I import my glass powders from Europe where the tradition of enamelling is very old - learned from the Ancient Egyptians and Persians and perfected to a high art by artist-craftsmen such as Lalique and the American jeweller William Harper. The oportunity to play with colour variations is endless.Transparent colours laid over one another like watercolour paints, or fired at a longer, higher or lower temperature...creates new hues and effects. It makes each of my enamelled charms subtly unique (unintentionally of course, but I'm secretly delighted!).
The business of smelting coloured glass powders onto silver - so that they fuse onto the silver surface - has a quasi-surgical aspect: highly precise, refined, finicky and time consuming. Every level of application requires thorough preparation and anticipation of the pitfalls which could spoil the colour or effect.
Charms are usually fired several times each to reach the desired colour and transparency,and at 780 - 850 degrees C it gets pretty intense!
I feel at times like a Medieval alchemist , but of course I absolutely love every minute of it !
In the photo here you can see an example of my colour experiments - laying different colours on top of one another creates different hues and effects.(A bit like genetics). I took the photo while I was developing my range - you can see some of the flowers I was working with There's the PANSY charm which took up a lot of experimenting time trying to choose the right blues, violets and purples , and the COSMOS DAISY charm which was a lucky break I had with my colour combinations.(I think that was also the Cosmos Daisy effect - simplicity and purity!)
The kiln you see below is about 50 years old - a very heroic dinosaur- but I've recently brought in a brand new model - which uses a fraction of the electricity and is probably safer to use! I love my old dinosaur and she will be my back up kiln.
There is a good reason most charms produced these days are made with acrylic based colours - these colour products require very low firing if any at all - many are more like car paint than what is traditionally known as 'enamel' .Their processing requires no craftsmanship because so little can go wrong. I occasionally glance longingly at that option when a piece is more difficult than usual (CLOUD charm!)....but I'd never get the same subtlety of colour , the magical transparency,and not least the sense of continuity I feel with craftsmen through the ages.They made it all possible through trial and error and a great creative love for getting things done properly.
My heroic dinosaur enamelling kiln - inherited from a dear friend and mentor , but must be 50 years old or more, so its now my back-up kiln. That bright yellow-orange is the colour of about 820/30 degrees celsius - necessary to get a good rich colour.