Thursday, November 3, 2011

Enameling on Clay!

One of the best things about teaching is that you learn so much from your students.  When I was teaching in Tucson last year I had a student contact me about taking a workshop.  She asked if I had tried enameling ceramic beads.  I told her that I didn't know if it could be done, but to bring some things she'd like to try.  Usually I suggest that students not bring anything too precious in case it doesn't work.  But I'm all for trying new things, which is how I found out that enameling iron beads worked!


Here we are, months later and one of the members at the Painting with Fire Ning site is experimenting with enameling on clay ... and having great success I might add.  We're up to 1760 members at the site, so things are really getting interesting and diverse!  The day before I left for Florida I knew I just had to take a few moments and try it myself.  Sure enough, it worked!  These are the results of that afternoon, which are headed to Lisa Petrillo today as one of the winners at the Virtual Book Tour! 

Enameled Ceramic Beads
The lovely Marla James of Bisque Bead Supply and Beads of Clay member contacted me and generously offered to send me some beads to play with.  I didn't expect a whole big box of them, but was grateful! Thank you, Marla.  I couldn't wait to tear into the box and get started.    Here are the results of that session.

Bisque beads from Marla James of Bisque Bead Supply

While there is some crazing (crackle lines) in the enamel, I never considered that a defect in pottery glazes  unless the purpose of the piece was to serve food.  Actually, my next step will be to rub some India ink into the crackle lines to accentuate them. 

There are a couple of things that make this an outstanding discovery.  First is the selection of enamel colors provided by Thompson Enamel.  Any potter will tell you how difficult it is to get a beautiful blue-green Celadon glaze.  Well, it wasn't hard for me ... all I had to do is to reach for the Nile Green transparent.  The red in the back is Woodrow Red transparent, the pink is Rose transparent, the lovely lavender is Harold transparent, and the yellow is Egg Yellow transparent.  

But what might be even more important than that is the fact that you can design on the fly!  What I mean by that is usually you glaze your piece, put it into the kiln, fire it, wait for it to cool before you decide whether you like it or not.  Well, with enameling the piece, I was able to make adjustments DURING the firing process.  I enameled one of the shells with Opalescent Green transparent but thought a pinch of Lime Yellow transparent would spice things up a bit.  Sure enough, punch!

I enameled the pieces like I would a metal bead by putting them on a mandrel and heating them in the flame.  A slow warm up is recommended, which takes only a few seconds longer, but insures no cracking for delicate piece. If you'd like more information about this process, please get in touch with me ... I'd love to share my excitement!  In fact, the talented Sally Stevens, a wonderful Baltimore, MD jewelry designer, wrote yesterday, "We have been enameling all the many clay charms and doodads that we have made over the years and it is so much fun to see the transformation."  So, there you have it!  


21 comments:

Jen Crossley said...

They look amazing Barbara.

SummersStudio said...

Ok, I am hooked. One of the most frustrating things about glaze is not knowing what will happen in the kiln some of the time. Plus, I really like the raku like effect that these pieces have. I can see the bitty birds done this way. Did you start with bisque? Because I think there is some potential to fix up the less than satisfactory glaze results. Which would be awesome.

mairedodd said...

i really do love how this process is evolving - i can understand your excitement... and the india ink idea sounds wonderful - cannot wait to see those results...

KayzKreationz said...

This looks so great. What kind of clay are the beads? Can polymer clay work or not? I'm anxiously waiting to save my money and hopefully get a torch and get started this month. I read and re-read your book and left my review on Amazon, but I can't wait to get started trying my hand at enameling. I think the clay beads look fabulous with enamel, too.

Gardanne said...

I can't wait to try this Barbara. Thanks for the resource for the bisque beads.
KayzKreations polymer clay would not work the temperatures are way too high and I would not want to breath in the fumes when it catches fire.

Sally Russick said...

Yet again I follow you down another rabbit hole...I have to try this!!!! I'm glad someone had the idea to give clay enameling a try and then share the findings! The pieces look great!

Shel said...

These are so nice!! (that's an understatement!!)

Shirley said...

Stunning pieces Barbara! I love the intense colors and the crazing on the Marla James pieces. I would also be curious to see if it would work on polymer clay.

TesoriTrovati said...

WOW! Will wonders never cease?! I love that you can use this techique on so many pieces. So versatile. Enjoy the day!
Erin

moonlitfantaseas said...

wow! I am excited to know how well the enamel works on clay! now I just need to invest in some clay and get started! its time to put my kiln to work!!!

Kokopelli said...

Yes, learning from my students is one of the things I appreciate most in teaching. I think rubbing some ink into the crackle lines will make the beads look interesting and kind of antique. I hope you share once you've tried.

Marla James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marla James said...

Thanks for sharing what you did with my bisque! I am loving these results as well!
I have tons of shapes and sizes available. And I will extend a 15% discount to all of your followers thru Nov. 11th! Visit http://www.bisquebeadsupply.etsy.com and use code BLEWIS15. AND if there is something you want,but don't see there. Shoot me a convo!
Thanks again Barbara! I look forward to seeing more of your enamel and bisque work!
Marla

LindaK said...

I love this process! I can't wait to try it. Will you be teaching in Tucson again this year?

LindaK said...

I love this process! I can't wait to try it. Will you be teaching in Tucson again this year?

Melinda Orr said...

You can bet I'll be trying this!! This is a terrific concept ~ and Marla is awesome for offing the discount on her bisque beads ~ There is no reason we can't try this on our own easily!

Cindy Pack said...

I love these Barbara! Thanks so much for sharing all you do with us. Your adventures in enameling are so inspiring. I cannot wait to get my set up and get going on this! :)

Barbara Lewis said...

Thank you, ladies! I hope you give this a try. Bisque beads are very reasonably priced. I personally love the lentil beads that Marla sells. I haven't been able to find that bead style in copper so this is a great find!

I won't be doing Tucson this year but will be doing Bead and Button in Milwaukee. I'll be teaching 4 workshops. I hope to see some of you there. Oh, and we'll be exhibitors too.

Cindy said...

Enjoyed catching up with your latest , Barbara. This was an interesting post since I saw your enameled ceramic beads in the book tour, but learned more in-depth by your description here. There's no stopping you and what you can turn to enameled gold! :-)

Connie said...

very cool! i'll have to try this!

Pauline said...

I work with ceramic clay and have a couple of questions I hope you or someone else might be able to answer. I know you used "bisque" beads, but am wondering if the clay was low-fire, earthenware, or stoneware which is vitrified at cone 5 rather than cone 04 as is the earthenware. I love the crazing, but am wondering if fully fired beads (fired at cone 5) stoneware, would get a different result with the torch fired enamels.