Guild of Enamellers workshop at Conference 2015

This weekend I attended the Guild of Enamellers conference and AGM at Sparsholt College in Hampshire. Every year around 100 like-minded individuals with a passion for enamel meet up to listen to guest and member speakers talk about their work, watch a masterclass and attend a day workshop (from seven on offer). It’s always a great couple of days which is why people come back year after year.

The main reason I attend is to take part in the Saturday workshops. I always choose something that doesn’t involve enamelling if I can (which might sound a bit odd but I do enamel most days!) and this year chose and was lucky enough to get onto the Design course led by Sue Brown.

Here are just a few examples of her enamelled work:

Work by Sue Brown

Sue is a great teacher and uses enamel in a very unconventional way. She is a long established printmaker who discovered enamel whilst studying for an MA in Print at the University of the West of England (UWE) a few years ago. She is exhibited widely and has recently opened The Yard: ARTspace in Cheltenham where she does her printmaking and teaches classes. Her enamelling is done in her ‘shed’ just down the road at home.

Saturday’s course was about how to make a sketchbook less scary by adding textures to it and building up ideas through simple print techniques and paint effects. There was some looking and listening, but also a lot of fun and laughter.
The process of listening and learningWe started by using both gum arabic and acrylic paint to transfer images from black and white photocopies, grey scale photocopies and glossy Sunday supplement images. We used a combination of our images (if we’d brought the right sort!) and Sue’s own.
My print in progress

I was really pleased by the effects that could be achieved relatively easily and had fun placing the pieces on the paper. However, we weren’t finished yet and after applying acrylic paint and printing with textured wallpaper as well as applying washes of blue black ink our work filled the entire page of paper.

Here are some examples made by the class:

Work by others Maureen Carswell's sketchbook A lot of notes were taken Images by others

As you can see everyone had a very different style even though the colour palette and techniques were fairly uniform.

Sometimes we were impatient to get onto the next stage and employed the sun to help with the drying process. Here is my print towards the end of it’s journey drying out on a sunny windowsill.

My print drying in the sunshine

When we thought we were done Sue introduced bleach into the equation and, having used the right type of ink in the first place, it produced a lovely rust effect where it was applied.

Painting on the bleach

Finally, it was time to make our prints into something – a four page (eight sided) booklet.

Sue Brown showing us how to make a small book from our prints

And we were all delighted with the results!

Books made by class - mine's in the middle at the back

Mine is the one at the centre back.

Finished booklets - mine's at the back

I had a great time, learned many new techniques and will certainly be using some of them before the year is out.

As I said before, Sue was a great teacher and if you’re in or around The Yard:ARTspace in Cheltenham try to get onto one of her printmaking courses and I’m sure you’ll have as much fun as I did. Her blog is great too!

Of course, the conference is not just about the workshops and there were some great talks this year.

The first of this year’s talks was by Elizabeth Jane Campbell, the Guild’s 2014 bursary winner and a graduate of Edinburgh College of Art’s BA(Hons) Jewellery and Silversmithing class of 2013. Her work combines ceramic, metal and enamel and she has pioneered a technique that involves the hand carving of ceramic before applying vitreous enamel. Her talk was lively, fun and very articulate describing the journey of her creative career.

Another talk was by gifted and renowned enameller, jeweller and silversmith Tamar de Vries Winter which was a very personal description of her work linking her own past and family in Jerusalem with a talk entitled Images of War and Peace talking about her peace badge project and her recent Memory Bowls.

Finally, we were treated to a master class by Gille Hoyte Byrom on painting enamel. It was a chance to get tips. It fired up a lot of people up have a g, though it also frightened some because of the skill she possessed which was particularly well illustrated by her group of Elizabethan inspired miniatures.

All in all, there was a lot of conversation, play and learning and it was certainly a weekend well spent.