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Amazing Enamel Effects

Buying a kiln recently has given me the chance to experiment with enamelling on larger pieces of copper and to produce some really cool effects. These effects happen when you combine different types of enamel.

I usually use smaller flat pieces of copper for making enamelled earrings and have had some of these effects happen when firing with a torch but they are much more obvious when you use larger pieces. I made a few practice pieces which you can see in the photos below.



This was flux {a transparent enamel not to be confused with soldering flux!} applied straight onto copper and fired until the copper was a bright golden colour. Then I added a layer of liquid enamel in green and red over the flux and fired again. 
The lines and spots form when the enamel becomes hot enough to start moving and in this case the transparent pushes through the liquid enamel layer forming these cool lines and spots. The effect is better in the green liquid enamel than the red. 


Next is an effect that reminds me of raku fired ceramics.



This time I applied a layer of black opaque enamel and fired until it was almost smooth. Then a layer of white liquid enamel was applied on top and fully fired to produce this fab effect. 



I think the lines are formed through movement in the liquid enamel layer allowing the black base to show through. They aren't cracks in the white enamel as when it's fully fired the enamel surface is completely smooth. 

It's difficult to achieve an even layer of the liquid enamel on a sloped surface like this bowl so it is a bit darker in places. Allowing the first liquid layer to dry then applying another layer is also quite hard to do evenly! I've found it's better to fire just once for the best effect. You can fire it twice using two layers of the liquid enamel but you do get the crack effect happening in both layers which overlaps and doesn't look as good. I think some experimenting is called for to get it right :D

The next effect uses a base of opaque enamel then a layer of clear flux. The top layer is a liquid enamel.



This is the same as the first example but with added colour by using a base of opaque orange underneath the clear flux. The green liquid layer has two layers on the right side and the liquid layer was fired just once.



There is a bit more going on where there is just the one layer of liquid enamel but the other side still looks interesting. I think the shape of the piece you use will affect the patterns formed too.

The next effect is my favourite, probably because it's so colourful.



This effect was produced by layering a transparent enamel between two opaques. Gravity and the sloping sides of the bowl also help to create the effect.



When it's fired to 800°C the transparent enamel layer starts to push through the top opaque layer creating cell shapes. This allows the base opaque colour to show through too. 
In this case I used an opaque seafoam base, a turquoise transparent and an opaque pea green top layer.

This bowl is made the same way with slightly different shades of blue and green opaque colours and I added some holes for decoration. 


I love the way the top hole has stretched into an oval shape as I formed the bowl.


I already have a list of colour combinations to try when I make some more of these :D

I still have a lot more to learn with kiln firing enamels but these practice pieces are really helping me to discover the wonderful effects you can achieve with enamel.



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Comments

  1. All the pieces are super duper gorgeous making me wish that I could play with Enamel here. The photos look fanstastic on this new, clean white layout

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  2. Your "raku" piece looks very interesting, and the green ones too! I have never tried mixing types of enamel the way you do. Time to start I think. About liquid enamels I can tell they are often the "hardest" to fire.

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    1. I love the "raku" effect too. I'm finding that liquid enamels are sometimes a bit temperamental to use but I am enjoying trying things with them.

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    2. At last I've found the enamel of my dreams! Ive seen it in alot off pictures but never found it. At least I believe that.... Goldfoil is very expensive, but this is to be found at http://www.vitrumsignum.com/enamels/wet-process-for-copper-and-steel/11817-metallic-gold/

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    3. That metallic gold enamel looks like something I need to try! Thanks for the link :D

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    4. Youre still a member of the EU I hope...? ;)

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    5. Waiting for an enamel of my dreams with.... a newly broken arm. :(

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    6. Oh no! That must be really frustrating. Hope it gets better quickly :D

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  3. Wow! These are so cool Tracy! It looks like you are having so much fun with the kiln. Your favorite piece is mine too. It reminds me of a peacock since those colors are dominant in their feathers. Such pretty color choices.

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  4. Tracy thanks so much for sharing! I've been trying to get that cell effect for awhile now. I too am experimenting but I haven't really delved into the liquid enamels. Do you buy the powdered form or liquid? I am just now going to experiment with liquid enamel. All I have at this moment is white. It's almost like playing with pottery! :D

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  5. Ooops....meant to mention that I too notice that different enamels react differently too each other. It must have to do with the coefficient expansion of each enamel. There is so much to learn. Your sample of the cell effect, was that using liquid or powder?

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    1. Hi Kalaya,
      Using liquid enamels does make me think of ceramic glazes and it feels a bit "free-er" {is that a word?} to use than powders. Most of the liquid enamels I have are powders that I mix myself but I recently bought a couple already mixed. There's not much difference apart from the price and convenience. I like the fact you can mix the liquids and make new colours.
      The effects are definitely because of the different CoE of the enamels which I know very little about :D

      The cell effect is done with powder enamels and gets better the longer you fire.

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    2. Free-er. Well then I will have to expand on my liquid then. :D Do you have any tips on mixing? I find it a tad difficult. I mix it with distilled water to a sort of pancake consistency. water first then powder.

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    3. I usually add the distilled water to the powder and mix with a stick or plastic spoon. There is a knack to getting the right consistency which I don't always get :D I try to go for single cream consistency which is quite runny but if it doesn't work I wash it off the piece then either add more powder or water to the mix to get it right.

      I do get small lumps in the mix sometimes so I just remove them if I see them on the piece. I probably should spend more time mixing but I get impatient and just want to start :D

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    4. Merci Tracy! I get impatient as well. :)

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  6. Very cool! I haven't used liquid enamels at all, looks like I should give them a try. Love what you're doing! I really enjoy your blog, thanks for posting!

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  7. Oh my word those cells you got on those bowls are delicious! Your experimenting with enamels makes me feel like getting mine out for a play again! I really need to stop buying other art supplies and get myself a Kiln once and for all!

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    1. I'm really glad I have mine at last. It could do with it being a bit bigger to make things easier with larger pieces but I can manage with it for what I want to do :D

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  8. so you put these in the kiln? i'm loving this idea? what kind of kiln did you get?

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    Replies
    1. It's a Prometheus Pro 1, not programmable but fine for enamelling small items.

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