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Designing PMC Pieces for Enamel

By Jeanette Landenwitch

Precious Metal Clay, being fine silver and high karat gold, is the perfect material to accept enamel. It is possible to achieve incredible texture and depth that would be very labor intensive, and sometimes impossible, with conventional metal. With traditional enameling the colors of the enamel create the design and are quite often the focus of the design. With PMC, the textures and designs that can be created are the ‘star’ of the piece. The challenge is to marry the characteristics of the PMC and the colors of the enamel so they compliment each other and work together to create a well-balanced piece. The following photo illustrates a comparison between traditional cloisonné and PMC cloisonné. This is a somewhat simplistic illustration to show how texturing and changing the thickness of PMC can be used to add dimension and design.

Figure ‘A’ is traditional cloisonné on copper. Figure ‘B’ is the same design using PMC+. There is approximately 12%-14% shrinkage when the piece is fired, so it is slightly smaller than the copper cloisonné piece. The pendant base, the outline of the hat, the hair, and the neck are cloisonné wire made from PMC. The outline of the face, the earring, and the inside curls of the hair are conventional cloisonné wire. Figure ‘C’ uses Original PMC, which has approximately 28% shrinkage. The base of the piece and the outline of the hat are Original PMC. The fur collar is PMC applied with a syringe. The earring is conventional cloisonné wire. The outline of the face and hair were omitted for a less defined look.

The general process in preparing a PMC piece for enameling is as follows. Make the PMC piece, fire it, finish it, enamel it. After firing there are several ways to finish a PMC piece. Straight from the furnace the PMC has a white matte look to it. Enamel can be applied at this point, or the piece can be brought to a satin or high polished finish. Look closely at Figures ‘B’ and ‘C’. The same colors were used on the faces. The face in Figure ‘C’ was enameled over the white matte finish as it comes straight from the kiln. The face in Figure ‘B’ had enamel applied over a high polish. You’ll notice a softer, more life-like shading and color in Figure ‘C’ because of the white background.

The following project is an easy PMC pendant designed using several common techniques in working with PMC. This is a great piece to make in order to introduce the enamelist to the material.

Last updated on Tue, July 28, 2009 by Metal Clay Guru