A friend recently asked me about my learning processes and it made me wonder how you would set about learning to enamel today? It was once possible to take a traditional apprenticeship, slowly and precisely learning all the processes needed for enamelling in the commercial world. I am not sure whether that avenue exists at all today. There are very few places within UK colleges and universities where enamelling is taught. This means most learning will be through self directed study (books and DVDs) exactly the way I began back in 1999.
I started by buying a small electric kiln and a kind of starter pack that contained a few basic tools and a small selection of copper shapes and enamels. I joined the Guild of Enamellers, used their library and began to try things out. Being a member of the Guild of Enamellers has brought me into contact with some amazing Enamellers, teaching and sharing their skills at regional meetings and the annual conference and I would highly recommend it as a starting point for anyone who is interested, even just vaguely interested, in enamel.
Anyway, here I am now, it changed my life – I now have the freedom to design and make work in whichever part of the week I want and I am teaching and passing on the things I have learned along the way. I am loving the flexibility it has given me. Ok, I may not earn as much as I did when I had that salaried post but that is far outweighed by all the other benefits. Today I have been in the studio finishing off a few outstanding projects and photographing them.
This ring is called Ripple and Splash and is inspired by all my little trips to the nearby coast. It has seven little pearls to evoke that memory of bubbles and the foamy edge of waves. It is very much a ring for special occasions and I am thrilled with the way it has turned out – just as I envisaged when I designed it, quite some time ago.
If you are interested in learning to enamel I do run classes and am happy to teach on a one to one basis. There are lots of other talented Enamellers around the country who are also happy to share their skills and can be found via the Guild website (link above).