Enameller

,  28 November 2012

Enamelling involves the fusing of glass by heat onto a metal surface to create coloured decoration.

Metals used for enamelling include gold, silver, copper, steel, cast iron and platinum. Photo: Holts Academy
Metals used for enamelling include gold, silver, copper, steel, cast iron and platinum. Photo: Holts Academy

What do enamellers do? 

Enamelling is a colourful way to decorate objects. It involves the fusing of glass by heat onto a metal surface.

The enamel consists of powdered glass, coloured by oxides. It is applied to the metal either wet or dry. The metal is then heated to about 850 degrees centigrade. Heating is usually in a kiln, but can also be done with a handheld torch.

The heat causes the enamel to melt and fuse to the metal. The heating time is short, usually up to 10 minutes. More enamel, in different colours or textures can be added and the piece refired, sometimes up to 20 times.

Metals used for enamelling include gold, silver, copper, steel, cast iron and platinum.

Enamelling has been used for centuries. Pieces have been found from Roman, ancient Egyptian and Anglo-Saxon times.

Various techniques can be used to produce different finishes. Enamelling can be used on jewellery or other decorative items such as bowls, plates or vases.

Some enamellers have other craft skills, such as metalsmithing. They may make the pieces of jewellery which they then enamel. Some enamelling techniques involve engraving. Enamellers may do this themselves or employ an engraver.

What is the job like?

Enamellers work in a studio. This may be at home or elsewhere, and they may share the studio with other craft workers. Many are self-employed. Customers may come to the studio to discuss designs and buy pieces of work.

Enamellers may go to craft fairs and events in the UK and overseas. Here they can meet other craft workers and suppliers, and display their goods to visitors, including members of the public.

Many enamellers have websites to advertise and display their designs and services.

How do I become an enameller?

You need to be:

  • interested in craft and design
  • interested in working with metals
  • someone with creative flair
  • good at working with your hands
  • able to work carefully at very high temperatures.

If you are dealing with the public, you also need to have customer service skills. If you are designing bespoke pieces, you need to be able to explain your creative ideas to customers.

If you're self-employed, you need business skills too, so you can market your goods and services, deal with finances and develop your business.

What qualifications and training do I need?

Short courses in enamelling are available throughout the UK. Many are listed on the websites of:

Some courses are offered by colleges, while others take place in enamellers' own studios or workshops.

Holts Academy of Jewellery offers diplomas in jewellery manufacture at Levels 2, 3 and 4. They also offer apprenticeships in jewellery manufacture. Both include enamelling.

Many enamellers are self-taught. They may attend a short course and then practise the techniques until they achieve the effects they want.

Many enamellers are self-taught. They may attend a short course and then practise the techniques until they achieve the effects they want.

Enamellers also learn from each other. Less experienced enamellers often visit the studios of well-established craft workers and examine their work.

Enamellers also learn and develop their skills from books, and by studying historic pieces of enamelware in museums and galleries, including:

There are many other museums around the world which have enamelware on display.

Anyone interested in enamelling can join the Guild of Enamellers or the British Society of Enamellers. They run events throughout the year so enamellers can meet and exchange ideas, exhibit their work, learn new techniques and buy and sell equipment and supplies.

If you want to study other jewellery skills to use along with your enamelling, you may want to take a course in jewellery design and or gold/silversmithing. There are numerous short courses in all aspects of jewellery making. Many of the college providing enamelling courses also run jewellery courses.

Degree courses in jewellery, gold/silversmithing and jewellery design are offered throughout the UK, including:

Some courses have entry requirements, such as two A levels (or equivalent) for degree courses. You will also need to show a portfolio of your work.

As well as English and maths, art and design or design and technology (resistant materials) are relevant subjects. Business studies or enterprise are useful if you want to run your own business.

What can I earn?

If you are self-employed, you set your own prices. What you earn depends on the amount of business you do and how you develop your business. You decide whether to charge customers a fixed fee for a job, or an hourly rate.


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