This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
Illustrated by Special Photographs.
I Shall be glad to give a demonstration for your magazine, as you are good enough to suggest," said Mr. Bonner to our representative, who had called on him at his Studios, 18, Holland-street, Kensington. "But, necessarily," he continued, "I shall have to repeat some things said by Mr. Alexander Fisher in his articles in Arts & Crafts. While, of course, I shall avoid doing this as much as possible, I would strongly advise a careful re-reading of Mr. Fisher's articles, in conjunction with my own remarks, to anyone who may contemplate a first essay in this rather difficult art without personal instruction.
"Here is a simple slide for the neck, in blue and green enamels upon silver, which I have just executed. Perhaps we can do no better than reproduce it as the principal subject of our demonstration. This dragon-fly ornament is another simple object suitable for a beginner, and we can proceed with the two at the same time. The scheme of colour - blues and greens - is the same in both cases. It is one very suitable for amateur work. It might be followed by a scheme of purples and yellows.
"I think," said Mr. Bonner, reflectively," I will mount this duplicate dragon-fly upon a horn pin, as an ornament for the hair. Of course, I shall have to omit the legs, as they might scratch the wearer; anyway, they would not be seen with the pin in position in the hair. I think I'll use a swivel pin, so that the dragon-tly may be worn either in the position in your photograph or horizontally, as if swooping down. But, pardon me, I am digressing. This has nothing to do with our demonstration."
Our photographs on pages 60 and 61 show, complete, both the dragon-fly and the slide, as well as their appearance in the intermediary stages of their reproduction. Side by side with the latter are presented the corresponding views of the back of each article.
"Let me first say a few words about the enamels themselves. As you know," said Mr. Bonner, " they are made by fusing various oxides with the transparent, colourless glass known as flux, which is the base of them all. Flux has the quality of adhering to gold, silver or copper - the metals employed for jeweller's enamelling - and remaining transparent. Of course iron, too, maybe enamelled, and we see it so treated in the lining of our kitchen utensils. Although this enamelling is naturally very coarse, in principle it is the same as the enamelling on the more precious metals.
"Here you see the crude form in which the enamels come to the hand of the craftsman," Mr. Bonner continued, opening some of the drawers of the little cabinet of which we get a glimpse in the photograph on page 59, and exposing to view variously coloured chunks of a more or less dark-hued and opaque looking material resembling coarse glass.
Pointing to a little heap of fragments he remarked: "These are all reds - the most difficult colours to manipulate, because the results of the firing of them are so uncertain. These two, which look like discoloured glass, are ruby red - light and medium. This, which might pass for a bit of glue, is ruby of a darker shade, and this claret-coloured one is deep ruby."
He put them back in the drawer and brought out three yellowish crystals. "These are all gold colours - that is, derived from the oxides of gold," he said. " This amber comes out coral, this garnet tires rose red, and this yellowish-white comes out pale mauve. The reds, violets and yellows are the most costly of the enamels. . . . No, they are not especially dear, except a few of particular quality used for very fine work. The cost of enamels for ordinary use ranges from 6d. to Is. 6d. per oz. Blues and greens are about only 4d. per oz. Just as the oxides of gold give ruby and its variations, so manganese gives purple, antimony gives yellow, iron gives brown and orange, copper gives green and turquoise blue, and from the oxide of cobalt we get ultramarine blue.
"These crystals are ground down in water, with a pestle, to the degree of granulation of fine sand. It is not well to grind them finer than this - they lose in colour by it - unless you want to use them for painting in the Limoges style, in which case you cannot grind them too fine. The powder is, next, washed in fresh water until all trace of milkyness has disappeared; and, finally, mixed with water, it may be used like ordinary water-colours. To reduce the strength of any colour, flux is added.
"I will ask this young lady to be good enough to grind a little green and blue for our lesson, and while she is doing so, we may prepare the cloisons for our butterfly design."
The design was already traced and scratched on the silver, and now Mr. Bonner, having snipped from a coil of silver strip what he gauged as necessary for the purpose, proceeded, with tweezers and plyers, to lay it over the outline of the design, as shown in the photograph. He next soldered the strips to the metal base by means of blow-pipe and flame in the manner shown on page 59, the solder (composed of four parts of silver and one of brass) having been first mixed with a little borax, to make it flow the more easily, and then applied along the edges of the cloisons, which were then quickly pressed to the surface of the plate and so fixed there.
A Demonstration in Enamelling.
Laying the Metal Strip over the outline of the design.
The pupil by this time had ground the small quantities of the colours required, and had prepared them with a little water in the china saucers shown in the right hand photograph on this page.
"I must scrape off these little fragments of solder," said Mr. Bonner. "If left on, they would be likely to crack the enamel when it is fired," and he suited the action to the word. Looking critically at the cloisons of the neck-piece, he remarked that " rocking " the scorper into some of the bands - thus raising a sort of burr - would be effective, for it would show through the enamel and give it more variety. A few deft movements of the tool in the manner indicated soon produced the desired effect. "It is necessary to use this device with moderation," he said; " amateurs are apt to abuse it, and so give a mechanical, engine-turned effect to their work."
Before proceeding to fill in the design with colour, he mixed some turquoise blue enamel with a little-gum tragacanth, and painted the back of the slide with it. " I use the gum to make the enamel adhere; otherwise, the enamel, being underneath, would fall off in the tiring. . . . No; gum is not used with the enamel on the right side of the work: it would detract from the brilliancy of the colour."
He now filled in the design with enamel, using the point of a pen-knife for the purpose. This, he-said, he generally found more convenient than a brush, as it reaches at once the extreme corners. He put a little of the enamel into the oval well in the centre of the slide, remarking: "I do this, because I am going to use a moonstone, and the enamel showing through it will give it a greater depth of colour. Otherwise I would fill up the well with plaster."
By this time the fire in the little studio furnace had been brought to the required heat, and the crucial test of Mr. Bonner's work was at hand. But the limits of our space have been reached, and the subject of firing enamels is of far too much importance to be summarily dismissed at the tag end of this notice.
(To be concluded.)
A Demonstration in Enamelling.
Grinding the Colours.
In the firing of china the heat should be allowed to permeate the kiln very gradually, for it always produces more or less moisture, drawn from the ware, and if this be allowed to dry or evaporate naturally and slowly, the firing, other things being equal, will be satisfactory and the ware will be properly glazed. If, on the contrary, the heat is. turned on full too suddenly or too soon, this moisture, instead of drying and disappearing, will settle back or sink into the glaze and destroy it or prevent it reappearing.