GLASS METAL FIRE - Enamels at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

My educational display of enamels are on display in the Craft & Design Showcase
until 3 February 2011
The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

A range of techniques are represented and each piece displayed reveals the stages of making.

Enamel Painting is profiled by a collection of minatures.
The main piece is a painting of The Walker Art Gallery Building. This is complimented by two portraits, which are llustrations representative of Willam Roscoe and Josph Mayer, prominent figures in the early establishment of the Walker and it's collection.
The Walker -10cmx12cm -enamel on copper / silver frame.
Willam Roscoe - 8cmx6cm - enamel on copper / silver frame.
Joseph Mayer 8cmx6cm - enamel on copper / silver frame.

Cloisonne is characterised by a repeat unit necklace.
23cm diam - enamel on silver

" Off the Wall " - Enamel on Copper - Each Panel 15x15cm

A set of three abstract panels based on urban surfaces describe the combination of stencil, scraffito and screen printed methods.

As with each section supporting test pieces illustrate the build up of stages.

The Plique a Jour earrings, are based on sketches of patterns in water.
"Flow" - enamel on silver

Champleve engraving in progress.

Champleve Work, which involves the engraving of recesses for the placement of enamel is highlighted by a small salt bowl.

Champleve Salt Bowl - 11x11cm - enamel on silver

I'm delighted to be able to present a snapshot of enamel techniques again at the Walker. I first worked with the gallery on a collection of video clips showing enamel methods which is now on touch screen viewing in the Craft and Design gallery. That initial project lead me to have the confidence to develop my guide to enamelling as a book for A&C Black, and so its a major privilege for me now to return again to the Walker to profile enamels in such a prominent way.

All work is Copyright Ruth Ball 2009

A J WELLS | Large-scale enamelling workshop

Report for The British Society of Enamellers
In September I spent a very industrious and busy week learning about large scale enamelling on a workshop supported by the BSOE and the Guild of Enamellers. The expert tuition was given by Pat Johnson and the workshop was facilitated with excellence by Carol Griffin. To start the report I must say that the effort and professionalism of the entire workshop was extremely impressive. The facilities and welcome at A J WELLS a leading manufacturer of enamel products and signage, couldn't have been better. The support and encouragement shown by the team there was truly wonderful.

I was one of eight lucky participants and the week long course went very quickly indeed, each day was action packed. At the start of the workshop on the Monday, we were given a full tour of the enamel facilities. Watching the large scale kiln being operated was one of the first sights. The kiln is quite a leap in scale for enamellists normally used to firing jewellery !

The Large Kiln at A J Wells

Artwork for screen printing


Above and below are typical signage projects undertaken at the factory. The general process in production involves firstly the spraying of ground coats and then base layers. The panels then go through various firings with screen printed images. Photographic imagery can be applied if required and the quality of work produced is very notable.

Pat Johnson demonstrating spraying techniques.

Our sessions went underway by first observing Pat's demonstrations on how to spray the liquid enamel and a host of techniques were discussed. The amount of possibilities were inspiring.

My first test piece explored a variety of effects. The primary skill to try was using the spray gun. The initial layer I sprayed was white over the black ground coat, in which I also made sgraffito marks to get a feel of what sort of drawings I could achieve. The second spraying of enamel was a fine layer of black which was sprayed from the side. This, although it looks greyish fired, and it is not apparent in my photo, the effect gave a slight relief effect to the image. The final layer on this piece was an application of inks, which I loved. I enjoy using painted enamel, and they are similar, so for me they were great to use as I felt familiar with them as a media. I particularly enjoyed the fact that I could layer the effects and the enamel inks had good colour strength.

My first panel started life as a "Rolf Harris" moment...!

Armed with my sketch book I embarked on an adaptation of my winter birch tree sketches.
I decided to keep my process experimental. I had four panels to work on so I planned to learn something with each one. Rather than drawing each tree as you would on paper, I formulated a plan to create a tree "texture" and then I would cover the layer in the sprayed liquid white and sgraffito through an impression of the trees to create a semi abstract piece.

This was effective in terms of continuing with the series of images I have and it was also conducive to the limitations in time and factory processes. The restrictions of each panel we had to work on were such that we were limited to four colours / four firings. Before I attended the workshop I couldn't get my head around how to do this as I normally just keep firing until I'm happy with something ! But planning work in this way is actually quite interesting, and I never actually got to four firings with any of the pieces.

Drawing through the white layer to reveal the previous firing.

Finished Panel - Winter Birches - Forest Series - 40cm x 120cm

In my second panel I chose to explore more drawing and mark making. The ground coat of the enamel is black so I realised that I could exploit this. I also wanted to see if it was possible to combine a range of mark effects with the sgraffito technique in order to make something illustrative.

Images in this panel are referenced from my series of sketches and photos of cityscapes. I am currently interested in transformations within urban landscapes, building sites and reclaimed areas provide a good source of information for visual research. Again, on this panel instead of copying a specific "scene", I made a selection of images and drew them in several sections, visually blending each image together to form an overall picture.

"Urban Surface" - enamel on steel - 60x60cm

This panel never got its subsequent layers. This was it's one and only firing !

Initially I planned to work over the drawing and add slashes of colour and possibly would have developed more in the image. However, apart from the fact it was a more time consuming process than I had hours for, the response from everyone in the workshop was that it was fine as it was ! The less is more approach seemed to be the order of the day !

On starting panel three, I realised a bit of speeding up was needed, by this time I was well into Wednesday and there was only a couple of days left to finish everything. Apart from this I also had brought my collection of riso screens and wondered if they would work with the inks. Although the inks are oil based and the riso screen is water based (therefore once used I'd have to discard them due to the fact I'd not be able to clean the screens up) I resolved that I would at least be able to pull a few images from each screen.

Keeping to my urban theme, and enjoying the black and white look, I varied the effect on the first layer by only using sgraffito in selected areas in order to leave sections free for printing. The photo above shows the panel in the initial stage of the second layer where I have started screening on the prints. In the sgraffito layer I continued the visual effect of drawing at the edge of the piece, something that I'd become involved in the previous panel, as I wanted to put emphasis on a strong graphic approach. Moreover, developing interest on the outer points of the panel provided a quirky focal point. This breaking away from the confines of a format and thinking about the edge of the work is a process I'm starting on other pieces in my urban series, and I was quite pleased with this more stlyised effect.

The final piece - Rebuilding - enamel on steel - 60x60cm

The sgraffito layer is slightly raised and really adds subtlety to the work.

My final panel followed the same process, by now I was into the swing of it all and had found a way of working that I could have expanded upon for another week again. This time I wanted colour back, so my second firing was a layer of ink that I sponged on.

The consequent layer was the riso screen printed images, which were applied in true "Blue Peter" fashion. I worked on different areas of the piece, bit by bit, waiting for the ink to dry before applying the next part of the image. It was a bit like building a jigsaw, and rather than use frames with my screens I found that sticking and stretching the screen down with sellotape tape worked adequately ! I managed to add all the printed images in one firing, though if I'd have had more time I might have done it over two or three instead.

The final piece - Urban Changes - enamel on steel 60x60cm

This panel was my favourite piece from my week's endeavour. I really felt as though I'd achieved a lot and had discovered many possibilities, though in reality I have only just touched the surface. The potential for working in enamel on a large scale are very exciting. The resulting artworks are ideal for public and corporate commission work as enamel on steel can boast the fact that it is durable, colourfast, hygienic, easy to maintain and is even fireproof up to 800C!

In conclusion, the opportunity to be able to explore the media in a creative workshop setting within the workings of a busy factory was awesome. I reiterate the credit and much thanks which must be given to Pat and Carol for their unbelievable dedication to making the week work so well. The team at A J Wells were equally fantastic. Their generosity in allowing us into their time, space and excellent facilities was overwhelming and nothing was too much trouble. Additional highlights of the event were also really appreciated. An evening meal out for the whole group was a lovely start to the week, and a great bonus was meeting printmaker/enameller Laura Boswell, who gave an illuminating talk on her recent commission for a large enamel artwork sited in Aylesbury Town Centre.

Put simply, the week was just amazing, and a truly valued experience.

Many Thanks to all involved and to the British Society of Enamellers for their generous bursary award that enabled my participation in this event.

UWE Visit

Test Piece from UWE demonstration sheet.
Earlier in the year I visited the enamel facilities at the University of West England in Bristol.

Shrewsbury Workshop

MAY 09 - Session on print and mixed methods in enamel.

Student Pieces - YORK | EDINBURGH

This year I have visited the Guild Conference in York, and recently the Region 2 Group in Edinburgh to teach the application of precious leaf and foil onto enamel.

I introduce the workshops as being "the art of serendipity" and each time I teach this subject the saying proves true. The emphasis I make is on having a go, and just experimenting without expecting too many predicable result to start off with. However, it never fails to fascinate me that by the end of each session everyone comes aways with some really interesting results, new discoveries, and the odd masterpiece !

The discussion and analysis that takes place in group sessions insures that by the end of a day the knowledge of each characteristic is shared between everyone, enabling most of the effects to be repeatable - well, almost all of them ! there is always the happy fluke of a unique combination of temperature of firing, type / thickness of metal, combination of enamels and length of kiln time!

Just some of the results..

Samples of test work by Melissa Rigby at the Guild Conference York

An amazing process devised by Janet Notman, Edinburgh - three effects in one !

just incredible !

A beautiful organic result - this one by another enameller at the Edinburgh workshop and reminds me of stones and moss.

Layered effect using silver leaf

David Knight applying gold foil to enamel on steel.

Here a real mixture of leaf and foils using gold and silver, and I think finished with an underfired flux for the frosty effect ! - sample by Dorothy Cockrel.


This page highlights some of the work done by students on the enamel workshops devised for the BTEC Jewellery Design Programme at Manchester College, which took place in May. The three sessions were taught in conjunction with course tutor Rowean Galton.

The energy, and variety of work, in the tests pieces that were produced is inspirational.

The students produced quite a prolific amount of samples !

Their resulting designs reflect a through exploration into the qualities of surface,

... and a room full of real talent, amazing creativity, and lots of enthusiasm !

Experimental Leaf and Foil

These are just some of the pieces I showed at the Region 3 Enamellers guild meeting, hosted by Tilly Wilkinson and held on Sunday 14th March 09 at Merchant Taylors High School, Merseyside.

The aim of the session was to explore and demonstrate the many different effects you can achieve with the various applications of precious leaf & foils.

Here tiny specks of gold foil are fused into this cloisonne piece. The foil compliments the detailed line work, and gives an added highlight.

The pieces below illustrate some experimental effects with leaf......

This section of a panel has been stencilled. The leaf was applied and rubbed back before firing. A subsequent firing of flux was masked out to form the darker more subtle circular shape and was under fired.

Here on a copper base, oxide was formed by scribing through the metal to make a drawing and soldering flux was used to mask areas before heating, in order to create different "tones" in the metal. An enamel flux was then fired over the oxidised copper ( and wasn't cleaned before applying the enamel ! which is so liberating !) Gold leaf was applied and fired just so that the leaf was fused, at this point it also starts to Craze, which I think on this test piece adds to the painterly effect. I love the fact that the cracking echos the drawing in the copper.

This looks a bit OTT ! the leaf is placed over a base of enamel which has a screen printed pattern. The pattern was fired so that it was raised up on the surface. The leaf was then fired to the "crazing point" - after firing I rubbed some of the pattern back with a fine diagrit pad leaving the piece to look like an ancient lost relic....well maybe, perhaps I'm being too romantic!

Another surface play - I love this test piece at the moment - the metal was textured in a press. A white base was fired first, a couple of coats, then the leaf was fired in. Over the leaf is then a stenciled pattern in white, plus a second layer of under fired flux. The effect is subtle and the under fire adds a shimmer to the gold.
The next class in Leaf and Foil will be taught at the Guild Conference in York...I'm still playing with effects and having fun developing ideas ! will post more soon.

All Copyright - Ruth Ball 2009

Enamelling with Pauline

I spent an very enjoyable day recently, working with Pauline Hughes, ceramic artist and good friend.

Pauline's work centers on creating figurative forms that possess a strong physical presence.
She works both three dimensionally carving distinctive forms from the clay and two dimensionally on wall plaques which utilise the scraffito technique to fashion her images.

Her aim in these test plates were to see how the methods and images that she works with translated into enamel......

This piece was first covered with a fired base coat of white enamel. A subsequent layer of black enamel was sifted over and then the drawing was scratched through, using cocktail /wood sticks.
It's not apparent on the photo, but the surface was really pleasing as the furrows of scraffito added to the overall impression of the work.

In this piece, again a white surface was fired, but this time stoned back to a matt finish. Using an ordinary graphite pencil, Pauline then drew the face. The piece was fired back to a gloss finish, fusing the pencil drawing into the enamel. It would have been quite nice to matt the piece back again, but the drawing was lovely and subtle, the areas of tone where the drawing was less defined were really beautiful.

This piece is my favourite. Here Pauline firstly fired a white base coat, then painted a layer of black enamel paint which she left to dry. When dry she scratched her drawing into the surface and fired the piece. The granular surface was created by under firing the subsequent flux layer.
This gave her the added dimension of an alternative textural surface, which I think added something to the quality of the drawing.
We established quite a few ways of developing ideas for new ways in which to work, using enamel. The "Plus Factor" was that it was a such a lovely day and we had good fun exploring all the different alternatives. It was so beneficial to be able to spend some time working with another artist, sharing thoughts and ideas. Looking at things from a different perspective is always a great bonus, and an enlightening experience.

Champleve Presentation

I've just discovered ! You can upload documents and they are formatted for you with the click of a mouse !

Mersey Bio

"Off the wall" - Copyright Ruth Ball 2009

5th Jan - 21th Feb 2009
A selection of wall based enamel art and a display section of jewellery pieces are currently on loan for an "in house" exhibition at Mersey Bio part of Liverpool University.
Exhibitions are organised by Arts Liason Officer, Alison Roberts. The aim of the scheme is to promote local artist and provide added interest and a point of enrichment to staff areas.
(Please note that the exhibition is not open to the public )

Laura Ball Enamels

This enamel panel was created by my daughter. It is her first enamel piece !
She is studying for her GCSE Art exam and is very interested in textures, in particular abandoned surfaces and decaying walls in urban areas.

Painted Enamel Workshop


On the 13th July 2008, I was privileged to be invited by Tilly Wilkinson co/ The Guild of Enamellers to work with the students of Merchant Taylors' Boys School on their painted enamel project. The students worked on images inspired by The Klimt Exhibition at the Tate Gallery Liverpool. Isolated sections of photocopied Klimt paintings provided an ideal subject with which to learn the process of enamel painting.

Students prepared and worked on small enamelled copper discs following through the stages of the technique.It was interesting to see a mix of approaches to the project - particularly, I thought, the use of a mobile phone image to work from was inspirational ! - the combination of an old technique with new technology was a great twist ! With the aid of pixels and paint there was the translation of one miniature view to another !