Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England Centre for Fine Print Research
 

Grant title: Research Fellowship for Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surfaces in Jewellery

Awarding body: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Awarded to: Jessica Turrell
Project duration: 1.09.2007 - 31.08.2010

introduction:
The research project is based on the premise that there is huge and largely unexplored potential for innovation within the field of enamelled jewellery. By taking both a practice-led and theoretical approach the aim of the project has been to identify factors that might hinder innovation and present a series of alternative approaches that encourage a more experimental and open-minded approach to enamel.

Research Context
The practical aspects of the research project were underpinned by theoretical and contextual research into the place of enamel in contemporary jewellery practice. This included a wide-ranging visual and literature survey. Web-based research combined with a series of visits to individual practitioners in the USA and Europe as well as to significant exhibitions and collections in Europe, the UK and USA, provided a broad overview of current enamel jewellery practice. This contextual research led to the identification of a number of contemporary jewellers for whom enamel forms a significant part of their practice. A methodology was developed by which the output of these jewellers was analyzed and then allocated to one of three distinct categories. These were as follows:

Skilled (fine) - broadly work that concentrates on traditional enamelling techniques to create work for a mainstream or commercial market.

New - where the work itself engages with contemporary ideas but where enamel is used simply to add a paint-like layer of colour to the surface of the piece using only basic techniques.

Innovative - where the two practices overlap and the artist is able to demonstrate both a k

A selected group of individuals, identified through this process as falling into the Innovative category, were then invited to submit images and supporting written material to the new Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surfaces in Jewellery database that operates alongside (and is complimentary to) the existing International Contemporary Vitreous Enamel Archive (ICVEA) currently held by the Enamel Research Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol. 


Link to Innovation in Enamel Jewellery database
Link to ICVEA


The contextual and theoretical aspects of the project are examined in depth in an article for Craft Research entitled Surface and Substance – a call for the fusion of skill and ideas in contemporary enamel jewellery.
The article is available online at the following site: craft research journal online

Discussion Forum
A variety of approaches have been taken in order to stimulate debate and comment regarding the place of enamel in contemporary jewellery practice. The first of these was a discussion forum entitled ‘Innovation in Enamel’ which has involved a number of internationally prominent enamel artists all of whom demonstrate a non-traditional approach to their enamel practice. The central aim of this forum has been to highlight the potential of enamel as an innovative medium and to stimulate debate about the aesthetic, conceptual and practical considerations that govern the use of enamel in contemporary jewellery practice. The forum has operated as a members’ only project, meaning that the site can only be accessed by registered members and they alone are able to view the content and submit comment. The rational for this was to encourage those involved to freely discuss their ideas without the constraints of operating within a public arena.

Selected extracts and a summary of the discussions threads can be accessed here.

In addition to the forum site, Jessica has initiated a discussion strand -‘Surface and substance: the place of enamel in contemporary jewellery practice’, which appears on the International Art Jewellery Online Community, Klimt02 - www.klimt02.net/blogs

These two discussion strands have informed the written and theoretical aspects of the research and the production of a number of case studies. 


Case Studies
The case studies feature artists who were chosen as representative of a broad and diverse range of approaches to enamel. The links below the image will download a .pdf of the case study.











In order to 

promote innovative enamel jewellery to the widest possible audience Jessica is currently curating a significant international exhibition that will feature a group of jewellers identified for their innovative use of enamel. The show will begin its tour at Contemporary Applied Arts in London in late 2011, and will then travel to a number of venues across the UK including to the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales.


Practical and Technical Research

The focus of the practical element of the research has been an investigation into the use of innovative and experimental enamelling techniques in the production of contemporary jewellery. Methods and approaches more usually associated with large-scale and panel enamelling and industrial processes have been adapted for use in wearable pieces. This investigation is supported by the development of a range of techniques that allow for the creation of three-dimensional forms that can be successfully enamelled.


The practical and technical aspects of the research fall into two main categories, these are the production of three-dimensional forms capable of being enamelled in the round and the development of enamelling techniques suitable for application to these three-dimensional forms.


Three-dimensional form trials

Initial research involved investigations into the use of three-dimensional forms created using traditional forming, construction and joining methods. The most commonly used joining technique is the use of high melting-point (or hard) silver solders. The received wisdom is that it is not possible to enamel directly over a soldered joint as the solder will discolour the overlying enamel and can in some cases cause it to come away from the soldered joint. In order to test this theory, extensive investigations were undertaken into the use of a group of silver alloy solders, which were tested for their stability and the effect that they had on the subsequent layer of fired enamel.

Link to solder tests and outcomes

Although some solders gave better results than others they all visibly interfered with the enamel they were directly in contact with in some way.

As an alternative to the use of solders, fusion and laser welding were investigated. Both these methods use high levels of accurately directed heat to achieve a fused joint that does not require any additional solder. Although, to differing degrees, both of these techniques created a satisfactory join over which enamel could successfully be applied without too many problems the equipment required was not easily accessible, required outside assistance and was expensive to trial. For these reasons this avenue of research was not pursued.


It seemed that a seam free object should prove the ideal form over which to apply the enamel. There are a number of small-scale silver and copper-smithing techniques that can be employed to raise a seam-free hollow form from a flat sheet of meta,l but such methods are technically demanding and particularly difficult on a small scale. Thus this avenue of research was also rejected. Instead, the technique of electroforming seemed to offer a versatile and accessible method for the creation of 3D forms, and it became clear that a detailed investigation of the technique would prove to be the most productive strand of research.

To this end bespoke electroforming equipment was researched, designed, and built, and a series of tests undertaken. Research and trials were carried out to establish the most suitable materials and methods of production of base forms upon which metal might be deposited during the electroforming process.
Link to substrate materials tests and outcomes

Discussions took place with colleagues from the 3D Research Laboratory within the CFPR into the possibilities of creating mandrels using rapid prototyping techniques, and the indicative trials that were carried out to ascertain the suitability of the RP process to create electroforming mandrels and the potential for the medium with which the object is printed both to withstand the process and be easily removed as a core prior to enamelling. As a direction for further research these initial trials hold a lot of promise.

This collaborative strand of research was documented in a poster presentation given during the IMPACT 7 conference in 2009.
Link to the IMPACT poster presentation

In order for the electroforming process to occur it is necessary that the surface of the object to be electroformed is able to conduct an electrical current. As a number of non-conductive materials had been identified as appropriate to this research it was therefore necessary to undertake a further series of trails to establish the most suitable electro-conductive coatings for the purposes of the project.
Link to electro-conductive coating tests and outcomes

The final experiments in the production of the underlying electroforms was to trial all the variable of the electroforming process itself to establish the best method for the creation of a smooth and stable form of an appropriate surface and structure that would withstand the application of enamel.
Link to electroforming tests and outcomes


Enamelling trials
In order to develop methods for the application of enamel to the three-dimensional forms resulting from the first strand of investigation, a comprehensive series of tests for the application and adhesion of jewellery and industrial enamel to two and 3D surfaces was undertaken. Stilting and firing methods for 3D objects enamelled in the round were also investigated. Methodology for the recording of technical tests has been developed and trialed and a standardized format has been developed, informed by these trials, which has been used to record the results of all tests undertaken.
Link to enamel tests and outcomes

Practical Outcomes
On completion of the practical trials a group of jewellery pieces were created using the methods established as most appropriate in the realization of a defined personal aesthetic. These pieces were exhibited at Contemporary Applied Art in London during June and July 2010.
(See below for images of finished pieces - click on each image to enlarge)

electroformed and enamelled necklace
electroformed and enamelled pendants
electroformed and enamelled pendant
electroformed and enamelled brooches
Electroformed and enamelled pendant









Visit the CAA exhibition page at
http://www.caa.org.uk/exhibitions/archive


Dissemination
The practical and theoretical outcomes of the project were disseminated by a number of methods throughout the period of the research.

symposium:
A symposium was held at the Bower Ashton Campus, University of the West of England in July 2010:
Read a review of the symposium here - http://www.iom3.org/news/enamoured-enamel
enamel symposium imageSUMMARY:
Addressing an audience composed of professional makers, academics, researchers and students the symposium examined the place of enamel within contemporary jewellery practice, celebrating its potential as an exciting and innovative material. At a time when increasing numbers of contemporary jewellers are rediscovering enamel this event offered a timely opportunity for the sharing of information and ideas plus a chance to network and take part in debate.


SPEAKERS:
Jessica Turrell - AHRC research fellow – enamel, UK
Jessica discussed her AHRC funded research project Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surface for Jewellery. This practice-led and theoretical project has investigated the barriers to innovation and experimentation in enamel jewellery and the potential that alternative approaches have to encourage a new attitude to enamel.
Download the powerpoint presentation - Presentation.pdf
Download the transcript, to be read with the above presentation - Transcript.pdf

Elizabeth Turrell - Senior research fellow – enamel, UK
Elizabeth delivered a talk entitled Reinterpreting Glass on Metal in which she examined the potential for widening the vocabulary of enamel and its innovative opportunities for makers.

Christine Graf - Enamel artist, Munich, Germany
Jeweller and enamel artist Christine Graf discussed the central role that enamel has played in her studio practice over the last decade.

Professor Robert Ebendorf - Jeweller, USA and visiting professor, UWE
Robert Ebendorf led a lively discussion session on the current status of enamel in jewellery education.

In addition to the speaker presentations the day included an opportunity for delegates to visit the Enamel Research unit and to view the practical experiments and finished pieces resulting from the project Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surface for Jewellery. Lunch and the studio tours provided delegates with important opportunities to exchange views and to network.


conference:
A paper was presented at the Association for Contemporary Jewellery conference Crossings, held at West Dean in July 2010
Download the PowerPoint presentation as a .pdf - Presentation.pdf
Download the transcript, to be read with the above presentation - Transcript.pdf

This paper will also be published on the ACJ website in due course, see
- www.acj.org.uk


Conclusion
The ultimate aim of the project has been to demonstrate the potential of enamel as an exciting and innovative material and to thus affect a change in the commonly held perception that enamel is a medium not readily associated with contemporary jewellery practice. It is anticipated that the dissemination of the outcomes of the research project Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surface for Jewellery will go some way towards the creation of an environment where the innovative potential of the material is more widely recognized, both by the jewellery community and within art education, thus allowing a more ambitious and rigorous enamel practice to flourish.




 

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