Magical, mystical, unpredictable, absorbing, transforming, these are all words that come to mind when I think about enamelling and in particular my approach to this ancient art form.
Here I want to introduce myself and my enamelling, hopefully encouraging you to give it try.
Over 14 years ago I was first introduced to enamelling by my mum who would be creating gorgeous pieces in her studio. Shortly after that I moved to Nottinghamshire and my parents packed me a kiln and a box of enamel powders. I then became mainly self taught through embracing the freedom of the kiln, its outcomes not always being predicable and from then on I have explored enamelling through experimentation.
I’ve expanded on that first box of enamel powders, and now bring in many techniques to my pieces. One of my projects focussing on dogs has seen me sketching many breeds and then colourfully producing them in vivid enamel, with pattern and texture. In this project I’ve focussed on finding a profile image in my sketches that perfectly captures that breed. I’ve loved the sketching process and then the challenge of capturing key elements of each breed in the enamelling. Or it’s working on bespoke dogs and cats bringing their particular shapes and markings into a piece. I enjoy working with clients who have an idea in mind but are willing to give me the freedom to develop a method of transferring that idea into a piece of enamelled art.
Enamelled Dachund by Katie Sanderson
I find enamelling incredibly satisfying every single time a piece goes in the kiln I know once it's out and cooling I will see a different result every time. I love how it can be at once incredibly unpredictable yet also an art form that with time and experience you can learn its patterns, its tricks, how temperatures play a huge part, how depths of enamel change the outcome, how one method can interact with another. Sometimes I feel like an alchemist and other times I am totally at it's mercy unable to predict what the kiln will bring me, but enjoying that anticipation.
My inspirations are broad a lot come from the natural world. I often pick up leaves, stones or photograph flowers for their colours and textures, other times it comes from animals taking photos of snakes for there patterned bodies. But I'm always on the look out, anything that provides a new combination of colour and texture draws me to it.
I had a flower bed outside my studio in the summer which exploded with colour that definitely influenced another project I’ve called Confetti. In this work I’ve pushed the enamel from one effect to another in the space of one final firing, the end result is seen in much of my jewellery where there is an explosion of merging colours on the piece. I’ve brought this technique into my enamelling workshops encouraging students to wait that little bit longer to see the transformation for themselves.
Confetti, enamelled pendant by Katie Sanderson
How I present my work is calculated. I don’t want to put enamel behind glass so I always mount it to the outside of the glass. It’s delicate but I want people to be able to interact with it, see the light shine straight off it, touch and feel it.
Enamelled heart by Katie Sanderson
I’ve always said to people if I can draw it I can enamel it, and that has brought me many challenges. But I love the process of working through a problem. Working out how to make a 2D idea into a tangible piece of enamel art. It’s enabled me to develop my work into 3D, layered and textured pieces.
One of the greatest pleasures that enamelling has brought me is the ability to teach. I love running my enamelling workshops either from my own studio or from venues across the region. I find enamelling truly absorbing and exciting. You can see transformation literally happening before your very eyes as a piece cools once it’s been in the kiln. One of the things students find surprising is the short amount of time a piece is in the kiln for, just a matter of minutes. In that time the enamel powders and any decoration you might have added become molten fusing to the metal you are working on. Most of the time for me that is copper. You build up a piece with layers of enamel, so there may be many firings before it is finished but with every one a transformation occurs and that’s the thrill.
Students hands at work during enamelling workshops with Katie Sanderson
Enamelling is certainly an ancient art form, pieces are regularly unearthed by archaeologists. I hope my work respects the arts heritage but also brings it to a wider audience. Making its way into homes and jewellery that can be enjoyed every day.