The Art of Fine Enameling Home Page

Enameling, the technique of fusing colored glass powder onto a metal surface under high heat, has long been associated with jewelry and ecclesiastical objects. In the Middle Ages, glowing enamels were often used in place of gems. Court jewelers from the Renaissance through the 18th century embellished elaborate brooches, watches, and clothing ornaments with enameled portraits and delicate floral bouquets, and enhanced set gemstones with enameled gold surfaces. The elaborate Easter eggs, cigarette cases, and personal accessories created by Carl Peter Faberge in the 19th century brought brief popularity again to enameling, as did the fascination with color and surface in high-style French jewelry during the 1920s and '30s.

Since that time, however, enameling has been thought of popularly as a hobby craft predominated by ashtrays and light switch plates decorated by amateurs enameling pre-cut copper shapes in home kilns. Some fifty years ago, Kenneth Bates, an author-craftsman in Cleveland, publicized the creative possibilities of enamel to other craftsmen through his book on the process. Since that time and that book, technical advances have been matched by creative application of them.

Today, glass fired onto metal is no longer limited to jewelry, decorative souvenir spoons or luxurious personal accessories. Large kilns to fire enamel onto sinks and bathtubs—or even exterior walls of buildings (think of mid-century filling stations and Richard Meyer's contemporary architecture)—are now also the tools of artists. "Paintings" enameled onto metal panels grace building exteriors and public spaces, impervious to weather and resistant to vandalism

Enameling can be undertaken by virtually anyone, and Karen L. Cohen shows how! With straightforward descriptions of the tools and materials, and how to use them, she encourages even novices to enamel a variety of time-honored techniques. The step-by-step processes to make a variety of enameled objects will introduce both established techniques, and some newer uses of them, to the student. The easy-to-understand explanations will undoubtedly acquaint even experienced enamelists with the artistic and technical possibilities of enamel.

Lloyd E. Herman was the founding Director of the national craft museum of the United States, the Smithsonian Institution Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., from 1971 until 1986. He also planned and directed the Canadian Craft Museum in Vancouver, Canada, 1988–90. He has written about craft arts in all media, and organized traveling exhibitions to bring attention to such vital aspects of American visual arts as enameling.

The biographies of the artists who share their techniques, provide personal introductions to a Who's Who of enamelists practicing today. They, along with the Gallery sections of the book, also reveal the myriad possibilities for individual expression once the process is understood and experienced. I commend the author and hope that devotees of this time-honored medium will—as I did—find it fascinating, too.

Lloyd E. Herman