Monday, August 25, 2014

Fabulous Faux - Playing With Iced Enamels by Karen McGovern

I love experimenting with new products.  Especially products that are relatively inexpensive and fun.  Recently, I began working with Susan Lenart Kazmer's Iced Enamels.  Faux enamel powder in a nice spectrum of grungy, cool colors.  The idea is to create the look of enameled metal without, you know, actual enamel.  For me this is very interesting because I am a freak for enameled metal.  Just ask MaryAnn Carroll--I use her gorgeous enamel discs in just about everything I make. 
Now, right off the bat I will tell you that Iced Enamels in NO WAY replicates the look of true enameled metal.  BUT, for those of us that do not have an enameling studio, the line is fun, easy to use, and can add lovely textural accents and colors to your designs.  Basically it's a three-part system of a liquid adhesive applied to metal, followed by a layer of Iced Enamel powder set with a heat gun.  The third part is sealing, which SLK recommends you do with Ice Resin, her wonderful jewelry grade clear resin.  Since I never do anything I am told to do, I use several coats of Everbrite and have been very pleased with the results.
For an impatient person like me, faux enamels are really attractive as an accent.  Don't worry, MaryAnn, I will ALWAYS BE TRUE TO YOUR DISCS!!!  But, the faux enamels add a nice touch to larger pieces, bangles, cuffs and more.  I like the look of the powders--base colors mixed with "grunge" creating a crusty, aged effect.  The variety of colors is very nice as well, although I am waiting for some greens and dark blues to come along....ARE YOU LISTENING, SUSAN??
I'll share with you a bracelet design I'm having fun with that was inspired by Barbara Lewis, the queen of torch fired enamel jewelry.  You get an extra "faux" here, in one of the bracelets I also used polymer clay faux beach glass shards created by Ginger Davis Allman of The Blue Bottle Tree. GORGEOUS!!!

Iced Enamels on aluminum with polymer faux beach glass...
Basically, I start with a 3 x 2.5 inch piece of aluminum (or any metal, I just love aluminum) and cut it on an angle leaving one end wider than the other.  Round the corners, file the edges smooth, then texture the metal if you wish (I use the paving stones on my driveway as a texture plate!).  At this point you can stamp a message on the inside of the cuff if you like (thanks, Barbara Lewis, for this lovely idea). Drill or punch a hole in either end and curve the metal on a bracelet mandrel or with your hands to fit your wrist comfortably.  

Iced Enamels on copper. Created for the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation in support of their bongo antelope
conservation programs.  The colors of the cuff are inspired by the beautiful striped hide of a bongo, and Delilah
is an orphaned bongo that we are hand rearing at RSCF.  I have pics of her all over my Facebook page!
My Iced Enamel "station" is an old cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Using a cheap paint brush, coat the top side of the metal with the Iced Enamel adhesive (cleans easily in water so you can use the brush again).  Then sprinkle on the powder in the color of your choice (you can also blend colors prior in a little cup if you want, or apply layers, which I'll explain in a minute), shake off the excess, then heat the powder to melting with a heat gun.  My heat gun has two settings, I use the lower setting to get even, controlled heat.  NOTE:  Clear away any excess Iced Enamel powder that you have over-sprinkled BEFORE you turn on your heat gun.  Otherwise the powder will blow all over Kingdom Come!  As you heat, the powder will bubble and melt in a couple minutes.  The bubbles disappear after you stop heating.  There is a slight odor, but nothing overwhelming.  Do this with proper ventilation, etc.  Let the metal cool, then either seal or add more adhesive and another layer of powder in another color, accent, pattern, STENCIL (oooh, that would be cool, I have to go get some stencils...), allow to cool, seal and you are DONE.  You can also file away some of the enamel to create a more imperfect or grungy look--whatever you like!  For copper and brass I would start by giving the metal a nice liver of sulfur bath to create a dark base to show through, but that's my taste. 

As I mentioned, I use Everbrite ProtectaClear spray to seal.  Two or three coats do a great job, and dry in minutes.  Finish the bracelet with riveted or micro screw elements, beads, chain, leather, ribbon, whatever you have on hand!  I've made a few of these now and am really enjoying the look and feel on the wrist.  FUN!

"But Karen", you say, "Will the faux enamel really stay on the metal?  Won't it rub off?"  Well, this stuff is pretty amazing.  The first time I used it, after heating with the heat gun and melting the powder on, I immediately dropped the cuff on the floor, while still hot and "gooey".  I picked it up (using a towel cause that sucker was hot), and some of the semi-liquid enamel had rubbed off (and also now stains my floor mat), but only a top layer. Cursing, I cooled the metal in the sink, then tried to sand away all of the enamel powder to start over.  I COULDN'T!  I went at that thing with a sanding sponge, sandpaper, and diamond files.  Yes, if I had spent the rest of the day working on it I would have gotten it all off, but by no means was it coming off easily.  And that was before sealing with Everbrite.  So, I am pretty confident that this stuff stays on and will hold up over time.  I also think a textured surface will "grab" the faux enamel better as well.  If you are really concerned, I suggest using Ice Resin to seal.  Takes 24 hours to cure, but then you really have a totally impervious coating.  

So, give Iced Enamels a try and let me know what you think!!  You can find great tutorials and ideas online at the Ice Resin website.  Go nuts!


Artisan Beads Plus said...

I LOVE the Delilah cuff! I am going to have to get one of those!

Tammy Adams said...

I've been contemplating trying these powders. I love enamel but am too chicken to use a torch. Thanks to your great write-up, I think I'll take the plunge and try these. Love the faux sea glass, btw.

Pam Sears said...

I've used the faux enamel a few times and loved it. I haven't sealed the pieces I've made (they've been for me) but the melted powder has stayed put even then. I haven't had time to play with any jewelry making in... wow... months, now, because I have a young dog that demands a *lot* of my attention but I love the stencil idea and may blatantly steal that when I do get back into my studio ;)

Saraccino said...

I don't know if you can get them over the ocean... butI have the same kind of colours for some years now from Efco (named - Efcolor ^^). They have a really broad range of opaque colours, some transparent, with structure or some with glitter. The melt at 150 °C either in the normal oven or with a heat gun :) By the way, that is the same type of powdered colour treatment they used for bikes, etc. Love them too!

Shaiha said...

Thanks for the review. I was wondering about this stuff. Now I will have to try it out. Oh and get a heat gun because I doubt the blowdryer would do it.

Chris said...

Pretty work~~fun-looking technique~ Thanks for sharing!

Deborah said...

Karen - Your work is always so innovative and free-spirited, yet at the same time, so solid and well-crafted.

This is no exception, obviously - BEAUTIFUL and JOLLY to behold, as well!

I'm heartened, also, to know that you have "mess-ups" (dropped it, oh no!) - and use them as part of the testing process. THANKS for sharing your "Can I sand/grind it off?!" story - I laughed right out loud - it is SO me, too! Ha!

I over-test, I think, but need to feel confident….

Thanks for such a great post - for encouraging me to "Let go and STOP being so 'proper!' " - my goal of late.

I, too, am mad for trying all sorts of techniques, processes, materials (old & new), products - mixed-media MAX. However, even if I love the art created at the end, sometimes I'll de-value it in my own mind if it contains something "not proper" (as in: cold vs. hot enamel, faux vs. real sea glass).

WHERE does this come from?! I never feel that way about other artists' work - I quite simply will LOVE a piece, no matter what the other artist's materials list contains, but when it's my own, I have a completely different set of values - it is SO annoying!

Thank you again for sharing your wonderful spirit and art - and ESPECIALLY all you do for the animals!

Karen McGovern said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments...I encourage everyone to experiment whenever you can with new products, ideas, techniques and materials! Sometimes the mistakes are the most teachable, and sometimes FABULOUS moments. No one is a worse critic than the voices in our heads. Sometimes you just have to get the courage to tell that b*tch to SHUT UP! Now, GO PLAY!

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