Enamelling

Currently viable crafts

 

Enamelling

 

The craft of using crushed glass powder, mixed with metal oxides, to decorate metal or glass.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance London
Area currently practised UK (studio enamelling); Birmingham (industrial enamelling)
Origin in the UK Early Medieval
Current no. of professionals (main income) 201-500
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees Around 21-50 traditional professional enamellers; 30-50 graduates a year from jewellery courses
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Unknown
Current total no. of leisure makers
Unknown
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Enamel is crushed glass powder, mixed with metal oxides to give it colour. It is then painted, sprayed onto, or dipped into metal or glass before it is fired. Kilns used for firing glass have altered, speeding up the process, but little else has changed in terms of fundamental techniques.

The craft of enamelling dates back at least 2,500 years and was widespread in Medieval times. Early Medieval examples from the sixth century have been found at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, and the famous Alfred jewel dates from around 900AD. Studio enamelling dates from the late-nineteenth century. Enamelling has tended to following artistic movements, copying the styles and techniques in enamel.

Enamelling can be divided into three groups:

  • Industrial – making products such as signs, medals and badges.
  • Studio – designer craftspeople who make, design and sell their own work through galleries or craft shows.
  • Trade – freelancers who undertake enamelling for other goldsmiths, silversmiths or jewellers who need the expertise of the traditional workshop.

Traditionally, enamelling is done on a surface of gold, silver or copper, but enamelling on steel has grown popular in recent years. Whilst this started as something used exclusively for road signs, underground signs, building cladding etc., many craft practitioners are now working on smaller pieces of steel to produce pictures.

 

Techniques

Techniques vary depending on the material being enamelled and the desired outcome of the enameller.

Enamel is fired at around 750-1,000°C, either in a kiln or using a torch with either propane or Mapp gas, and the firing lasts between 45 seconds and three minutes. High firing is unique to enamelling. This is the technique of firing the enamels at higher temperatures than those that only melt the glass. Many enamels will produce different colours than those obtained by simply melting the glass, resulting in colours and textures that cannot be obtained in any other medium. However great skill is needed to get the temperature and the timing of these high firings right.

Jewellers, goldsmiths and silversmiths wet pack coloured grains of transparent enamels, creating relatively small areas of images and decorative surfaces with the colours laid out side by side. While colours are not mixed like paint, they can be layered over one another to create different colours and blend from one to another. Enamellers working on copper sift the grains of enamel over larger surfaces and work with applying layers of colour, both transparent and opaque. They work with the enamels like painters but do not employ brushes. Instead the grains are gummed down and designs and shapes are carved out of the dried enamels. Stencils are commonly used.

In industrial enamelling, liquid industrial enamels are applied to large steel panels with a spray gun. This type of enamelling was developed in the twentieth century but only a few can practise it because the pieces must be fired in a commercial enamelling factory that makes panels for signage, cladding of buildings and internal walls that must be fireproof. This type of industrial enamelling has declined in the last 30 years and there is now only one large enamelling factory and one small enamelling factory (previously there were at least four).

 

Local forms and variations

  • Cloisonné
  • Champlevé
  • Basse-taille
  • Plique-à-jour
  • Grisaille

 

Sub-crafts

  • Watch face enamelling

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Whilst there is a large body of amateur enamellers, professionals are a much rarer breed and are usually self-employed (rather than working in workshops).
  • The number of workshops has shrunk considerably. In the past, workshops used to be as large as 9-10 people, training their own apprentices and continuing the line, but today what workshops are left are now sole traders, two people at most, with little chance of new apprentices coming through.
    Taking on an apprentice at the current time requires serious consideration as to the future of apprentices – is it fair to train and pass on knowledge to the next generation if the amount of work available is not enough to support him/her in the coming years?
  • While apprenticeship is the traditional approach, there is also a shortage of paid courses in private jewellery/silversmithing schools and universities teaching this craft.
  • Materials have changed and often resin is used as a powdered glass alternative. While the process is much easier and there is no firing involved (sometimes called ‘cold enamelling’) and very often consumers confuse the two – only hot enamelling is the traditional craft.
  • If there are no new entrants, the workshops begin to close, and the demand which was there for these skills also begins to decline because of the difficulty in finding someone to undertake the work, so designers cease including enamel work in their designs to cut out the problem of finding someone to undertake the work.
  • The medal, regalia, badge and pen manufacturers based in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham have some employed enamellers, but one firm only has two enamellers over the age of 80 and their comments implied a reluctance to employ apprentices.
  • Enamelling has tended to following artistic movements, copying the styles and techniques in enamel. This causes a problem today when art as it is currently practised often has no material element. However, enamel does sell well in craft fairs to people who are motivated by their own tastes.
  • People need to be educated about what enamelling is as they do not realise what skill and effort goes into creating the pieces. People who understand and appreciate enamelling will buy it, but very often people think it’s some sort of paint (or similar) applied to the surface.
  • The quality of enamels is changing due to EU health and safety regulations. At present, leaded enamels are still being manufactured in the UK but many beautiful colours have been withdrawn due to difficulties in obtaining the materials. New ranges of lead-free enamels are being produced and they are good enough for the semi-professional/hobby kind of enamelling, but it is uncertain whether the few remaining skilled professional enamellers using traditional techniques will be able to continue producing work of the highest quality.
  • Some of the materials and equipment are very expensive making it prohibitive for new entrants to venture on the journey. There are not many studios to rent or just a bench and a kiln, and when there is it’s often poorly equipped and expensive. Some communal studios charge per firing, which is impractical since the pieces need to go in the kiln multiple times, sometimes a dozen or more.

 

Support organisations

 

Craftspeople currently known

The British Society of Enamellers and the Guild of Enamellers both have membership lists of practising enamellers.

Enamelling businesses:

  • Deakin and Francis, Birmingham
  • Fattorini, Birmingham
  • A J Wells & Sons, Isle of Wight

 

Other information

The Goldsmiths Centre runs a school for apprentices where they teach enamelling. There are a lot of part-time enamellers in the UK who frequently attend courses at West Dean College and other short course venues. For traditional professional enamelling, it estimated that there might be 21-50 trainees in the country. Jewellery courses in art colleges turn out 30-50 graduates a year but their output is largely experimental, individual and sold though craft shops and galleries, with very few of them managing to support themselves with their work.

 

References

 

Coach trimming

Currently viable crafts

 

Coach trimming

 

The upholstery and fitting of automobile and carriage interiors in a range materials.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance Midlands
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 17th century
Current no. of professionals (main income) Around 250
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees Around 11-20
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Originally coach trimming was upholstering interiors of horse drawn carriages then as the carriages gained motors and evolved into the motor car so the trade followed suit.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

Allied crafts:

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • There are a lack of training opportunities for traditional skills and the older generation not passing on skills or technique.
  • There is no main organisation or trade organisation.
  • There is no government recognition for the trade.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

 

 

Other information

 

 

References

  • Taylor, Don, Automotive Upholstery Handbook
  • Mattson, Fred, Automotive Upholstery and Interior Restoration
  • Taylor, Don, and Mangus, Rod, Custom Auto Interiors
  • Caldwell, Bruce, Auto Upholstery & Interiors: A Do-it-yourself Basic Guide

Billiard, snooker and pool cue making

Currently viable crafts

 

Billiard, snooker and pool cue making

 

The making of cues for the games of billiards, snooker and pool.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 21-50
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The craft developed from France with the original billiards game, carom. It has not changed majorly since the early 20th century when billiards cues became more commercial.

 

Techniques

Being able to understand wood, particularly grain patterning and behaviour, splicing woods together, hand planing and sanding.

 

Local forms

The biggest differences are cues made for specific billiards games. English/Chinese pool and snooker cues do not differ immensely but they do differ from American pool cues which have a totally different making process.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Joint and ferrule making
  • Tip making

Allied crafts:

  • Billiards table making
  • Billiards ball making

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The craft is currently viable because there is a great deal of interest in it. However, many cue makers opt for Thai or Chinese manufactured cue blanks because it makes the process cheaper, more efficient, the materials are very good, and the workmanship (much of which is done by machine) is highly acceptable. These cues are considerably cheaper than entirely British-made cues. Companies in Thailand and China may in the next few years opt to produce cues under their own brands and become more sought-after than the current UK market leaders. If this happens then the craft in the UK could die out to be inherited by these overseas manufacturers.
  • Some of the cue making processes are not widely practised here anymore, including by many of the leading brands, so those skills are not going to be passed on.
  • Some wood species are being depleted.

 

Support organisations

 

 

Craftspeople currently known

Individuals:

  • Robert Osborne
  • Keith Hammant
  • Johnny Carr
  • Dave Coutts
  • Mike Wooldridge
  • James Butters
  • Trevor White
  • Tim Curtis
  • Jason Owen

Businesses that employ two or more makers:

  • Will Hunt, London
  • John Parris
  • Stamford Cues
  • Peradon
  • BCE
  • Master Craft
  • Craftsman Cues
  • Cue Craft
  • Riley

 

Other information

 

 

References

 

Batik

Currently viable crafts

 

Batik

 

The making of textiles with surface designs produced by using layers of melted wax and cold dyes to produce wax-resist effects.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance
Area currently practised UK
Origin in the UK 1960s
Current no. of professionals (main income) 11-20
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
201-500
Current no. of trainees
Current total no. serious amateur makers
101-200
Current total no. of leisure makers
1,000+
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

Batik goes back centuries, and while textiles often don’t stand test of time, examples have been found in Egyptian tombs.  It is thought that batik spread from China/India to Indonesia. It was also practised in Africa (Nigeria and Ghana) but history there is obscure.

Batik is a fairly modern craft in the UK. It became popular in the 1960s as young people began to travel to Indonesia and the East. Batik became used by artists in Holland around the time of the art nouveau era, so there may have been a few UK artists using it then.

 

Techniques

Batik is wax resist, textile medium (sometimes on paper). It involves heating wax (beeswax and paraffin wax usually) and painting the molten wax onto fabric, then using cold dyes (often Procion fibre reactive dyes) to add colour.  Layers of wax and dye are built up, then the wax is removed, leaving the coloured design behind.

Tools used to apply wax are canting (wax pen), brushes, sponges, metal stamps (caps), kitchen tools, feathers etc. Dyes can be sprayed on, painted on, or traditionally the whole cloth is immersed in dye bath, working through successive waxings and dyeings. Finally the wax is removed by boiling out or ironing out on absorbent paper.

Batik is used jointly with other textile media so may be used by stitchers etc as a base for embellishment.

 

Local forms

 

 

Sub-crafts

 

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

Batik in the UK is experiencing a number of challenging issues:

  • The reduction in adult education classes and library services.
  • Other demands on people’s time and disposable income.
  • Reduction in art/craft tuition in schools, and secondary education especially. Perceived health and safety issues, financial pressures and a narrowing curriculum have meant that they rarely invite crafts practitioners into schools to work with children.
  • Equipment – heating the wax safely for batik use is not particularly easy. Wax pots with thermostats are quite expensive (around £80). Also batik is quite messy, putting people off from trying at home or school etc.
  • Batik is a Javanese word and its unfamiliarity might put some people off.

 

Support organisations

  • The Batik Guild – a voluntary organisation with around 160 members, one third of which are overseas members

 

Craftspeople currently known

The Batik Guild has gallery pages which give a good idea of individual makers who are actively making in the UK.

 

Other information

It’s mostly people over 55 who are practising batik and the skills are not being passed on. Colleges, schools etc and younger people may try batik for a time but it will be one of many skills they dabble in.  It is rare that they would choose to take batik further and study it seriously.

 

References