The Artist

The continuous exploration of the medium of enamel on precious metal is an ongoing adventure for me as an artist/enameller/jeweller. I began at the other end of the spectrum to most enamellists, in huge format, having begun my career as an artist/painter. On discovering enamel, I marvelled at the brilliance and intemsity of colour. The opportunity of using these colours in a palette was unlimited, with the added choices of transparency, opacity and opalescence.

I was introduced to enamel early on in my career, this quickly developed into a passion. For many years I used enamel on large sheets of copper to make large format paintings and highly decorated copper bowls. I then decided to return to study gold & silversmithing at RMIT so I could further my practise in enamel jewellery and metal work. I then began teaching at RMIT which I enjoyed tremendously for many years. Now I give workshops when time allows, for the Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia and in my own studio. I was secretary of the gold and silversmith guild of Australia for quite a few years and am still on the council, which has introduced me to many of the amazing gold and silversmiths of Australia practising today.

I enjoy commissions as it often forces me to explore other avenues, which often leads me into new ideas and directions. In 1993 I was commissioned to do the mural for the Brisbane International Airport which took two years to complete. It is of the beautiful Daintree Rainforest which is a very popular tourist attraction. The dimentions of the mural are 16 metres by 3 metres high and is two dimensional. It was a personal triumph for me as it was the largest and most difficult piece to fabricate. Since then I have concentrated on smaller pieces – sterling silver boxes, jewellery pieces and small panels and objects. My preferred choice of techniques is cloisonee but I employ many others. After 45 years of enamelling I am still passionate, enjoying the intricacies of enamel in the jewellery context and constantly trying to push the boundaries of this very difficult art/craft which has very strict rules to be adhered to for a perfect finish.

The Process

The basic process of enamelling is when vitreous enamel – specially formulated ground glass – adheres to precious metals, copper silver and gold, by means of extreme heat.

It is an ancient craft which goes back to the Egyptians, Greeks, Celts, Chinese and Japanese.It then moved through Europe to Renaissance Italy and France, Russia and England. It is wonderful to see these old magnificent examples in museums and wonder how they fabricated them with the much cruder tools of their times.

There are three types of enamel. Opaque, where light cannot pass through, transparent, where light passes through easily to the base metal and opalescent, where light passes through slightly with an opal like effect. They are all beautiful, lustrous and the colours last forever.

Apart from the different enamels one can use there are different techniques of application;

Apart from the different enamels one can use there are different techniques of application;

Sgraffito – Where one can scratch through a layer of freshly laid enamel to a pre-fired enamel surface. 

Basse-Taille – Where the metal beneath the enamel surface has been textured in some way with a transparent enamel on the surface. 

Champleve – Where areas of metal are removed and filled with enamel, fired and ground back to  a smooth surface, then re-fired to revive the gloss of the enamel. 

Limoges – Where extremely finely ground enamel is painted on a pre-fired surface with successive applications and firings of very fine layers to build up the design.

Cloisonee – Where fine wires form “cells”  and very thin layers of enamel are placed within the cells and fired. After 4 to 5 layers the enamel is ground down to a smooth surface with the wires showing. A final firing will restore the sheen of the enamel.

Plique a Jour – Where transparent enamel is used as stained glass. The enamel is suspended within a frame and  light passes through to show the beauty of the jewell colours because there is no base metal, only the fame.