How to Make Enamel Jewelry with a Torch and Other Glass Art
Discover Torch Fired Enameling
I’ve long loved glass for all its color, transparency, and the magic that comes from all you can do with it. I embarked upon my creative life with a longing to work with glass. It just calls to me.
My Love Affair with Glass
Life doesn’t always allow us to pursue techniques we’re interested in right away. And often our path is somewhat long and winding. We might find our jewelry-making road is blocked by housing limitations, space constraints, homeowner’s insurance (especially when it comes to torches, flammable gases, and our living quarters!), or just the lack of free time.
Like many though, we find a way and we eventually get to where we’re heading, one way or the other. (The stories we could tell, no?)
Long and Winding Road
Glass and I were able to connect not long after I stepped onto my jewelry-making path. And although, at first, I was limited to taking classes in others’ studios and at shows, glass and I now share a loving relationship. I’m still advocating for access to more space and a better setup for a lampworking torch so I can torch whenever I find the time, but everything in its own time, right?
Currently, I’m actively fusing glass. Here is a glass dish I did this past holiday season.
To make this piece, I first fuse two layers of glass together. Post fusing and annealing, a layer of powdered frit is sifted over a stencil I made. The glass is fused and annealed again. Once complete, the glass is slumped into a form. These made great gifts this year and I have a new stencil already in the works for this year’s gift.
Fire Up That Torch!
I love lampworking. I can’t call what I make beads (although that’s usually the goal), but any time in front of the torch melting rods of color is happiness. I recently took a fabulous workshop with Stephanie Sersich at the Soft Glass Invitational Retreat (you can find them on Facebook at Soft Glass Invitational) and three days on a torch learning from Stephanie was sheer bliss.
Enameling Techniques in All Their Glory
I also love enameling. Torch or kiln fired, I love them both. I find I do more torch firing than kiln firing, though. There’s just something about the immediacy for me. Glass frit, stringers, stencils, brushes, drawing tools – they are all on my workbench on enameling day. And aside from doing my best to keep my work area safe, I love to be surrounded by my supplies, tools, and glass!
When it comes to working with glass, there are so many directions you can go. And there are many directions you can go just within one of the techniques mentioned. Take enameling, for example. Within “enameling” you can create designs using quite a few methods: Plique-à-jour, cloisonné, and champlevee, just to name a few.
Just within torch firing different methods and techniques have emerged and, it seems, more and more new products to satisfy our hungry hearts.
Torch Fired Enamel
“Painting with Fire” is a method developed by Barbara Lewis. In the Painting with Fire method you “dip” your heated metal into the enamel powder rather than sifting the powder onto your metal and then heating it. With this process, you can make colorful enamel beads or metal shapes in literally minutes! Barbara covers her techniques in Torch-Fired Enamel Basics: a Painting with Fire Workshop with Barbara Lewis.
In this workshop, Barbara covers so many details of enameling. Once you’ve absorbed all she shares, you will come away with the knowledge of how to torch fire with bright, clean colors, have good even coverage on your metal, how to enamel on three-dimensional as well as flat surfaces, and how to create special effects. Barbara is an amazing teacher full of passion and love for her art and if you haven’t caught the bug yet, you will soon be firing up a torch and getting to it!
How to Enamel Jewerly, With a Master
Pauline Warg’s enameling workshops cover another approach to enameling. I was thrilled when these videos came out from Interweave and I bought them right away. I’m so glad to have them in my library and was glad for the excuse to watch them again just recently; each time I do, I learn something new. Tammy Jones has also reviewed these videos and shared her summary.
Pauline covers in her video series:
• a complete step-by-step process for torch-fire enameling and the difference between torch- and kiln-firing enamels
• complete tools and supplies needed for torch enameling, including how to clean metals before enameling
• enameling safety procedures and how to keep it oh-so-clean, plus saving extra enamel for counter enameling
• visual cues to know when your enamels are at which stage in the fusing process
• tips like using non-aerosol hair spray as an “adhesive” binder for opaque enamels or using silver foil to cover copper metal and change the look of transparent enamels on the piece
• plus how to do many of the techniques above and more
Tammy has also shared some of her own enameling expertise which you might find helpful or inspiring if you’re like me and can’t get enough on enameling and glass art. Check out her blog post Enameling Next Steps: 13 Ways to Enhance Your Enamel Jewelry Designs.
Another great enameling resource is the special issue How to Enamel Jewelry, which is available for a limited time in a bundle that includes an enameling spatula, torch firing basket, and stencils. If you’re interested in enameling but haven’t tried it yet or even if you have experience, either of these workshops is sure to shed light on something new or inspire you to fire up that torch!