Chinese Cloisonné Enameling

Cloisonné enamel was probably introduced to China by missionaries from central Asia during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). It used to be reserved for the Emperor and his court, but today everyone can enjoy its magnificence.
 
The process may be observed at the Beijing Enamel Factory in China.
Vessels are constructed with several pieces of copper that are formed and soldered together. A copper plate is measured with calipers, then marked for pattern placement. The pattern is pinned to carbon paper, then carefully traced to transfer the design to the surface of the metal.
 
Cloisons are made with copper that is bent with pliers, following a pattern on paper. After dipping the bottom edge of the cloison in glue, it is placed onto the vessel with tweezers. Vessel with cloisons in place.
 
Eye droppers are used to fill the cloisons with enamel paste, then the piece is fired in an electric kiln. The heat causes the enamel to vitrify and settle into the cloisons. Three or four coats of enamel are applied and fired until the cloisons are completely full. 
A second coat of enamel paste is applied over the fired enamel.

The final coat of enamel is applied.

 
The enameled surface is ground smooth on an electric lathe with water and emery stone, then ground with water and charcoal. The pieces are fired one last time to produce a glossy surface. The final step is to electroplate the exposed copper with gold or silver.

Grinding and polishing on a lathe.

After grinding, but before refiring.

Finished cloisonné masterpieces at the Beijing Enamel Factory.

 
LINKS:
Dunzi production in Yaoli, China
Porcelain production in Jingdezhen, China
Printing in China 
Blacksmithing in Andalucia, Spain 
Metal Spinning in Seville, Spain 
Silversmithing in Andalucia, Spain  
Mexican Jeweler, Francisco Garcia Guevara
Metal Casters of Foumban, Cameroon, Africa
Haida Silversmith, Dave Hunter  
Betancourt Icons of Guanajuato, Mexico
Polish icon maker, Dr. Miroslaw Mrozowski  

Web page, photographs, and text by Carol Ventura in 2004. Please look at Carol's home page to see more about crafts around the world.