Champleve Enamel No1.The Engraved Method
Copyright Ruth Ball 2007
No. 1 The Engraved Method The technique of champleve requires areas of metal surface to be cut away. The effects can give a strong design element and a graphic approach to imagery. •
Engraving is the most formal method used to create the design required.
The tools are hand held and provide good control.
The technique is skilful and labour intensive.
The areas that are cut are typically called “cells”
The cells are filled with layers of enamel until the enamel is flush with the metal, in effect leaving the enamel inlayed into the metal.
Engraving tools are made from specially tempered steel and are fitted with wooden handles. The cutting point has to be kept sharpened to a 45% angle so that they can cut the metal effectively.
Engravers for champleve are four basic shapes. The round end engraver cuts out the area. The Flat shaped engravers cut out the depth needed and the spitstick cuts and trims the side walls to finish the edges of the areas that are cut.
The metal is marked out, firstly by tracing the design onto the metal â€“ then with a scriber to define the outlines.
The initial step involves cutting the outlines with the half round engraver and then the areas of metal are cut away with the flat engravers. This process is done twice to achieve the depth of recess needed for the enamel.
To hold the work, the piece is either fixed into an engravers vice (above) or supported on a small wooden block, which is held by hand on a leather sand bag. (right) In the final cutting decorative marks are made, thus enabling better reflectivity through the transparent enamel.
The enamel is ground, washed and placed into small pallets. Applied with an old fashioned quill the enamel fills each section required, each colour being placed onto the work seperately.
As the enamel is suspended in water, any moisture must be dried off before firing in the kiln. Metal trivets hold the work and the firing is quite short â€“ less than a minute !
A second layer of enamel is applied. Typically the piece needs at least 3 – 4 layers of enamel to fill the “cells”.
In the final layer tiny sections of gold foil can be added for a highlight. These are fired into the enamel. Once fired into the enamel surface a clear transparent enamel, called flux, is then applied.
Above : The piece is subsequently stoned back, with carborundom stone and water. It is then re fired for the final time. Right: The final firing leaves the enamel flush with the level of the metal. The piece is then ready to be polished. The engraved pattern picks up the transparency of the colours – this added effect is called “Basse Taille” Enamelling.