Tag Archives: enamel

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Heather Bivens: Weathered Heather

Throughout the years, creating has been something that I must do. The medium and process has changed and evolved, but my desire to create remains the driving force. Whether they are tests, collections, samples, mock-ups or finished works, they are simultaneously bridges and destinations.

When I was in high school, I studied illustration and copy preparation. In 2007, I obtained my BFA from SUNY Oswego with an emphasis in sculpture and drawing. During that time, I created a range of work that explored performance art, digital imagery, video and installation. In 2010, I obtained my MFA in Sculpture from Syracuse University. My graduate work investigated the art of adornment through wearable sculpture. During that time, my connection with nature became more profound and could be seen as a common thread between all of my works.

Wearable Art: Butterfly Neck-piece, Latex Party Dress, Latex Garden Dress

Wearable Art: Butterfly Neck-piece, Latex Party Dress, Latex Garden Dress

Soon after graduate school, I taught a range of studio art courses as a part time instructor at Cazenovia College. There, I had the opportunity to work in a glass studio, where I learned to work with kiln formed art glass. Based on my interest in adornment, it felt natural for me to make jewelry from this new medium.

Art Glass Jewelry: Underwater Rocks Necklace, Pebble Design Earrings, Amber Stripe Earrings.

Art Glass Jewelry: Underwater Rocks Necklace, Pebble Design Earrings, Amber Stripe Earrings.

My glass work has opened new doors for me as an artist and maker while connecting all of my prior experience into one art form. Today, I consider myself fortunate to be self-employed and make work full time in my home studio. My business is Weathered Heather, named after myself and my inspiration.

Weathered Heather

My jewelry making process begins by assembling compatible glass. The glass can be cut, crushed into small pieces or made into strands with the use of a torch.

Crushed glass (frit) and stands of glass (stringer).

Crushed glass (frit) and stands of glass (stringer).

I layer the glass using a temporary adhesive to ensure that they stay in place during the firing process. Earrings are designed at the same time to ensure that they are similar in nature. It is important to make sure that the same amount of glass is being used on each piece. If it is uneven, the design can become distorted or they can end up unequal in size.

Prepared glass designs on a kiln shelf before entering the kiln.

Prepared glass designs on a kiln shelf before entering the kiln.

After each design is assembled, they are properly fired in a kiln up to 1500 degrees. In some cases, multiple firings are necessary to achieve the desired result. After the firing process, they are shaped and cold worked with diamond abrasives.

A small groove is ground along the edge of each piece of glass using a diamond disk. This grove provides a space for my wire setting.

Side view: Wire setting.

Side view: Wire setting.

Some of my newest work is created by hand painting the image with glass enamel. The enamel begins as a powder that is made into a paintable form using a liquid medium.

Dry enamel pigments and prepared pigments with a liquid medium.

Dry enamel pigments and prepared pigments with a liquid medium.

I then cut a piece of glass slightly larger than the pendant or earrings that I would like to create. I paint the image directly on the surface. The image can be painted all in one sitting or it can be completed in layers if the design is complex. Each layer is fired to solidify the bottom layer before more enamel is added.

First layer of painted enamel before firing them in the kiln.

First layer of painted enamel before firing them in the kiln.

Painting enamel in layers. Various stages of completion.

Painting enamel in layers. Various stages of completion.

After painting the image, I often place a clear sheet of glass on top of the image before firing it. This step embeds the image in the center of the glass, encapsulating it like a preserved treasure.
The excess material needs to be ground away with a diamond abrasive, giving the piece its final shape and size.

Final stages: removing excess and giving the work it's final shape.

Final stages: removing excess and giving the work it’s final shape.

The bubbles you see within the design are often described as “champagne” bubbles and are a characteristic of kiln formed glass.

“Phoebus Butterfly”, Hand painted glass enamel on clear art glass, kiln formed, with a 2.8mm, 20” Argentium sterling silver chain, soldiered links and toggle clasp. Glass Size: 1 15/16" x 1 1/16".

“Phoebus Butterfly”, Hand painted glass enamel on clear art glass, kiln formed, with a 2.8mm, 20” Argentium sterling silver chain, soldiered links and toggle clasp. Glass Size: 1 15/16″ x 1 1/16″.

For more information on Weathered Heather, visit Heather’s website at www.weatheredheather.com. You can also follow Weathered Heather on Facebook and Instagram (@weatheredheather).

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post, by painter Melissa Huang.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Katharine Wood: A Lifelong Passion

I was born and grew up in Manhattan, New York, the oldest of four children with two brothers and a sister.  My father was a well-known editor and book publisher and my mother, although a stay-at-home housewife, was an accomplished artist.

I always loved to draw and paint, and was allegedly into art from the moment I could hold a crayon.  I never attended art school, although I was continuously involved in art-related activities and organizations.

I inadvertently became involved with the medium that would be my life-long passionenamel!  One day, while home from college, my mother asked me if I would like to make a piece of enameled jewelry. How could I refuse?  After my first firing, seeing the piece go into the kiln and come out minutes later glowing with color, I was hooked.

Red enamel container

Red enamel container

City Sunrise

City Sunrise

The pieces above are done in champleve enamel; the metal (in this case copper) has been etched first and then enameled into the recessed areas.

Recently I moved.  For the first time, I no longer have a separate room for my studio, but I feel I have done a good job in setting up an area in shared space (i.e. one wall behind a sofa in the living room).  My kiln is in the kitchen.  Overall, because I have less space, I have made what I do have much more efficient, and so far it has been working out well.  I am only limited on the size of the work, but I always have preferred working smaller anyway.  New Yorkers are usually cramped for space, but you see it can be done!

view from the left of my 'studio'

View from the left of my ‘studio’

view from the right of my 'studio'

view from the right of my ‘studio’

my kiln!

my kiln!

I have made efficient use in a small space by use of a cabinet, which I have stocked full of my enamels. I also make sure I have all the ‘tools of the trade’ at hand, ready to use.

cabinet of enamels

cabinet of enamels

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade

Although I have limited space, it doesn’t hurt that I have a limitless view from the studio window!

Coop City view from my window (fall)

Coop City view from my window (fall)

Coop City sunrise

Coop City sunrise

So now that you have seen my studio, what exactly is enamel?  Basically, it is glass (usually grains, like sand or finer) fused to metal (usually copper, silver, gold, or steel) at very high temperatures (usually around 1400-1500F).  The colors are unparalleled, and, being glass, will never fade—or at least not for hundreds of years!  It is generally applied either dry, in a sifter, or wet, with a fine brush or spatula.  You may have guessed by now that I am also an instructor of enamel.

Over time I have created everything from wallpieces and jewelry to objects, such as boxes and bowls.  Here are a few pieces that show the range of what is possible.

Rocket Machine Shop I

Rocket Machine Shop I

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Achilles Mask

Girl in Glasses (Transit Diaries)

Girl in Glasses (Transit Diaries)

Leaf Dish

Leaf Dish

Katharine Wood’s two Transit Diaries enamel portraits won an honorable mention in our Small Works exhibition. You can see more of Katharine’s work at her website, www.antoniatile.com. Or stop by the gallery before the end of the year to see two of Katharine’s enamel works in person!

Check out our previous installment of Inside the Artist’s Studio, a post by Rochester plein air painter Phyllis Bryce Ely.