Put simply, enamelling is 'just' melting finely powdered glass onto a backing of silver, gold or copper. The word 'just' covers a huge range of techniques and since glass melts at 800C it also means that many of the joints made using traditional hard brazed alloys simply fall apart in the enamelling kiln. Enamel has been applied to metal for thousands of years and the skill and artistry of many items from our past is staggering. We use an electronically controlled kiln - accurate to 1oC - made by ourselves - and we have difficulty in achieving consistent results - how this was accomplished using bellows and a fire is simply awe inspiring. We have found that enamelling is much like cookery (or my cookery anyway!) - we are never quite sure what the end result will look like - good job we all like surprises! Some of the techniques we are exploring are (with Cloisonne and Plique-a-Jour being our favourites)
Basse-taille, from the French word meaning "low-cut". The surface of the metal is decorated with a low relief design which can be seen through translucent and transparent enamels.
Champlevé, French for "raised field", where the surface is carved out to form pits in which enamel is fired, leaving the original metal exposed.
Cloisonné, French for "cell", where thin wires are applied to form raised barriers, which contain different areas of (subsequently applied) enamel.
Grisaille, French term meaning "greying", where dark, often blue or black background is applied, then opalescent (translucent) enamel is applied on top, building up designs in a monochrome gradient, paler as the thickness of the layer of light color increases.
Plique-à-jour, French for "braid letting in daylight" where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to champlevé, but with no backing, so light can shine through the transparent or translucent enamel. It has a stained-glass like appearance.
Ronde bosse, French for "round bump". A 3D type of enameling where a sculptural form is completely or partly enameled.
Stenciling, where a stencil is placed over the work and the powdered enamel is sifted over the top. The stencil is removed before firing, the enamel staying in a pattern, slightly raised.
Sgrafitto, where an unfired layer of enamel is applied over a previously fired layer of enamel of a contrasting color, and then partly removed with a tool to create the design.