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Grooving on Metal Clay and Enameling

My Class

“Grooving on Metal Clay & Enamels” at The Enamelist Society Conference “Alchemy6”, at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts August 2022 including some musings on the Exhibitions and What I Learned


Conference and workshop photography by Evan J. Soldinger;

Students' pieces were photographed by each artist.


In 2021, I received an invitation to teach a three-day class, “Grooving on Metal Clay and Enamels”, plus two Break-Out Sessions, “Metal Clay Speaks Champlevé”, at The Enamelist Society Conference, “Alchemy6” scheduled for August of 2022.

As I sat at my desk in The Berkshires, in April of 2022, working out the details of my class, I was notified that my neckpiece, “Acilius Pied Alongé” had been accepted in The Enamelist Society’s biennal international exhibition, “Alchemy6”. The jurors for “Alchemy6”, the 18th biennial The Enamelist Society exhibition were Jan Smith <https://jansmith.ca/>, Ana Lopez <https://www.anamlopez.com/>, and Amy Roper Lyons <https://amyroperlyons.com/portfolio>. This exhibition was to travel from Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts to the University of Arkansas (8/2/22-9/2/22), Little Rock, Arkansas (9/22-10/22) and then finally to the Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, OH ( 2/1/23-4/15/23). My neckpiece would not return home to me until April 2023.



It’s so interesting that The Enamelist Society uses the same word to describe the experience of using enamels as those of us who use metal clay have used to describe the process of sintering our various metal clays. Though neither group is converting lead into gold, as the medieval alchemists tried to do, certainly enameling and sintering metal, and perhaps all art makings suggest the possibility that something more than simple chemistry is happening when we make our work. “Alchemy” works!


Acilius Pied Alongé Installed in “Alchemy6



And here’s a happy Linda struttin’ her stuff!!!!

(‘cause not everything is serious at exhibitions, conferences, or in life



Also, my brooch, “Watching my Heart” was to be shown in a second exhibition that opened at the conference, “Cell Full/Filled” (August 2-September 2, 2022). This open exhibition was for pieces that showed cloisonné as the central process. There would also be an attendee’s pop-up exhibition and a less formal Faculty Exhibition. I was pleased to be both teaching and having my pieces shown in four, count ‘em four, superlative collections of enameled work.


“Watching my Heart”


“Watching My Heart” as installed in Cell Full/Filled




Another Happy Linda and “Watching My Heart” Displayed in Cell Full/Filled





I was pleased on so many levels about having my work in “Alchemy6”. For this affirmation of my work, yes, but especially excited because it also represents an affirmation by inclusion, by The Enamelist Society and the exhibition jurors, of the use of sintered metal (in this case, PMC3) in the field of enameling. And it was such a nice combination of having the piece in these exhibitions, “CellFull/Filled”, the Instant Gallery, and a Faculty exhibition as well, plus teaching my class during the conference.




Averill, Ursula, and Linda Viewing the enamel work in the Instant Gallery



Linda’s Pendant “Divergence” shown in the Instant Gallery Exhibition


The fourth exhibition, the Faculty and Award Winners Exhibition was right inside the entrance to the main studio building (the Turner Building). It was the first of the exhibitions that attendees saw as they checked in for the conference.

Faculty Exhibition



One more note, AMCAW supplied a beautiful flyer for the conference attendees and students, and Cool Tools provided discount cards. The Enamelist Society made these available at the check-in table for everyone and I was able to offer them to my students and to those who joined my Break-Out sessions.

A Walk Through My Own Use of Vitreous Enamels on Sintered Meal

Here’s a little bit of my own history with sintered metal and enameling. From the moment I was introduced to metal clay (PMC in 1996), I had a felt that sintered metal could lend itself to the enameling process easily. It took me a long while to feel competent with metal clay and then another long while to produce work that included enamels to my satisfaction (2000).

Ever since I began enameling on sintered metal, I’ve been trying to define how sinterers use enamel on metal clays, that is, how to describe the processes we use to prepare metal clay/sintered metal for enameling? We tend to make integral or printed or pressed cells for enamels when we form our metal clay objects (some of us even combine enamels directly into the metal clay before we fire it).

We sometimes, but not often, make traditional cloisons (cells using fine metal flat wires); we don’t solder, etch or chisel cells for champlevé. Some of us are laser cutting our metal clay, too. I’m going out on a limb to say that the end results of using metal clays with enamels resemble and can be described as those traditional processes.

For example, for my work, I carve printing plates that produce the cells (yup, cloisons, in French) that are used to print (roll) into metal clay, so my work kind of/sort of resembles a territory somewhere between the two aforementioned processes.

The Conference

Onward to the conference and my class, “Grooving on Metal Clay and Enameling”, and my two Break-Out sessions, “Metal Clay Speaks Champlevé”.

I was present at the conference, not only because I was teaching, but because I have been a member of The Enamelist Society since I began to focus on enameling on sintered metal (and wanted to know more about enamels) and that was a while ago, around 2002. Though I was presenting at two Break-Out sessions, one on each day of the conference, I had prepared and set up my demo’s early and I was able to attend some of the Presenter’s talks, most importantly Oleksii Koval, a superb enamelist from Ukraine (whose remarkable work is monumental, and includes portraiture, layered enamels, and occasional addition of traditional and antique Ukrainian jewelry and other artifacts), and that of an old friend, Keith Lewis (whose presentation included images of his work and a courageous sharing of his life as a gay man surviving the times of the last plague, HIV). Both of these enamelists shared their work and the effect of their cultures and circumstances on their work in ways that touched my heart and, I’m certain, the hearts of the audience very deeply.

Oleksii Koval


Destiny, 144 x 120 cm, enamel, copper (photography: Artist)



Keith Lewis


'Maritims unnum lingit assibus IIII' Brooch (Photography: Artist)


My Break-out Sessions

As I mentioned above, I was also asked to do two break-out sessions during the conference itself (my class was scheduled for three days, post-conference) and I chose to demo champlevé using metal clay processes, titling it “Metal Clay Speaks Champlevé”.

For the demo I used polymer instead of the more expensive fine silver metal clay. (This allowed me to do the two demos without emptying my bank account). Since polymer can normally be manipulated like metal clay and since I wasn’t going to be firing during the break-out sessions, it was the ideal material to use (Ask me how I know that leaving the polymer in my van during the long summer drive down to Gatlinburg was not a great idea. . . it began to cure in the hot back of the vehicle, making it a little difficult to manipulate for the demos). I did pre-make a rather informally finished, sintered fine silver champlevé sample, too. After each demo, I provided a “Keynote” presentation, (Apple’s powerpoint-type program) for attendees to view (see below for more information on this and link to view it). This showed images of the work of metal artists who use vitreous enamels in their work. The break-outs themselves were each about one hour, allowing adequate time for the demonstration and the video.

My Samples for “Metal Clay Speaks Champlevé”



All set up for First Break-Out Session



First Break-Out Session




Second Break-Out Session



I made the following step by step process for champlevé and metal clay available as a hand-out, which allowed the attendees to follow along as I demonstrated the process and/or to take with them for future reference.

Linda Kaye-Moses

CHAMPLECLAY OR HOW TO FOOL THE WORLD

AND USE METAL CLAY TO CREATE CHAMPLEVE

1. Select a frame or perimeter or template about 12%-15% larger than you want your final piece to be (metal clay shrinks 12%-15%).

2. Draw a design that will fit within the perimeter and include the perimeter frame line.

3. Trace the design onto tracing paper.

4. Turn tracing paper over and draw over the lines of your entire design with a very dark/soft pencil.

5. Place drawing face down (pencil-side down), on white matte board.

6. Burnish, with a smooth steel burnisher, over the drawing, transferring it to the matte board. Go over the lines on the matte board with a fine line black marker.

7. Cover both sides of the matte board with clear packing tape.

8. Use a jeweler’s saw, saw out the areas that will be enameled (they will be the open areas in the metal clay). Oil the surface of the matte board and set it aside.

9. Roll out a sheet of metal clay about 1mm thick.

10. Place your matte board pattern/template on the top of the metal clay sheet.

11. Use an oiled scribe or needle tool to cut out the areas that will be enameled and scribe around the perimeter to create your metal clay top piece. This piece will be joined to a backplate to create the champlevé form. Dry the metal clay top.

12. Roll out a second sheet of metal clay on an oiled texture mat (rubber stamps or other textures). This piece will become the backplate and the resulting texture will be visible beneath transparent enamels.

13. Place your matte board pattern on this sheet and use a scribe to trim around the perimeter only. This will be the substrate or backplate for the champlevé enameling. Dry this backplate.

14. Refine both pieces: the open work piece and the backplate, using salon boards, moistened clay shapers, etc.

15. Use metal clay Slip/Paste and water to join the two parts. Press gently on a flat surface for about1 minute.

16. Refine by removing excess Slip/Paste using a clay shaper or moistened brush. Check for gaps and add Slip/Paste to them. Dry. Check again. Refine.

17. Dry and fire according to the metal clay manufacturer’s instructions for the longest duration at the highest temperature.

18. Tumble the piece or hand finish using whatever method you would use for any milled metal.

19. Degrease the piece under hot water and a drop of detergent

20. Apply Enamels in the depressions and fire.



FINALLY MY CLASS!!!!

“Grooving on Metal Clay and Enameling”

After the two-day conference, I began to teach my three-day class. The description of my class will probably sound familiar to all my metal clay students from years ago: In this whirlwind class we focussed on enameling using kiln-fired Fine Silver (PMC3) metal clay as the foundation or substrate metal. Metal clay offered an immediate method to create cells and/or depressions for enamels, dispensing with the use of cloisonné wire or traditional champlevé techniques.

Instead we ‘printed’ metal clay to create the cells/depressions for enamels. The printing plates

we carved are those that are used for doing block printing (I told my students they are the kinds of plates that I use to avoid carving linoleum or wood, which I never enjoyed using). The plates are a soft material that feels like a dense silicone, but I’m really not certain what the material is. I just know that it works for easy carving, and prints metal clay beautifully. We carved these plates with traditional linoleum carving tools.


My Printing Plates (one carved deeply and one, shallow)


Metal clay also permitted the fabrication of a complete piece of jewelry without the additional step of separately setting an enameled form or the need for any soldering. The goal for the students was to make at least one simple enameled pendant. There was no prerequisite skill level, either in metal clay or enameling, required for this workshop.

You may ask me why I don’t use copper clay for enameling (go ahead. . . ask me). The answer is two-fold: I don’t enjoy using copper in any form. . . that’s just me; I don’t like enameling on sintered copper. . . again just me; silver has always been my metal of preference for my pieces, with elements of 14k or 18k gold sometimes added for contrast (OK, that was three-fold). I love silver for it’s reflective quality, both by itself and as an enamel substrate. I should add that I have used sintered copper and bronze as decorative elements on the enclosures I often make for my jewels.

Back To The Class

I was doing my demos for class at a separate bench at the front of the room, and, although I had been concerned about the students being able to see what I was doing, but the school had provided a camera that projected my hands and what they were doing onto a monitor behind and above me. I have to admit this was a little unnerving, since, when I looked up from my bench, the students were looking up instead of watching directly at what I was demo-ing. I adjusted to this format, although I did ask my students to remind me to keep my demonstration beneath the camera.




A few of my eight students had worked with metal clay previously, some had used enamels in traditional ways, and some had no experience with metal clay or enameling. I provided line drawings and other stimulating images for them to use, if they needed help coming up with a design (this was very much a whirlwind class with little time to spend figuring out a design). I had suggested in emails to them before the conference that they should begin to think about what their pieces would look like, but most of them used the drawings and templates I brought with me.They all plunged right into the process.



We fired the PMC3 work at 1650 degrees F (900 C) for 2 hours. I found this makes the best (strongest, densest, most burnishable) substrate for enameling. . . actually I use this schedule for all my metal clay work, enameled or not (keep in mind that this is PMC3 and may not be the optimum firing schedule for other metal clays).

Because of the long firing schedule, I thought I might need to offer the students something to do while their pieces were firing. I planned for the students to view and ask questions about the Keynote presentation (the same one I shared during the Break-Out sessions). The studio camera easily connected my Macbook to the monitor.

The presentation was a series of images of enameled work by the following metal clay artists, including Pam East, Julia Rai, Terry Swick Hickey, AJ Newel, Corinna Gheorghe, Janet Harriman, Dixie Murphy, Monique Perry, and Karen Trexler, all of whom generously shared these images with me for this purpose. It also included images of some of my own work as well.


NOTE: The Keynote presentation has been converted to a YouTube video. Here’s how to view the video of the images and artist information from the Keynote Presentation.

1. Open: <lindakayemoses.com>

2. Click on “Resources” in the menu at the top of the site

3. Scroll down to the Link to “Enameling on Metal Clay 2022”; Double Click on this.

4. This will open up to YouTube and the video will begin.

Instead of actually sharing the video while pieces were being fired (the best laid plans are often dislodged by the real world, LOL), the presentation was viewed at random, when examples of enameled, sintered metal were needed).

We ended up firing just before and through the evening meal on the first day of the class. My students and I returned after dinner on the first day of the class, and began the finishing work on their sintered pieces.

I brought metal clay and enameling books from my own library, again planning for the students to wander through them while they were waiting as their pieces were firing This, too, occurred at random times. I also encouraged the students to take the time to rest their eyes and hands, stretch, and take a walk around the Arrowmont campus (with its every so often appearance of a visiting bear), or check out the four exhibitions.





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‘’A Little Talk About Finishing At the Flexible Shaft Machine and Safety Issues

Working With the Flexible Shaft Machine

As far as finishing was concerned, I demo-ed the use of hand-finishing and flexible shaft finishing (with Radial Bristle Discs), and also the use of a magnetic finisher. My personal process always includes burnishing the surfaces of my pieces using the latter, and that’s why I teach it, since I believe that students are taking my class because they are familiar with my work and want to know how I achieve the look of it. Also, mag finishing burnishes sinter metal appropriately and quickly in preparation for enameling.

You may notice that I wear a face shield when working with a flexible shaft machine. I find it easier to use this protection than to wear safety glasses over my prescription spectacles. Just a note here on Safety. . . Before I begin to teach any class, I require my students to sign a Waiver that acknowledges that what I will be teaching requires awareness of safe ways to approach the processes we will use, and that they are each responsible for their own safety during (and after the class) when using the techniques and processes that I share. This includes, but is not limited to: eye protection when using a flexshaft; dark safety glasses when looking into or removing objects from a firing kiln; active ventilation when firing a kiln and when using patina chemicals; N95 dust mask when handling dry enamels; fireproof gloves when placing and/or removing enameled objects from a firing kiln; fireproof surfaces for kilns; and more.





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PATINATION

I demonstrated the use of Liver of Sulfur, reminding the students that active ventilation is essential and that, though we heat our solutions of LOS, we never, NEVER, boil the solution, because boiling LOS solution produces fumes that are toxic.

I also showed them that, if there are specks of enamel where there shouldn’t be, the patina will not darken those areas and so will highlight those spots and make it easy to see and grind off the misbehaving spots of enamel.

Hanging out with the LOS