Wisley Botanical Gardens Enamel

I have been thinking a lot recently about visits to Botanical Gardens and the wonderful collections of plants that they house. I have many happy memories of visiting Kew Gardens as a young child with my grandparents when you got in for 1 old penny in the turnstile. Years later I remember getting locked in when I went there for a picnic to celebrate a friends birthday after work. Champagne and strawberries in the rhododendron dell and we didn’t hear the little bell they used to ring. We had to walk around the perimeter until we found a cottage where someone was living. It was well before mobile phones. As a family we enjoy days out to gardens of all types and often visit Wisley RHS and Kew. I am always drawn to the cathedral like structures of the glasshouses whether they are the a Victorian structures at Kew or the much more modern one at Wisley with its state of the art computer controlled light, heat and ventilation. Entering the Glasshouse at Wisley is like walking into a jungle with tree ferns, tall palms, lush-leaved creepers and dazzling flower displays giving a feeling of lushness and drama. Sometimes it is home to thousands of butterflies which adds another dimension to the display. During the winter they have a Festival of Lights where plants on the glasshouse are lit by coloured lights from beneath giving extra colour and drama.

I spent a long time looking at the many hundreds of photos I have taken over the years. Due to the lockdown I wasn’t actually able to visit any of these places again but the photos really helped. I spent a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon on the patio drawing ideas.

I decided to work on silver and to engrave the piece before forming the wires for a cloisonné design. I made a film about part of this process that you can see on my Tutorials page. Here are some pictures of the piece in progress.

The silver has been cut, formed and engraved. First I add a layer of transparent enamel and fire in the kiln before I start to add the wires that I have shaped using the design I have drawn. It’s a long process.
The enamel is laid in thin layers and each layer is fired in the kiln for around two minutes.
More layers have been added and fired to build up the depth of colour and shading.
Even more layers.
When the cells are nearly full I grind the whole piece. I am aiming to have the whole piece level without any areas which are lower than the rest. This is done in stages. More can be seen in the films on my Tutorials page.
This is the final firing when only a few cells need a little more enamel to fill them
The final piece. It has been fired and ground down and then polished by hand to make it shiny again. It feels silky to the touch. It is now ready for a setting to be made.