30 June 2015

Inspired Craziness-- Cloisonne Pelican book plate: Material Culture 26: A&S50 Challenge

Inspired Craziness-- Cloisonne Pelican book plate: Material Culture 26: A&S50 Challenge
Created by Baroness Marwen, Baroness Euriaut, Baroness Samia
Julia May

King Vladimir II and Queen Petranella II saw fit to honor the Honorable Lord Viði Hovdestad by placing him on vigil for the Order of the Pelican in Northshield early in 2015. Many friends were ecstatic to assist in preparation for the ceremony, garb, a vigil space, food, a cloak, and a vigil book.

While planning the vigil book, Marwen and Samia spun each other up into a crazy project idea. The Honorable Lady Una Duckfoot generously volunteered to make the book, while Marwen, Samia, and Euriaut were going to make a cloisonne enameled cover. Between us we had made a handful of enamel pieces, so we had no idea how afraid we should be of this project.

Baroness Siobhan Medhbh O'Roarke found an image online which inspired all of the volunteers as Viði-esque. Baroness Ellen de Wynter drew line art from the image. Marwen and Samia ordered fine silver and enamel. The Honorable Lady Niamh ingen Dhomnail advised us in the design.

We spent hours wrestling with the enormous cloisonne wires and watching videos posted by Rio Grande. Marwen was also able to use her Zing engraving machine to etch the design on sheet of fine silver so we would have lines to follow. 

The first layer of enamel is typically a clear base coat. We had enough experience to know that it was possible to be too light in this application and ruin the piece from the start. Unfortunately, that made our application a little too heavy handed. The border cloisonne is more than half full with the first layer of enamel, and the hard fusing enamel has a yellow cast on the fine silver.

We applied all of the cloisonnes. We were quite pleased with our progress!

Colored enamel is carefully applied to each of the cells.

The first layer of color added.

Tiny silver balls were made from "dead" cloisonne wires.

The balls were laid into a subsequent layer of glass.

After several firings, we realized we had developed a problem. The trivet we were using could not support the full weight of the piece. It was warping by slumping around the trivet. Viði made us a new set of trivets, pictured here, where we placed the work upside down and fired it in an attempt to slump it back to shape.

(The colored stripes are the counter enamel. We used Pam East Counternamel, a fantastic product that's part glass, part cement, and part magic. We were applying the counternamel too thick, but weren't worried because it was the back. We have since learned that  the uneven application likely contributed to our slumping problem.)

We had less than a week to finish the project, and we had already put in about 100 (novice) hours at this point. We researched large enamel pieces in Linda Darty's book The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration. A small section describes smashing the molten glass piece with a steel block to flatten it, while hoping it didn't effectively explode.

Our choices were to either display this as a piece of "what could have been", or smash it. We decided to be brave.
Marwen got out an old iron which does not have the safety of turning off when it's on it's face. We used a jeweler's steel block, a hot pad, and a trivet. We heated the iron on high for several minutes.

Three of us were required for the smashing. Samia would pull the enamel out of the kiln and place it on the hot block. Viði would close the kiln door. Marwen would do the smashing.

It worked!! The enamel was flat enough to apply to the book cover, and we could bend the corners flat with pliers.

The finished piece. This is after the last stoning, and before the final firing (you can see the dull areas prominently on the nest).

It was a wild experience, and we were crazy to give it a try! 

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