Colorful Chaos Dirty Pour Torch-Fired Enamel Bracelet by Karen Meador

Torch-fired enamels on copper sheet create an unpredictable paneled necklace.

By Karen Meador, Ph.D.

A “dirty pour” in acrylic painting, refers to mixing more than one color in a container before using it on a painting. While he was visiting me, my young grandson and I experimented with this technique on large rocks and canvases. I became much more enamored of it than he did, and continued to wonder about using a dirty pour with my liquid enamels. Although my initial attempts at dirty pouring liquid enamels were somewhat disastrous, I stuck with it and my results have improved.

I think of it as “chaos enameling.” The name fits, as I can never actually predict how the pour will turn out. Like many things in our art, this process may have been done before by someone else, but I have no knowledge of it.

I’ve found that there is a delicate balance regarding the amount of water that should be added to liquid enamel when preparing it for this technique. If the enamel is the thickness we usually find desirable for other techniques, it is a bit too dense for getting a dirty pour out of a container and onto the metal. Artists using acrylic paint usually add silicone or some other liquid to the mix prior to making a dirty pour. Though I’ve experimented with adding many different types of liquids to my enamels, I still find using distilled water alone works best.

Please follow safety precautions when working with enamel and the torch. I highly recommend wearing a mask when sifting enamel, and wearing safety glasses when firing. I wear a leather apron, have a water quench bowl beside my torch station, and keep a fire extinguisher in my studio.

The instructions that follow assume you have prior experience with torch enameling. There are various ways to set up a firing station, and the way I work—using a fire brick and trivet—may differ from your preferred method. Please use the setup that works best for you. The goal is to fire the enamel to maturity.


Torch enameling


24-gauge copper sheet

  • Thompson’s CE3 (counter enamel)
  • Thompson’s Imperial Blue (790)
  • Thompson’s Red (LCE5)
  • Thompson’s White (790)
  • Thompson’s Yellow (769)
  • Thompson’s Clear (2020)
  • Thompson’s Green (LCE4)

small cylindrical containers (mouth of container should be a bit smaller than each piece)
paper towels
large jump rings and chain (your choice of metal)
distilled water
pattern pieces (each is approximately 2″ x 1-1/2″)


Metal cutting shears or saw and blade; rubber cement; drill and bit (⅛ inch); enamel station, including propane or map gas torch; safety glasses; protective apron; mask; heat gun; hammer; sandbag; baby eye dropper; stirring sticks; alundum stone

Karen Meador Ph.D. is a former pianist and retired educator who enjoys creating various types of jewelry in her home at Dreamcatcher Ranch.

See this project and more in the July/August issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist!