Bridging the Gap - Plique a Jour with a
by Bill Helwig
from Volume 21, Number 4, August 2002
Nothing is really ever new, unless discovered. What is discovered, is old, because it previously existed in order to be discovered.
It just took a while to recognize difference...and everybody wants to be recognized for their difference.
People are looking for answers, but only the answers that they want to hear.
So they surf the electronic avenues looking for answers that will agree with their questions and get answers that have no credential or proof and assume no responsibility.
This is an example of freedom going nowhere. When real research, honest effort, take into account hundreds of years of evidence, then communication occurs. Otherwise it becomes chatting. . .Martha Stewart style.
There has been a sufficient amount of history and information in print for one to ascertain, by laboring, that there is more to know, than just asking questions.
It is necessary to qualify information because there are erroneous
'feathers' all over the place. Participants in a field generally fail to realize that they should be purveyors of information that is grounded in actual knowledge, not tricks of the trade.
Fortunately, a few pass by educational generalities by questioning and asking why. . .what. . .when. . . where. . .how and who.
Maturity is not hard to muster when it matters.
Was it Hamilton's book, like The Royal Road to Romance; great Grandparents who endeavored through rough realities with fortitude and ethic; or just dumb luck that I loved asking why.
My parents told me, "don't talk back" and teachers generally suggested alternatives by not answering the question.
The application of glass on metal first happened to me when I was an undergrad.
A graduate student questioned why things were happening to her thesis work.
She had followed what was written in Enameling: Principals and Practice by Kenneth F. Bates.
How should I know? Having never enameled before, and being only a teaching assistant's assistant.
The Bates book was the only book that we knew of and we were both in college being taught by professors.
It wasn't until I was out of the Army and teaching in a University Craft Center that enameling was encountered again.
There were people in the community that actually enameled. The American craft movement was on the move.
There was one hell of a lot of excitement and pushing of boundaries on both sides of the coin.
Having come from a work ethic generation and having served my country, it was far easier for me to choose my directions.
The United States Army had served me by giving me three years of experience in Germany where grandeur of older cultures and their respect of individual difference had aesthetic importance.
It was my time to serve history by adventuring into the concepts of what it was like to achieve knowledge, then practice it.
I was on my own looking for relationships that achieved worth being remembered.
This account is about enlightenment and relative discovery.
The soul, seeking itself, travels far. Enamel grabbed me.
It was a world beyond belief. Anticipations exploded like fireworks.
Expectations had never been so calm. Paying attention at every turn, I was both child and parent with the material.
One of the beauties was that we could travel together and communicate.
Yes, there is more that could be said on this point.
This offering is a document for Glass on Metal¨, the book that I never have had time to write.
It is the only existing publication that attempts to fill in the holes that gape over the deep cavities, created by missed information.
It attempts to be inclusive; broad minded, if you will. When seen in bound volumes, the book form of the publication is an astounding account.
Years back, but after getting into the whole concept of enamel and enameling, I, through discourse, became informed by Mr. Carpenter, who was a trained ceramic engineer, that copper oxide must be present for the enamel to wet the surface of copper.
The copper oxide is then taken into the solution of the glass.
Glass has a greater bond with ferrous metals and a weaker bond with non-ferrous metals.
This was before he sought to employ me. I recognize just how little comprehension there was within the field of enameling on metal in the United States, and possibly elsewhere; he on the other hand expressed that he didn't understand how I could do what I could do with glass on metal.
In my mind was the question 'what else do those who enamel need to be aware
Having toyed with plique
a jour because, as a teacher of enameling processes, it was my duty to comprehend what it was that I was about to teach as a teacher.
I tried all of the procedures promoted in English. All failed to produce anything with a viable importance near that already historically in evidence.
None were suitable for display or further experimentation until that clue.
Copper oxide was a eureka. 'Does glass 'stick' to copper. . .they bond, but do they adhere? Maybe they just
'fit' together. We all have seen examples of glass released from copper under pressure.
The metal surface is left very bright. The thought was to release the metal from the glass, but not by etching.
The idea was to just roll it back, like opening a can of sardines, because copper is softer than glass.
The assurity of my revelation about plique ˆ jour was so clear that the procedure was photo documented the first time out.
The boundaries were pushed well beyond any existing proportion.
It was another adventure with the material; having by that time broken more contemporary enameling rules than any reader cares to know.
The information was presented in several workshops and like most new information uncovered, it was delivered to participants who didn't really want to know.
It was just a bit of entertainment and very social. Most of what I had to say didn't seem to fit their mind set.