Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Plique A Jour

I will begin this journey with mentioning there were two reasons I wanted to do plique a jour. One was that it was a type of enameling done by the Rus starting around 600ish. But the real reason I wanted to do plique a jour? It has a 90% failure rate. Anything that has such a high failure rate HAS to be fascinating, so I needed to give it a try.

A little back ground: Plique a Jour is describe on Wikipedia as being "a vitreous enamelling technique where the enamel is applied in cells, similar to cloisonné, but with no backing in the final product, so light can shine through the transparent or translucent enamel. It is in effect a miniature version of stained-glass and is considered very challenging technically: high time consumption (up to 4 months per item), high failure rate, requires psychological strength to start over. The technique is similar to that of cloisonné, but using a temporary backing that after firing is dissolved by acid or rubbed away.[1] A different technique relies solely on surface tension, for smaller areas."

Now, as far as I have come to understand through reading various articles and books, there are three different ways you can do this form of enameling.

1) Create a fanciful framework of wires that make shapes and designs, often soddering wires together, to create a very thin and fine work.

2) Using a main frame work, wires can then be laid within the area that the enameling is going on.

3) Using a sheet of metal, cut out holes in order to later fill them with the enamel.

This last style is the one we decided to use as it seemed it would be the easiest with perhaps a higher chance of success than balancing the glass in the wire networks we could have woven. That, and it took a lot less time to punch and cut holes than create a whole mass of wire.

So, this meant a few things. One of which was me creating a design that I then got to, for the first time ever, use a jeweler's saw to cut out. I decided to go with a slavic design with a few artistic licenses. My over all idea was to do a temple ring. Simple, easy, but could plausibly look elegant. It would only be one, so I would probably just make it into a pendant at some point in time.

In either case, the design was chosen and I cut out the holes. The next step was to choose and filter the color glass wanted.

Now, in the book, we read that the class should be sifted through a 325 hole per inch filter. Whatever makes it through you can mix with the solvent and fill the holes, being careful to keep the sides clean. I think that was the hardest part.

Once the glass was in, we let it dry a little bit, but honestly, it wasn't needed. It could dry with the torch. The hard part was heating up the metal away from the glass before getting to the glass. If the glass heated up too quickly first there was a likelyhood of it not taking to the metal and dropping out. Once you figured out how to do it, as nerve wracking as it is, it seemed easier.

A thin sheet of glass and another pile went on. Honestly, once you have a good base to start with, you can pile the glass on pretty high to create a rounded bubble. It goes a LOT faster that way, although they really suggest doing it one thin layer at a time. The trouble is, I wanted to be done in one day as opposed to taking months. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I just wanted to get a taste of it.

After both colors and both front and back were raised, I ground everything down with a stone so that it would be flat and get the glass off of the edges. One last burn to flatten everything out, polish the copper, and I was done.

I really enjoyed making it and would like to do something a little more intricate next time. But there you have it. Plique a jour, a success!