Monday, November 14, 2011

More Enameled Cage Beads

A friend who follows my blog recently asked me what I've been up to lately and it's an easy answer this time: more enameled cage beads! I was going for a "faux raku" look here by mixing colors and using transparent enamels on top of my favorite opaque colors... not sure that I succeeded exactly, but I'm really pleased with these beads anyway.
This has been a process of experimentation for me because I have not had the benefit of a good class or workshop in enameling yet, but I have to thank Barbara Lewis again for helping me via email when I ran into trouble with my beads. They were looking great until I put them in the vermiculite to cool, when I discovered to my dismay that they were cracking and sometimes bits of enamel would suddenly split off with a little "ping" up to several minutes into their cooling session. This really vexed me because I love making these beads and I am crazy about the colorful results.
Barbara made several helpful suggestions that made all the difference, and I thought I'd share her wisdom with you here:
1. Start with a layer of clear fusing enamel.
2. Limit the number of layers of colored enamel; the thicker the enamel, the more likely it is to crack.
3. Heat vermiculite in a crock-pot prior to making beads. I now pre-heat my vermiculite for a full hour in a small crock pot before I even turn on the torch.
4. Flame-anneal each bead immediately after you've made it by holding it several inches beyond the tip of the flame where it's still hot, but not hot enough to melt the enamel any more. I hold the bead out in this position for a full minute before dropping it into the crock pot of heated vermiculite.
5. Once I've made all my beads, I leave them in heated vermiculite for about an hour, then turn off the crock pot, and remove the beads hours later (oftentimes the next morning). They should cool slowly.
You might think this is a lot of work to go through to make some enameled cage beads, but if you don't take care it is very frustrating to have made a beautiful bead, only to find little chips and cracks in it later.
Thank you Barbara, for being so helpful! In case you don't already know, she has a terrific book out called Torch-Fired Enamel Jewelry and it's amazon.com's bestselling craft book for 2011!
Happy wrapping (and enameling),
Sharilyn
p.s. We'll be making enameled cage beads during my next Wild Wire Women retreat on Dec. 1-5, 2011!

4 comments:

Christine said...

Thanks for the great info - I'm going to start enameling soon & this is very helpful!!

somethingunique said...

Me too..thanks for the awesome tips...
take care & have a great day...ttfn Lana :)

TheAntiquePalette said...

Sharilyn, these are beautiful!
Thank you for posting your experiences so we can learn from them.
Susie
TheAntiquePalette.etsy.com

Barbara Lewis said...

Sharilyn, These are gorgeous! I'm so glad you started enameling ... you're an inspiration to me!