Today I went on an enamelling course

Westhope College is a lovely little craft college located in the depths of the South Shropshire hills about five miles from the lovely Craven Arms.

It offers a range of courses from Silversmithing to Embroidery and today I joined a beginners Enamelling course taught by Jill Leventon.

It was a small group of 6, all beginners, a couple had been on a course run by the college before and I had the little bits of torch firing I’d done as my experience (so not much at all really).

We were taken through all the safety precautions that you have to bear in mind when using enamel and were shown how to prepare the copper ready for use. Finally we were shown how to sift the enamel and we were let loose.

They had a massive range of copper blanks to chose from, practically every size and shape available, plus a smattering of letters. Ooh it was heaven.

I picked some basic rounds with holes ready drilled in them. Well, with a round the heat can be more controlled and your less likely to melt or overburn any sticky-out bits.

I started with counter enamelling a pair of rounds with the plan that they were going to form some earrings or a matching pair of necklaces

They had two types of counter enamel (which is basically made up of all the scag ends of your enamel dumped together, because – waste noy, want not…). One was a browny/red colour and the other more greeny. It was the greeny one I used and it was gorgeous. Another lady used it to decorate her whole piece, not just the back.

The counter enamel is used to prevent stress in both the glass and the metal and stop your lass pinging off (obviously a bad thing, especially if you’re selling enamelled pieces)

Once we’d sifted the enamel we were shown how to transfer the pieces from the table onto a kiln stilt and into the kiln. I’m rather proud of myself that I only dropped my piece once all day. Hoorah. I expected to do it a lot more than that.

When we’d got the hang of getting the glass onto the blanks we got to have a go at putting images onto the glass.

I didn’t know that you could use normal rubber stamps and ink to put images onto the glass and then sift enamel onto them. It didn’t occur to me that the ink would just burn off.

It makes me wonder if that how it’s done in glass fusing too. If so the world is my oyster (once my kiln is set up that is)

Here are my attempts at stamp enamelling:

so this is transparent enamel layered with my stamped design done in a light opaque enamel. The first one wasn’t massively defined, the second one (on the left) was a LOT better.

And my second go using two similar stamps, one to make the background of my petals and another one to define them:

The black edging is oxidisation and the fact the enamel at the edge is thinner. They can be ground off, but I left it was it was because I thought it gave a nice definition.

The last piece I did was based off one of Jill Leventon’s designs. She does this ace enamelled cats and here’s my attempt at something similar:

I didn’t know you could use millifiore with enamel, so I was quite pleased I could have a go at using them. It needs to sit in the pickle to get all the oxidisation off the copper. (It’s also missing some whiskers because I ran out of time) It’s one to finish another day.

I had a brilliant time at this class and for £40 it was an absolute bargain. I would recommend both the class and the college to anyone wanting to have a go at enamelling.

If you check out their website (linked at the top) you can see all the other classes and taster days they’ve got coming up.

Jill has a flickr and you can see the work my class did (it’s not up yet, but it will be) as well as her own work and the work produced by her other classes. It’s amazing how different everyone is.

ETA: Our classes work is up on Jill’s facebook page.

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