If at first you don't succeed...

Since by now I was in love with the aqua blue transparent enamel on fine silver, I prepared another rectangle of the silver but only 0.5mm thick, and textured it as before with an automatic centre punch, producing a crude heart design. Then I bent some filigree wire into the same heart-shaped design and applied it to the sheet to lie flat. This time also, I bent the wire so that the larger dimension of the cross section was made to lie parallel to the sheet, so that on sanding, the filigree wouldn't tend to fall apart. In the previous effort, it had stood up the other way on the backing sheet, making it too tall, and also prone to falling apart at the links if sanded thinner.

Some washed aqua blue enamel powder was drifted into the design and fired until it melted; but alas, by now the fine silver was too fine to allow rough handling (e.g. during sanding or stoning of the surface) so that bits of the enamel were prone to crack off. I solved this by cracking the majority of it off by a mixture of flexing and quenching from dull red heat, then domed the ensemble of heart and backing sheet, using an ordinary doming punch and doming block. This had the wonderful side effect of 'pin cushioning' the heart design into the filigree.

The domed design was then re-filled with enamel and fired, with very pleasing results. Not perfect, but interesting. For the sake of some colour contrast, I drifted 'nectarine' enamel round the outside, removing surplus from the blue or raised silver areas with a fine brush, and re-fired.

Final step - removing the sharp corners of the domed rectangular sheet, since the doming process had turned the corners into sharp spikes.

Overall opinion - a bit amateurish, but there are many possibilities for improvement:
- use a border of silver wire to contain the nectarine colour
- form a small heart in brass, roll this together with fine silver sheet in a sandwich to emboss the design into the sheet instead of the doming block method
- mitre the ends of the fine silver filigree wire so they don't form such an ugly angle

P.S. The picture above is larger than life size - the actual size is about that of a UK 5p piece.


Enamel on fine silver

Since it was some time since I have messed around with enamel, I thought I would give it a try using the fine silver I prepared earlier, as it were.

A small piece about 10 x 10 x 1mm was given a surface texture of dimples using an automatic centre punch, and given a walled enclosure with some fine silver filigree wire. This wire was made according to the instructions in the book by Jeanne Rhodes-Moen. The enclosure was in the shape of a heart. I then packed the enclosure with 'aqua blue' transparent enamel made by Milton Enamels in the UK.

Since our enamel kiln finally expired a couple of years ago after years of use and abuse, I fired the prepared piece of silver on top of some iron mesh with a small blow-torch underneath. This particular enamel turns first green then finally black as it melts; when it cools, the colours neatly reverse through green back to a very nice blue, effectively gluing the silver filigree design to the backing sheet. In passing it occurred to me that using a copper backing sheet would have allowed me to remove it by dissolving in acid, ending up with plique a jour.

Then I ground the surface down using wet silicon carbide paper, cleaned it off with a glass fibre brush under running water, and re-fired after packing one or two areas that were a little short of enamel. The grinding and cleaning was repeated, and the piece inspected.

Here was where things started to go wrong! Since I felt the enamel needed more building up in one or two areas, and since the colour was on the dark side and hence obscured the dimple texture underneath, I thought that some clear enamel on the top would be a good idea. Unfortunately I probably chose exactly the wrong clear enamel, in the form of 'super soft'. This in fact not only melted quickly into the missing areas, but fluxed the aqua enamel so much that both 'super soft' (in the form of a yellowish glaze) and aqua started to leak from the bottom of the filigree enclosure.

So, back to the drawing board. Pictures later!