A Brief History:
As an art form, enameling goes far back in our collective history. Its use has been documented in a diverse array of cultures in ancient times: from the Egyptians, the Celts, and the Chinese. It resurged during the early Roman Empire, but it was the Middle Ages where the use of the technique was most wide spread.
Nearly all peoples in the period had some form of enameled art, mostly to reproduce jewelled art before the stones became widely available. Though, sadly, most examples from this long history are lost as discarded work was melted down for reuse. The artform once again resurged in the late 19th century and again in the 1970’s. Hopefully it will again, and not just as cookware…
Where there are numerous techniques, we play primarily with three: Cloisonné, Champlevé and Plique-à-jour.
Meaning “cell” in French, the Cloisonné style involves the cutting and setting if wires. This creates a place for the glass to settle , forming the shape of the art. . This is probably the oldest of the techniques , with the first known example coming from the 12th century BC Cyprus. It has been used across cultures in everything from clothing and weapon fittings, to teapots and gifts.
Champlevé could be thought of as the opposite of Cloisonné. French for “raised field”, in this style, rather than setting wires down on the surface of the piece, the piece itself is carved, etched, die struck, or just cast to make troth for the glass to sit in. This method is better suited for larger pieces and finer detail in figurative images. It was the preferred method used by the Romans and regained popularity in the later medieval period.
Plique-à-jour is a challenging style with a wonderful effect. Similar to Cloisonné, in that the glass is added to individual cells, but done without a backing piece so that light may shine through. It can be thought of as mini stained glass work and is one of the more challenging techniques used in enameling. Every color of glass melts and flows at different temperatures, because of this, the risk that any color can melt off while being worked adds tons of time to each piece and a high overall risk of complete failure. Still this styles beauty makes us Crazies think it is worth it.