Koi Fish necklace by instructor Olga Barmina using grisaille technique.

What does The Crucible have that most other art schools in America do not? There are countless things that come to mind, but one that stands out is 20 Shades of Grey: Medieval Enameling Techniques – a unique continuing level class that teaches painting with enamels and is not often taught in America. This class is not only quite rare when it comes to enamel instruction, but is also painstaking detailed, and the three-dimensional results are worth it.

Grisaille pendant, unknown artist. 

Learning from enamelist Olga Barmina is reason enough to take the class. Because finding a grisaille class is so rare, Olga is self-taught in the art. “My favorite part about teaching is being inspired by my students. They are so enthusiastic and their thinking is fresh. It is very nice to be around people who do not feel constrained by the technique. They help me push it’s boundaries,” Olga told us. Grisaille requires an artist to think backwards since sketching is more like darkening the shadows. In this case, technique creates a strong contrast between light and shade.

Originally used as underpainting for oil painting, grisaille enameling achieves a dramatic effect of light and shade. Often associated with medieval French enameling, grisaille is the application of white enamel to a black enamel background, creating halftones and shading. We met up with 20 Shades of Grey: Medieval Enameling Techniques instructor Olga to go over a simple, step-by-step project from the class.

The prerequisite for this class is Enameling I. Already taken Enameling I? Check out our upcoming 20 Shades of Grey: Medieval Enameling Techniques classes.

SHOP ENAMELING COURSES

Prep The Copper

hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland
hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland

First, cut out a shape from pure copper using a jeweler’s saw. Then, file the edges and lightly dome the metal. Anneal, pickle and rinse your piece.

Add Your First Coat Of Enamel

hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland
hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland
hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland

Brush a layer of Klyr-fire, a fixative, and dust black enamel on the front of your piece. After the layer dries, fire it for about 90 seconds, and cool your piece. Repeat this on the front and back sides.

Add Details

hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland
hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland
hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland

Brush the front of your piece with Klyr-fire again and apply a thin coat of white enamel. After the layer dries, scraffito your pattern using a sharp scribe.

Finishing Touches

hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland
hand-build a ceramics pour over the crucible oakland

Fire your piece until the white layer sinks into the black. Paint the areas that you are planning to be white, light gray, and dark gray with Klyr-fire and white enamel. Repeat as you wish to increase contrast between black and white values.

SHOP ENAMELING COURSES

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