Enamoured at the Goldsmiths' Centre

12 October, 2016 - 18 November, 2016
An exhibition celebrating the work of leading and upcoming enamellers organised by The British Society of Enamellers

The broad spectrum of luminous work in enamel by some of the country’s leading and upcoming enamellers is showcased in a fascinating and colourful exhibition organised by the British Society of Enamellers (BSoE).

In displaying the very best of contemporary enamelling, the exhibition celebrates this complex and ancient art form in all its multiple guises.  The majority of the works featured in the exhibition are by members of the BSoE, including some of its experienced, distinguished members such as Jane Short, Ruth Ball, Tamar de Vries Winter, Joan Mackarell, Sheila Macdonald and Jenny Edge.

Endre Hevezi, who at 93 is one of the oldest of the group, while the new generation of recent enamel graduates is also represented by the likes of Mark Newman, Naomi Nevill and Rebecca Blakeway, all of whom are still in their 20s.

“I am drawn to enamel by its colour and the fact that there are multiple ways to produce all sorts of effects. Working in enamel provides endless scope for expression.”

Sheila McDonald, Bird series brooch, 2014, silver, enamel, gold foil © Sheila McDonald

Dating as far back as the 16th century BC, enamelling is a form of mysterious alchemy. An exacting and challenging craft, requiring great artistry and patience, it involves the application of powdered coloured glass or “frit” onto a metal surface. This is then fired in a kiln at a very high temperature (800 Centigrade or above), an often highly precarious process. It is while in the kiln that an almost magical transformation occurs. The “frit” fuses to the metal and becomes a hard, smooth and durable surface often of an intense colour. Transparent, opaque or even translucent, a highly skilled enameller can achieve a rich and infinite palette of colours, from hot and vibrant to delicate and subtle. It is this heightened, pure colour that is the enduring allure of enamel.

Over the centuries a variety of techniques have evolved, the most commonly still widely practiced being Basse-Taille, Champlevé, Cloisonné and Plique à Jour. While the skills have passed down, largely unchanged, modern enamels can now be industrially applied, as well as wet laid, sieved on and even sprayed on. 

Likewise although enamel is often associated with jewellery and precious objects, its use is far more widespread and sometimes surprising, as enamel can also be applied to most metals including copper, stainless steel and cast iron.

Deirdre McCrory, Prickly Pear Bowl, 2013 champlevé enamel on silver © David Pauley

All the different enamelling techniques and usages are vividly revealed and explained through the wide variety of works, preparatory pieces and drawings on display in the exhibition Enamoured.

Each demonstrates how enamellers working in Britain today are constantly experimenting and breathing new energy into this ancient art form.  Not only are traditional enamelling techniques to be observed, this is an opportunity to discover other current practices such as copper and steel work with fold-forming, sifting, high-fired, sgraffito, kiln-firing and torch-firing.  Examples of enamel used in regalia and commercial work are also featured thereby completing the enamel story.  

Viewed collectively Enamoured, testifies to the high level of artistic and technical excellence of contemporary enamellers, and as such is inspirational, educational and hugely revelatory.

The exhibition is supported by the Goldsmiths’ Company and the Goldsmiths’ Centre.

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