This past weekend, I attended my first Enamelist Society conference. There were a record number of attendees (165). It was held at The University of Oregon in Eugene, a mere 7 hour drive, lol! The number of talented artists there who have been enameling for 30 plus years would blow your mind. The speakers captured our attention and the break out demos and talks were awe inspiring. I can’t wait to go back again!!!
There were many opportunities to network and to learn from some of the great teachers in our field. I attended several great break out sessions and learned some wonderful tips and tricks from my favorite enamelists.
Sarah Perkins spoke about enameling on vessel forms. She had a particularly simple and time saving way to apply Klyr Fire to her vessels that I want to try. She used an airbrush to apply a 50/50 mix of Klyr Fire and water at an approximate distance of 3 feet. It creates a fine mist that adheres much better than the usual brush application. Another refreshing piece of info I learned from Sarah is that she doesn’t clean off her firescale, except to brush off the loose flakes, unless she wants to use a transparent over the copper and wants a pristine surface.
Judy Stone spoke about enamel layering techniques. She was a wealth of information! One of her dear friends, June Schwarz, was my enameling idol. She passed away a couple of years ago, but her legacy of knowledge was shared and passed down to people like Judy. What I learned from Judy is that you can layer leaded over non-leaded enamels if you use Blythe C10 Diamond Flux. I’m not really sure where she gets it from, and I don’t work with leaded enamels, but it’s delightful to know that most of the enamelists I spoke with break the rules. Our generation of enamelists feel more free to experiment and try things with varying degrees of success. It’s so exciting that we are no longer boxed in by the RULES!
I also had the opportunity to attend Anne Havel’s breakout session titled Graphic Graphite. I have worked with graphite in enameling before, but I wanted to see what Anne did differently. You should know one thing about Anne… She works with a torch. She’s never kiln fired her work. Torch firing is fun, and can be somewhat unpredictable, but for the techniques she was showing us, it was perfect!
Anne is able to capture dark, crisp pencil marks through multiple firings. Her secret? She covers her drawings with an extremely thin coating of flux before she fires her graphite into the enamel. I tried it, along with successively thin applications of acrylic enamel (made for enameling - it’s not paint). She waters it down to a watercolor consistency. It can be as opaque or as transparent as you desire. If you make marks you don’t like, you can always cover them over in the next firing. She will use the pencil and acrylic enamel at the same time, cover coat and fire to a sugar fire stage. That give the piece tooth, so you don’t have to etch or stone it back before adding the next layer of detail.
This is a piece that I worked on yesterday. It was just green, with a melon yellow dapped circle pinned into the hole. I hated it, and now I’m in love! The color and texture that the graphite and acrylic enamels give it create a wonderful richness. I’m going to go back to my box of older work and see what I can do about reworking several pieces with this method.
I am extremely happy that I attended the conference. It was a long drive and the heat was oppressive, but it was so worth it. You learn so much if you can stretch yourself and network with people who do what you do. It’s not something that’s particularly in my comfort zone, but I made it work!