Penny Gildea, Enamel, Cloisonne

Refocus on Enamel, Glass and Curiosity

Hi everyone,

These past few weeks have been super busy again…. Where I work the 9 to 5 the Degree shows are in full swing.

I feel as exhausted as the students in the run up to assessments and during the ambitious show build at The University of Wolverhampton, re-branded and re-launched School of Art, Est. 1851.

A wide range of work is on display from Photography, Applied Arts – Ceramics, Glass and Metal, Fashion & Textiles, Illustration, Graphics and Animation, Visual Communication, Product and Interior Design and Fine Art…

There’s now only a couple of days left to see what’s on display until 13th June and then there will be those venturing to show their wares at  New Designers, London.

It’s been very rewarding to help and support students through their years of study and see finalised products, designs and artworks in conclusion. As exciting times lie ahead for them it’s time to refocus on my own work –  in particular Enamel, Glass and my curiosity.

A couple of weeks ago I represented The British Society of Enamellers during The International Festival of Glass in Stourbridge at the stunning Biennial of Glass Exhibition.

On the day I attended  I was with  Penny Gildea, Chairman of the Society who was demonstrating Cloisonné – a beautiful traditional technique in enamelling

Penny Gildea, Enamelling, Cloisonné, The British Society of Enamellers

Penny Gildea Enamelling Demonstration

Penny Gildea, Enamelling, Cloisonné, The British Society of Enamellers

Cloisonné and Enamelled bowl by Penny Gildea


Penny Gildea placing Cloisonné wires onto pendant

See some more examples of her exquisite work here.

We spoke to many of the visitors about the Society and The Guild of Enamellers. Many were captivated by glass in all it’s forms whilst observing with fascination and intrigue Penny’s patience and attention to detail. And of course that included me!

Cloisonné is where enamel is contained within wire cells (cloisons). These wires are usually fired onto a base coat of flux (a clear transparent enamel), then filled with wet enamel. The wet enamel is often applied with quill or brush in layers, a technique known as wet packing. The piece is fired after each layer has been applied.

Read more about cloisonné here and more on Enamelling terms here.

The British Society of Enamellers established in 1985 is a professional membership including panelists, jewellers, metal smiths, manufacturers and other interested parties. The collective work exemplifies the versatility of enamel ranging from traditional work, contemporary jewellery and silversmithing to large-scale installations.

I am a member, a committee member and website secretary dedicated to sharing knowledge, potential and interest in this art form. The aims of the society are to support good practice in contemporary enamelling within the UK and internationally, achieved through exhibition opportunities, fostering a welcoming collective community, providing an informative website of enamel related news and developments, workshops and demonstrations. Activity and conversations continue on social media, such as Twitter and FacebookAll helping to spread the love so to speak!

And I have to say there are lots of exciting projects on the way, so watch this space!

To learn more about the Society please visit our website.


Members work can be viewed in the selected online gallery  and can also be found in prestigious collections such as The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London,  The Scottish National Museum, The Musee de l’Horologerie in Geneva and The National Museum in Warsaw.

It is a privilege to be part of this network as I am relatively new to the world of the enamelling. I had encountered enamelling during my time studying an MA in Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products at The School of Jewellery, Birmingham City University with an introduction from the very generous and sadly missed Rachel Gogerly. Later I attended some Enamelling Masterclasses with Ruth Ball  and ever since then I’ve introduced and used Enamel work in my practice as a Jeweller. I’ve produced new ranges incorporating enamel, and won one of the Runners up awards for  2015 The Guild of Enamellers Bursary Scheme which has been great recognition and source of encouragement to continue working  in this medium.

Enamel Brooch

Jewellery – Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen Series by Kathryn Partington

The prize included winning work featured in Craft & Design Magazine, Vitrum Signum vouchers (a tool & enamel supplier), The Guild of Enamellers collection of technique DVD’s and an annual membership to both the Society and The Guild.

If you are a Enameller, the 2016 bursary could be a great opportunity for you to further your work. Read here for further details on how to apply.

So my refocus aligns back to Enamel work and inspiration from Cloisonné. I think this is area to explore and develop – the seed planted during Ruth Ball’s, Master classes I mentioned earlier. Here are some images of samples produced back then.


Enamel, Cloisonne, Surface tests, Matt finish, Blue, Green, silver, copper

Kathryn Partington – cloisonné Enamel Tests – Playful composition (15)

And now…  reignited whilst observing Penny Gildea’s demonstration.

Enamel colours on silver are beautiful, translucent, fresh and vibrant. The use of Cloisonné radiates a wonderful sense delicacy, precious detail and seductive quality that makes me feel a new collection coming on….

What do you think? Is it worth pursuing?

Hopefully you’ll agree this warrants further investigation…!

And last but not least there’s a burning curiosity in glass to be explored, after all enamel is very fine grains and layers of glass… but that’s another story which I’ll share in my next blog post…. coming soon!

As always thanks for reading and please leave any comments below xx

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