High tech / low tech: The utilization of printmaking techniques in the production of contemporary enamelled jewellery
Turrell, J. (2009) High tech / low tech: The utilization of printmaking techniques in the production of contemporary enamelled jewellery. In: IMPACT 6 International Printmaking Conference, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol, UK, 16 -19 September 2009 .
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Publisher's URL: http://www.impact.uwe.ac.uk/
This poster presentation will outline the potential for printmaking techniques in the production of innovative and contemporary enamelled jewellery forms. It represents one strand of technical research within the overarching practice-led project Innovation in Vitreous Enamel Surfaces for Jewellery, a three-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) under the Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts Scheme. The fellowship explores the practical, technical, theoretical and aesthetic considerations pertinent to the application of vitreous enamel to jewellery. By demonstrating the great potential of enamel as an exciting and innovative material the research aims to overcome negative preconceptions about enamel common within the contemporary jewellery community. Over the duration of the project a range of techniques and processes have been developed with the aim of informing and extend creative practice in enamel and introducing experimental enamel techniques to the wider contemporary jewellery community, providing greater scope for experimentation and the development of individual technical explorations. The practical aspects of the project have been focused on the production of jewellery forms using electroforming techniques in combination with rapid-prototyping and 3D printing techniques. In contrast to the technologically advanced processes used to make the underlying form simple rubber stamp printing techniques have been explored for the application of surface mark, pattern and text. The electroforming technique uses the electrodeposition of metal on an expendable base mandrel to form a self-supporting layer. This allows for the production of seam free three-dimensional forms that can be enamelled in the round without the problems associated with enamelled over traditional soldered constructions. A range of materials can be used to create the mandrel forms, including wax, rubber or plastic. In this case 3D printing techniques using the Z-Corp machine have been utilized to create a simple test forms. The following describes the production of the illustrated indicative test samples: • A simple form is printed in plaster using the Z-Corp 3-D printing equipment, the resultant form is then infiltrated with Z-Bond Cyanoacrylate to allow it to withstand an extended period of immersion in the copper acid solution used in the electrodeposition process. • Several thin layers of metallic paint are applied to the surface of the printed 3-D model to render it electro-conductive. • A layer of copper approximately 1mm thick is subsequently built up on the surface of the form over several days through electro-deposition. • When the required thickness has been achieved the object is removed from the tank and the Z-Corp material core is steamed out of the object. • The hollow object is then coated with enamel using a variety of industrial and jewellery enamels, application and firing techniques. • A simple rubber stamp produced using a rubber eraser, scalpel and lino-cutting tools is used to print the surface of the enamelled object with a variety of mark, text and pattern. • The printing medium for this stamp printing is either an onglaze that is fired directly onto the underlying enamel or a sticky medium such as ink onto which powdered enamel can be dry sifted. The enamel adheres to the printed medium and excess enamel can be removed leaving enamel only in the printed areas. Subsequent firing will burn away the sticky binder leaving only the enamel to create mark and pattern on the surface of the piece. Conclusion This poster describes only one of many techniques explored during the period of the fellowship but it serves to illustrate the wide potential of enamel especially when approached with an open mind and an eye for innovation. Enamel for jewellery needs not always concern itself with tradition but can borrow from a wide range of art and design practice, as in this case printmaking, to produce exciting and innovative pieces.