Wednesday, January 9, 2013

new year - new ways to see: a crafty peek into making tasty “plique-a-jour” enamel jewellery

The Herring: Pre- and Post-Mortem. Champ-levé enamel
pendants in copper, fine silver, sterling silver.
I loved learning to enamel - the instant wow factor as I stepped into a world of colour - fusing glass to metal. Right now, I am working in champ-levé and cloisonné, and exploring surface effects when the enamel powders are spread directly onto flat metal. it's going to be a very colourful experience.

Enamelling appears to date back to at least the thirteenth century BCE(1), with a more modern history boasting master metalsmiths, jewellers, and designers like Fabergé, Lalique, Tiffany, and Cartier. We’re likely more familiar on a daily basis with our enamelled iron pans, kitchen tools like colanders or bread bins, the traditional enamelled cast iron tub, or ubiquitous “white goods” - so-named for the white-enamelled steel panels. There are even obsolescence - and maintenance-defying - enamel-clad “Lustron” houses built in the US for returning WWII vets(2).




“You’re a Lifesaver…” - cookie becomes wearable art (again). Cookie by Emily Evans. 
Bronze casting of plastic spout from a fruit juice container (ReFind Collection),  white evening gloves circa 1950 (courtesy of Kathleen Pedersen), 
titanium necklace.

One of my most valuable learnings from the Jewellery and Metals Program at ACAD was the now habitual root through the mental toolbox to find multiple methods for achieving the same result… It encourages me to be flexible, try to solve problems with what I have, maybe discover new ways of working. And so when Emily - a young neighbour and budding artist - showed me one of her latest craft projects at her Christmas party, I couldn’t stop smiling: here was the toughest of the tough enamel jewellery techniques - plique-a-jour, where glass enamel particles bridge and fill a space in a metal design so that light can travel through the glass - recreated in a cookie! Given my predilection for edible jewellery (see "For The Girl With Everything: A Snack"), and my lifelong obsession with Food Science (half of my under-grad), this was the best of both worlds: melted, coloured, sugar - Lifesaver candies - embracing the central hole in a cookie, creating a stained glass window, lit by the glow of the Christmas tree. Just lovely.

Thank you Emily for loaning your fabulous “Lifesaver” cookie - truly inspirational. And happy craft new year!



Lifesaver cookie by Emily Evans;
bronze casting and photography by author. 

(1) Tait, Hugh. 7000 Years of Jewelry. Richmond Hill Ont.: Firefly Books, 2008. Print.
(2) “Lustron House - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.” Web. 8 Jan. 2013.

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