About Me

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I am an artist, wife and mother, paraeducator, yo-yo dieter, and small town country girl. I love singing in my church choir, computer time, beading and making jewelry. And I love enameling! There is something very magical about turning powder into smooth, shiny, and colorful glass.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Enameling over Transparents

Interesting and rustic effects can be achieved by enameling over a clear transparent enamel. The clear transparent enamels are "soft" and the color you choose to put on top will sink into the clear layer a bit so the beautiful copper color shines through. Transparent enamel is also called flux not to be confused with the flux that is used in soldering. I use Thompsen medium clear and put a generous coat on the front and back. It's great for smaller pieces because it covers easily when fired and makes a good base for the next layer. For these pieces, I used Foundation white as my second layer and one layer of a transparent color on top. Pretty spring colors with a rustic look!
  I experimented a little by first sifting a small amount of the white on the reverse and letting that dry. Then I sifted the white on the front being careful not to dislodge too much of the enamel on the back. I fired the front and back at the same time and it worked great! The backs have a nice look, simple but interesting. I can't wait to turn these little beauties into earrings. The curved flowers at the top will be layered on hammered and antiqued copper discs with beads and chain. Winter is hanging on here in Vermont so I had to create my own Spring garden!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Beads

my new beads

more disasters
I was very excited by my bead making in my last post and was anxious to try again with some more colors. I heated my kiln to 1500 degrees because I thought the beads took too long to fire the last time around. I quickly discovered that wasn't the answer. The enamel burned around the holes before it got to the smooth stage so I turned the kiln down to 1470 degrees and that seemed the perfect temp for bead making. I tried painting flux on the mandrels but that didn't help, the beads still stuck  and it was very hard to get them off. I need to get some Bead Release or Scalex which I read worked. I tried a darker red since my last try with red didn't go well (see my last post) but that was another disaster! Orange was also a failure, the enamel 'pinged' right off. I'm not sure of the reason for this but I think it's because of the co-expansion rate not being compatible with a curved surface. The third bead in the picture, the one still on the mandrel was a dark purple. For some reason, it come out pitted and a weird color, but I will try a different purple over it. I also want to try some more artistic things on the larger beads I have and I will share these good or bad! All in all I did end up with three more beads that came out smooth and shiny and I consider them a success!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Enameled Beads

  This was the first time I tried to make beads so this blog post is certainly not a tutorial, but the process was fun and interesting so I wanted to write about it. I've wanted to make beads for a long time to add to my Etsy supplies shop, but I believed you needed to use liquid enamels or 60 mesh enamels and I didn't want to buy a whole new set of. I've seen some gorgeous torch fired enameled beads but I wanted to use my kiln. I envisioned smooth shiny beads in bright beautiful colors! Someone I was talking to about beads (and I'm sorry but I can't remember who) told me I could use my 80 mesh powdered enamels as long as I counter enameled the beads with some liquid enamel on the inside. I bought a bead rack, copper blank beads, and white liquid enamel and got ready to experiment!

First I scrubbed the beads with Penny Brite and while they were drying I mixed the enamel. There were a variety of mixing methods and complicated sounding stuff in the pamphlet so I picked the easiest. You make a well in the powder and fill it with water several times until the top looks wet, then you mix until the consistency of paint. Easy! Then, using an eyedropper, I put some wet enamel in the tiny hole of the bead and rolled it around in my hand hoping to cover the inside. Very messy! I wanted  the enamel to dry completely so I let it the beads sit overnight.
The liquid enamel can be covered and used again. In the future I'm going to experiment with the liquid enamel and see what other interesting effects I can get. When they were dry,I cleaned the white powder off a bead and slid it onto the mandrel. I covered the bead with the liquid adhesive using a small paintbrush. It was very awkward because the bead turned and I couldn't tell if it was covered. Then I sifted on my enamel. I found it worked best when I did the ends first and then the middle. The adhesive dripped a little and caused the powder to do some funny things.

the disaster
Then I placed the mandrel on top of the bead rack to dry. When dry, I fired my beads at 1460 degrees for about 4 minutes until the orange peel stage. Some of the beads had spots where the enamel didn't cover or flaked off and my red bead was a total disaster!!
The next beads I cleaned again with the Penny Brite and they were more successful. I put three coats of enamel on my beads before I got the smooth and shiny surface I was hoping for! I think next time I will increase the temperature of my kiln. It took a long time to fire the beads and the enamel got a little bumpy with some colors, as if it flowed a bit in the kiln. Another problem I had was the beads got stuck to the mandrel. I had to bend and twist and broke off some enamel near the holes. I read that you could use bead release or Scalex on the mandrel. I don't have Scalex but I do have some flux (the kind you use for soldering) so I'll try that on my next batch.  I also want to try some effects with different colors, transparents, and putting a coat of clear on first. I'm pretty happy with my beads!

My colorful finished beads!