Friday, October 29, 2010


It seems that whenever I tell people that I am a cloisonné artist, an expression of confusion sometimes reveals itself.

Clear as mud, right. Well, I guess that's my point. The cloisonné process simply refers to the creation of small 'chambers' of glass that make up a piece. Nothing more, nothing less. But that certainly doesn't mean that it's not extremely labor intensive work. I must admit that the patience level and adherence to the strictest of studio rules is what makes enamel work less than a craft, not quite a trade, and lands it directly in the realm of ART. Think 'old masters' and you'll have it just about right. 

To be more specific, cloisonné enameling is the art of building a wire canvas, grinding the correct colours, sifting and washing those colours, and then carefully inlaying them until they are, for the lack of a better word... PERFECT. Oh yes, and one can not forget the glowing, red-hot kiln, with it's small jowls looking like the depths of the-place-you-don't-want-to-be-in-the-afterlife.

There are no mistakes allowed in cloisonné work. None. I can not tell you how many times I have been working on a piece until 1:00 in the morning, only to throw it at the wall (yes, I actually once did that), because ONE wire fell down. *sigh* But... I doubt anyone creates cloisonné to make a quick buck. I do it because it's more of a 'calling' than anything else. I have burned myself and eaten glass more times than I might care to admit, but the COLOURS... they make up for everything. Really, they do.

Years ago, I saw an exhibition of one of the most famous and masterful cloisonné artists who ever lived. Peter Carl Fabergé. Of the giant Easter egg fame. You know... they look like this:

If you look *very* closely, you can see the tiny chambers, or 'cloisons' of glass on the base.

  Amazing, right? I know. Even though I'm aware that Fabergé had a team of apprentices/helpers, I can't help being fascinated with the idea that he not only conceptualized the designs, but he was such a skilled artisan himself. It's true... how else could copies of his work still be found all over the world? His apprentices learned from him, that's how!

As I am preparing for the launch of my new Etsy shop, I am also considering the history and the precision of this thing that I do... cloisonné. I found a video that I'd like to share with you. I know it's in French, but it *is* subtitled. I think this artist explains (better than I have tried to do here) what an enamelist feels when he or she is at work. After all, what IS art without feelings, thoughts, and inspiration?

The Craft of Enameling 

My guess would be that if you are reading this, you can relate.



Pesky Cat Designs said...

I just added your Etsy shop to my favorites with anticipation of your shop opening! Can't wait to see your work! I just know it will be beautiful. :)

Natanya Elka said...

Thank you, honey! I hope you like it ;0)

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