckert c. 1899 –1908).

Detail: Gilded silver, shaded translucent cloisonné, and guilloche enamel;
height 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm),  diameter 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)

To learn more about precious metal and and jewelry making workshops at Liloveve Studio, and to see Caroline Glemann’s work visit her studio website:

Emilie Shapiro is contemporary jewelry designer and metalsmith who received her BFA in Art & Design from Syracuse University. She has studied at Alchimia, a contemporary school of Italian jewelry in Florence, with artist Peter Bauhuis. She managed production at Pamela Love and Allforthemountain and has since launched her own line of jewelry and body adornment. To see more of Emilie Shaprio’s work, visit her website:

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