The word ‘eutectic’ is a scientific term to describe a process that happens when 2 or more materials, when heated together, lower the melting point of each. In this case the 2 materials are copper and silver. They form an alloy which spreads out, pushing the enamel aside, while the alloy gets heavily oxidized and turns black. Many enamelists have experienced this reaction as a flaw when working with foil that they have overheated. In this workshop students will learn how to predict, control, and utilize the reaction they get from the eutectic event. Working with eutectics gives one the feeling of joining with the forces of the Universe, of coming to the edge or a precipice and then pulling back just as the piece is about to be drawn into a black hole.
Our base metal will be copper, either flat or shaped. We will be using silver scrap to cause the reaction, Additionally we will use silver wire and silver shot if available.
We will be doing more than just the eutectic firings. We will begin with the basics of how to do a sifted piece. Because people may come to this workshop with different levels of enameling expertise and may have acquired some bad habits, we will begin with the basics. Then we will use our initial pieces as a base to add other materials – such as 1 mil copper, which is easily textured, and/or copper screen, electrical wire, etc. to create initial designs. In the beginning we will use one transparent enamel to see how much variation can happen with just one color, a learning experience in itself. After this comes eutectic firing , causing a reaction and resulting oxidation in an area. Subsequently we will learn other ways of “decoating” a piece, such as using cat hair, mica, gold leaf. There is also the option of removing the oxidized area to expose the silvery alloy beneath. Pieces can be fired more than once to see what happens . Both lead-free and lead-bearing enamels can be used in this process and it is exciting to note the difference in the 2 materials.
The workshop emphasizes experimentation and creative thinking, and in the past has caused a lot of excitement in the students who almost can’t get enough of it. It is that much fun!
Averill Shepps has been working in enamels for over 50 years, making her living as an enamelist for most of that time producing bowls, plates, wall pieces and jewelry for sale and exhibition. Many of her techniques are her own development, and she has taught numerous workshops.. She has exhibited work throughout the United States and in Canada, England, and South Korea. Her work has been featured in: The Art of Enameling, Contemporary Enameling: Art & Techniques, and 500 Enameled Objects as well as in several articles and 2 covers in Glass on Metal. A You Tube video demonstration by Averill (Search “enameling”) has had over 75,000 hits. She is currently serving her sixth term as President of The Enamelist Society.