Enameling by David C. Freda
This year at Kraftwerks (2004) David C. Freda was there to give demonstrations on enameling.
David is a very well known metal smith, artist, and naturalist. His work is considered some of the best in the world. Many of his creations are in well known museums.
Museums use his work to portray animals and plants naturally in their displays. With many real plants and animals it is not practical or even possible to use them in life like museum displays.
So David creates them in perfect life scale out of fine silver and enamel for naturalist displays.
His work is absolutely life like and it is difficult to believe how real his enamel creations actually look in real life.
David is also a very sought after artist and many of his creations are sold to collectors. When I talked to him he was working on a series of exact life replicas of Orchid flowers for a world famous jeweler in New York.
This year at Kraftwerks David, Jason Penn, and I shared a booth.
Jason did the black Jade pendant carving demonstration.
David was a little leery of both of Jason and me (the Tucson boys). Particularly when he saw us set up a huge cabbing unit.
For any one that has ever cabbed or cut stones you know the kind of dust and… well splatter stone cutting can create.
Dust and splatter being a major thing to avoid if you are enameling. David was a little concerned.
When he brought up the subject of… well how messy are you guys? Both Jason and I replied which direction would you like the mud and dust storm? Or something along that line (his wife sitting behind us burst out laughing). He had a pretty stunned “deer in the head lights” look to him until he realized we were pulling his leg. After that we all got along well.
Because we were all in the same booth I got a pretty good look at what he does and managed to bug him with questions about “How do you do that?” most of the week end.
The first thing David demonstrated was how he makes snake eggs. (I know, but he is a naturalist, and theya re all a little well… you know.)
Left: If you look closely at the picture you will see a small egg made of fine silver on the desk.
Fine silver is used in almost all enameling because the enamel (glass) melts and sticks best to a pure metal. For those of you who do not know. Enameling is the process of making metal models (fine silver usually) and then melting various colors and types of glass on to the model to create an object de art.
Top Left: A vel-a-mix mold of an actual egg (snake). Vel-a-mix is a dental material/powder that mixes with water to make a very high quality mold. David likes it because it reproduces fine detail and is easy to carry in the field.
Top Right: A vel-a-mix mold and a wax egg.
Generally David uses the vel-a-mix to make his initial mold in the field, and then casts the object in fine silver. From that point it is common for him to make a traditional rubber mold of the fine silver object so he can reproduce as many wax models as he likes.
As I said earlier enameling is the process of melting colored glass (this is a simplified explanation) on a metal model, usually made of fine silver. So a very major part of the process and what David does is basically real life model making of objects he wants to enamel.
David has to have a fine silver “model” of what ever animal, plant, or object he wants to reproduce in enamel. Quite frankly the actual model making is a major part of David’s art.
Above: David is injecting hot wax into the rubber egg mold.
Above: David is pouring the hot wax out the rubber egg mold. Wonder how he makes them hollow? He injects the wax, waits a few seconds and then pours the hot wax out. This results in just the face surface of the inside of the egg mold holding wax. Thus the egg is hollow. Everybody when ahhhh, when he did it. I had never seen it done that way before.
Above: David removing the wax egg from the rubber mold.
Above Left: Putting the wax eggs on a wax sprue. Getting ready to cast.
Above Right: The wax eggs in a casting flask ready for plaster. Note the holes in the wax egg? The holes are for stringing them into a necklace (pictured below).
Left: David inspecting the already cast fine silver snake egg.
If you are interested in more about the casting process. Here are some articles on casting.
David did not actually cast the eggs at the demonstration he, had some already cast and ready to go.
Left: Sifting enamel onto the metal egg.
Enamel comes in about any color you can imagine and quite a few you cannot. The enamel is lightly sifted onto the fine silver egg.
David uses some saliva painted onto the egg to make the enamel stick.
There are commercial wetting agents but he said they work OK, but not as well as plain old spit.
Left: Putting the egg with enamel powder coat in a hot oven.
After putting on an even light coat of the enamel. The egg must be put into an oven so that the glass/enamel can be melted onto the metal egg model.
The enameling process can become pretty complicated depending on what you are trying to achieve.
It is not as easy as David makes it look.
An egg like this takes 2-5 enameling layers. The enamel is thin and in order to get a good quality lustrous coating the process has to be done many times.
So the process of sifting enamel on to the egg and heating the various coatings/layers can be time consuming.
The time in the oven for the enamel to melt was only a few minutes.
Left: The enameled egg.
The metal tail is just a pin that David used to be able to handle the egg when it was hot.
Also any finger prints, oil, dust or contaminants will damage the enamel costing. So the egg and the surfaces are never handled during the enameling process.
As you can see in the picture the egg really looks like an egg. It looks like a baby snake should pop out of the egg at any time (see picture below).
Left: Using a diamond burr to make a small hole in the white egg enamel.
David is a naturalist, so naturally he has to make every thing he does look as life like as possible.
That means in the case of the egg he wants to put some texture and “spots” on the eggs to make them look real.
Too put on the spots he uses a diamond bur and makes several cuts/indentation’s in the white enamel shell of the egg.
Left: Putting in enamel.
Of course after he has made the initial bur hole in the white enamel, more enamel of a differetn color needs to be applied.
David uses a paint brush (wet) to apply just a little bit of colored enamel to make the spot on the snake egg.
He fills all of the holes he drilled around the egg with various shades of the fresh enamel.
Using slight shade color differences on all the spots make the spots even more life like.
Left: A close up of the pink looking enamel, before heating.
The spots on the surface of the egg are all varied in size also.
Note the color of the spot looks pink in the picture.
The color of the enamel when it is unmelted and being applied is often different then what the color will look like when melted.
Left: Back in the oven for a few more minutes to melt the spots.
It is important to note that all the enamel has different melting temperatures and that you need to know what you are doing to get all the colors and layers to work out correctly.
Left: The enameled egg with colored spots.
The finished egg was really pretty neat and the entire process David used to make it was fascinating.
This demonstration is just the very tip of the iceberg of what is possible using enamel.
You have to see it to believe it. I would take up enameling if I could only find that 8th day in the week.
Here are some more examples of David’s work. Contact information is listed at the end of the page.
Above: The snake necklace. You can see the “eggs”.
Above: Close up of the snake necklace.
Above: Snake on a leaf. See the Frog?
Above: Octopus pin. Really nice…
Above: Leaves cast in fine silver ready to be enameled. Note the detail of the leaf in the silver.
Above: Wax caterpillar (again hollow) in it’s rubber mold.
Above: Caterpiller cast in fine silver. Again note the extreme detail.
David C. Freda
P.O. Box 1163
San Clemente, CA 92672
email: [email protected]