my experiments with hand-cut cloisonne wires have only been moderately successful, in part because i simply couldn’t cut them thinly or accurately enough. my only options for easily available ready-made wires were in precious metals. silver wires can’t be used directly onto copper because where they meet they create an alloy which has a lower melting point than either metal alone, which can cause sliding and contamination of enamels. so i decided to take a chance on fine silver foil (thicker than silver leaf) and silver wires.
the foil is applied over an initial enamel layer, then coated with transparent flux. wires are fired on top of the flux layer, they slump in the kiln and form to the shape of the piece, fusing into the enamel below.
for these samples i used existing pieces, one with a single layer of turquoise transparent enamel (left) the other with a base layer of flux and a second turquoise layer (right). the colour has bled through in unexpected but attractive ways. one piece (i believe the one on the right) had air bubbles in the foil after firing which i pierced, this might explain the increased colouration as the enamel was able to bleed up through and over the foil.
the left-hand piece uses rectangular wires (1mm high x 0.2mm wide), the one on the right uses 0.5mm round wire. at present i think i will prefer the right-hand sample – the wires will be more prominent once ground back, because they are wider. there will also be a thinner layer of enamel, which in my experience will give greater translucence.
the flux on both pieces – but more noticeably on the left hand piece – is somewhat cloudy. i haven’t yet ventured into washing and grading my enamels but i think it would be helpful to preserve the clarity of the flux. the cloudiness is caused by the presence of contaminants and the smallest glass particles. if i can wash these out i hope to retain a brilliant finish.