Enamoured of enamelling

I was recently lucky enough to be given a present of 3 days tuition with Jill Leventon at her studio in Shrewsbury. This was to be a completely new experience as I had never done any enamelling before. The only prior knowledge I brought to the tuition was that enamel is powdered glass.

Having found Jill’s studio in the old school building the first day began with issues of health and safety which are clearly vital when using hazardous substances and red hot kilns. This was followed by discussion of what I was hoping to achieve over the three days. Uncertain of how realistic my ambitions were, I proposed creating a picture and enamelling a small bowl. To my surprise Jill’s response was that this was perfectly feasible and I could learn the necessary elements through them.

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The rest of the day passed remarkably quickly as I practiced applying the enamels and processing them in the kiln. Getting the various steps and procedures required for each stage did take a number of repetitions before they became fixed in my memory. Throughout this time Jill’s patient and calm teaching style was most welcome. To my surprise we soon moved on to begin planning the picture I wanted to create. I had come with the idea of creating a small plaque to insert into a piece of furniture I have made. A variety of enamels were fired to help to choose the final colours. At the end of the first day I felt that I had accomplished more than anticipated.

Jill’s excellent tuition style continued in day 2. Her calm encouragement  was vital when I made a mess of applying the enamels and the potential disaster of me dropping the plaque as I took it out of the kiln, resulting in cracks appearing in the previously fired enamels. Her reassurance that we could deal with the cracks alleviated my feeling of despondency!  The step by step nature of creating the picture contributed to embedding the learning about counter enamelling and applying layers of enamel. We even found the time to begin work on a number of discs that would be turned into pendants.

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Firstly on day 3 we completed the discs  I had designed along with how to apply gold and silver foil together with the enamels.

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Then we began work on what was the climax of the 3 days for me,  creating the bowl.  This was what I was keen to do as it was images of bowls on the internet that had most fired my enthusiasm. Again Jill embedded the learning in helping me achieve my personal goals. The issues of applying enamels to curved and sloping surfaces and successfully firing them was covered with Jill’s usual attention to detail. It was with a feeling of excitement on my part that we got to what I described as the “Moment of Magic” and fired the bowl one final time at a higher temperature. I have got to say that taking the bowl out of the kiln and watching it cool and the colours appearing was a very satisfying experience. I was more than happy with the result!

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What a fantastic three days. I had achieved far more than I had anticipated and the results better than I had hoped. Jill’s style of tuition was faultless based as it was on covering the necessary elements whilst helping me achieve my goals. Her knowledge and skill, combined with her quiet, unflappable nature, helped to make the 3 days a real pleasure. The time passed unbelievably quickly and I was sad that it had come to an end.

But after 3 days I think I have caught the enamelling bug.

Right! Now! what kiln do I buy?