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The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration, by Linda Darty

With this lavish introduction to the centuries-old art of enameling, even beginners can create imaginative designs. Written with clarity and passion by a leader in the field, it covers all the popular techniques, the fundamentals of setting up a studio, and 14 fabulous projects from traditional cloisonné, champlevé, and plique-à-jour to experimental techniques such as firing enamel onto mesh forms.

Even more creative possibilities await in the firing: Use copper oxide to create color variations, or try raku firing for unique effects. All the well-photographed projects, from a vibrantly toned flower ring to an elegant set of buttons with a delicate leaf pattern, encourage novices to use their skills and imagination.

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“Anyone who works with fused glass, metal clay, or (obviously) enameling is doing themselves a great disservice if they do not have Linda's book as an educational text and reference. There are so many ideas and tips in that book it is ridiculous. In reading that book it seemed like here was a new idea on every page.” --Barry Kaiser / www.kaiserglass.com

“This book is profoundly logical, extremely obvious, and demystifying. The book presents more relevant information about glass on metal than has ever been put into print in a single volume. Very few basic points were missed in this rich new standard. Even the advanced will rejoice and admire the magnitude of the author's commitment to consistent clarity.

“Note: Linda Darty was a student of mine at Penland. While I do hear much of my knowledge in her, she wrote the book. Lark Books was overwhelmed by her strength, dedication, and overall ability to require good old-fashioned country-style truth.

“Linda has a life filled with the positive. She is empowered with knowledge and character because she never misrepresented herself or her ability, nor those of others. Yes, I am prejudiced.” --Bill Helwig, from Glass on Metal magazine

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Arnold Howard of Paragon Industries interviewed Linda Darty for this website.

Q. Please describe your first exposure to enameling through Barbara Mail.

A. I was at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina studying ceramics. I happened to walk through the enameling studio one day when Barbara Mail, the instructor, was using underglaze pencils on a tiny pendant piece she was enameling. When I told her that I used underglaze pencils to decorate my porcelain pottery, she explained that the same materials could be used on pieces that were enameled, and they could be fired much more quickly, in only 3 minutes instead of 2 days! I jokingly tell my students that it was a revelation to me that I could do the part that I enjoyed so much (decorating, painting, drawing and glazing) without all the mud!

Seriously, I enjoyed making pottery, but at the time I was a young, single woman wanting to be mobile and still create my artwork. I was immediately seduced by the magic of firing things multiple times, so quickly, and gradually learned to enjoy the metalworking process as well.

Q. When was that?

A. That was in 1976.

Q. Please relate an interesting anecdote about Bill Helwig and your other teachers.

A. Bill was the teacher I had most often at Penland, because he taught there every summer. I'll always remember asking him how I could make my pink seashell piece more iridescent and beautiful, and he told me to fire a transparent lime green over its surface. When I hesitated and said something like "but that's green, and the piece is pink" he responded, "If you don't want my advice, don't ask for it!” Of COURSE, I quickly sifted the thin layer of lime green over the pink, and the piece became absolutely iridescent and beautiful! I remember it was a good way for Bill to teach me about using complementary colors. He was always very giving, and very patient with me.

I had so many great teachers during the 7 years I worked at Penland, I can't begin to think of all the stories. I do remember sitting in the lawn with Martha Banyas, grinding our colors in bowls of water in our laps as we “worked on our tans.” I learned to do cloisonné with Jamie Bennett. Mel Someroski made me throw my large wall piece on the floor and jump on it to flatten it so I wouldn't treat it so preciously.

Q. What do students find most interesting about enameling?

A. I think they enjoy the firing process . . . putting something into the kiln and taking it out to discover how it has transformed. It’s great to teach enameling, because it can be used in so many different ways. A form can be simply covered with a skin of colored glass; those who draw can try painting or cloisonné techniques; those who want to work fast and intuitively can try sifting or liquid enamels. I believe the full potential of enameling has yet to be discovered, and that discovery is what interests so many students.

Q. What is the most difficult aspect of enameling?

A. Really understanding the technical information about what colors work on what metals, how to get them clear, which ones need a clear undercoat, which ones are better directly on the metal. Once you understand these basics, the rest is easy.

Q. Why do you think enameling is more popular in Japan and Korea than here?

A. I guess I really don't think it IS more popular in Japan or Korea. There was a time when, for many Americans, the only enamel pieces they knew were the Japanese cloisonné imports so plentiful in the early 1900s. The Asian cloisonné work is truly beautiful, but so is the enamelwork from Russia, France, Britain, and Norway. I think that right now, Americans are doing a lot of experimental work, and enameling is VERY popular!

Q. Do you have an anecdote about teaching?

A. Hmm . . . Yes . . . . I taught a recent workshop in enameling to 15 students, and when I arrived, there were no firing screens, trivets, or firing forks. I have done without kilns before (we used torches), but this was a real challenge. The workshop was even more memorable because, since it was so hot with the kilns on inside, we moved them out to the porches. It proceeded to rain for the rest of the week, and we had shower curtains hung over tables that were sitting above the kiln tables, and students were enameling with umbrellas and raincoats! (In pairs, one would hold the umbrella while the other fired!) It was great fun, though, and I can only imagine how easy enameling seems to those students without the rain, shower curtains, and outdoor enameling experience!

Q. Do you use Paragon kilns?

A. Yes we do use Paragon kilns--they last forever!

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