Soft enamel production work

Does anyone have first hand experience with a company offering
contract epoxy enameling (soft enamel) on a production piece work
basis? We don’t quite have the volume of work available to satisfy
the big contractors, but we have more work than we can manage in


Fyi, those of us who are trying to educate the public regarding what
enamel is, have a hard time with resin being called enamel.

I don’t know why some people insist on calling resins and epoxy
"enamel."Enamel is a vitreous product–glass. In fact enameling is
referred to as “glass on metal.” It is easy to tell the difference.
Visually, they are totally different. But if one is still unsure,
just tap the object gently witha piece of metal—and the glass will
ring. resins have a dull sound.

The term “cold enamel,” keeps popping up, but there is no such thing
as “cold enamel.” Enamel is glass. Period. Alma

Fyi, those of us who are trying to educate the public regarding
what enamel is, have a hard time with resin being called enamel. 

I can understand where you are coming from.

I sell Ceramit, basically a catalyst and colour. It does produce an
enamel-like material, almost as hard as enamel, and can be sanded
drilled and polished. You can let it cure for 72 hours, or put it
into an oven at 100c.

I also sell a product called U-Namel, which is a resin (I actually
think it’s a plastic). It is similar to the white filings you get at
the dentist, and in fact is cured with a UV light, it takes about 2
minutes to get a product that can be drilled sanded and polished.

Both products are very strong, and convenient to use, however I
"never" sell them as a traditional enamel. They are simply an
alternative, and in some cases the only means to get an enamel-like
material into a piece.

If I can use traditional enamel in a piece then that would be my
first choice, enameling in a casting can be an issue, but this is not
a problem for the alternative products. It’s just another product we
can use to make our jewellery better.

Regards Charles A.

I don't know why some people insist on calling resins and epoxy
"enamel."Enamel is a vitreous product--glass. In fact enameling is
referred to as "glass on metal." It is easy to tell the
Visually, they are totally different. But if one is still unsure,
just tap the object gently witha pie
The term "cold enamel," keeps popping up, but there is no such
thing as "cold enamel." Enamel is glass. Period. Alma 

I don’t know why people call silicon bronze, “bronze”, and why they
call pattern welded steel “Damascus”, and why they call mail “chain

It’s a common acceptance of terms. You can fight the mob view, but
you will find that you’ll get nowhere (well this is what I’ve found).

Regards Charles A.

Fyi, those of us who are trying to educate the public regarding
what enamel is, have a hard time with resin being called enamel. 

I just think it’s lying, plain and simple, to deceive the public.

Enamel is glass. Period. 

For people in your business, perhaps. For a dentist, it’s the
surface material of teeth. For a painter, it’s a paint with a hard
glossy finish. For a cook, it may be a fused ceramic coating on a
pan. There are even cosmetics called enamels. So, don’t be surprised
if other people don’t always conform to your usage.

Al Balmer

Hi Marianne

Educating the public LOL good luck.

I sometimes work in resin and in Australia people seem to usually
know the difference between resin and enamel.

But are usually shocked to find out 9 kt is only 37.5% gold.

They are also amazed that I make my jewellery and don’t import it.

I find it amazing they can’t read my display sign “Silversmith,
Handmade Jewellery” And ask me do you make it? Is it silver? etc.

And on the rare occasion I make flatware, salt spoons find it
incredible I can saw a piece of silver sheet and dap a bowl on the
end of the spoon.

Just keep explaining the difference of the materials and the
qualities of each.


I agree with you Al. I just tell people that what I do is melted
glass on metal. I’ve seen some beautifull work being done with resins
that are called warm/cold enamel. People at first had an attitude
about femo clay and precious metal clay and now it is accepted in the
mainstream. The same goes for repurposed material used in jewelry.
This argument reminds me of the SNAG/metalsmith drama that recently
was overworked on this site. The same goes for art verses craft
conversations that I often excuse myself from being a part of. Let’s
move on and be more constructive and less elitist about our
particular mediums.

Chris Hierholzer

Orchidians- regarding my query for soft enamel production work-
which did not actually lead to any contacts, but did lead to a
discussion of terminology- I chose that term because the 4 large
scale U.S. enameling companies I got bids and samples from use that
short hand term to describe what they offer in their price lists,
conversations, and billing forms. I knew what they meant. My mistake
was presuming I could use that same short hand here. My apologies.

I wish you well in your efforts to educate the public in terms of
accurate word choice. You may need to start with some of the folks
who do contract “hard” or “soft” enamel work for the fashion jewelry
industry all day long for a living.


In common with many Orchidians, I am not an enamellist: I know it
can be stunningly beautiful, but I know only the basic tenets of the
art. Therefore some education might be nice: so, Kate, what exactly
is the “hard” and “soft” enamelling that bears no relation to resin
work (which I know a little about, but not much)

Janet Barkwith

In common with many Orchidians, I am not an enamellist: I know it
can be stunningly beautiful, but I know only the basic tenets of
the art. Therefore some education might be nice: so, Kate, what
exactly is the "hard"and"soft" enamelling that bears no relation to
resin work (which I know a little about, but not much) 

If You are truly unaware of the difference between epoxy resins and
glass enamel work, try some. This is one of the few classes I took
at one of Ohio’s cultural art centers years ago. It is located in
Dayton, the center is a jewel in itself! The instructor that taught
the class, was a women I had met at Dayton’s Art in The Park craft
and art show we used to do each year. There was another woman who
studied under hekki seppa that taught forms, and the casting
instructor was also great. The master jeweler taught engraving and
intermediate and beyond fabrication. They also had a great lapidary
program. Problem was Dayton is 3 hrs away, so 2 days a week were lost
in driving even though I took two classes each day to make it
worthwhile. I found out what I wanted to know about enameling and
casting. Each discipline was a serious investment in time to become
good at it (which I never did). I did however, cast a few acceptable
pieces which were incorporated into projects that were sales worthy.
I also produced a couple of enamel pieces that my wife kept that I
probably could have sold, but were not up to my standards. My point
is enameling is a tasking and tedious process that can require many
hours of work per piece. There are numerous threads beyond basic
background color that are disciplines in themselves. People spend
their lives mastering these many techniques, and there are examples
in every craft and art magazine worth reading. I am surprised that a
forum that will argue over other minutiae for weeks can brush aside
this very legitimate art form and allow paint on epoxy to compared as
if they are somehow equal. Thomas III

In common with many Orchidians, I am not an enamellist: I know it
can be stunningly beautiful, but I know only the basic tenets of
the art. Therefore some education might be nice: so, Kate, what
exactly is the "hard"and"soft" enamelling that bears no relation to
resin work (which I know a little about, but not much)" 

Yes, I’d like to read this as well! I am an enamelist. Perhaps some
of my colleagues would be interested to read/comment? Marianne

but I know only the basic tenets of the art. 

I don’t remember who the above is from and this isn’t personal

Over and over, while breathing deeply: “Don’t bite the newbies,
don’t bite the newbies, don’t bite the newbies…”

This is not jewelry school, this is the world. I believe it was Al
Balmer who said it - correct me if I’m wrong - “Enamel” is a generic
term for a hard, glassy lustred surface. Glass enamel is not “the
one true enamel”, it is one of many. Glass enamel is properly called
vitreous enamel (vitreous having it’s roots in Greek or Roman for
glass), enamel paint you can buy at home depot and it says enamel on
the can. And tooth enamel is called that because, well I hope I
don’t need to explain that. Your porcelain bathtub is actually a
form of enamel too. And plastic resin which has come on the market
for similar purposes has been dubbed “soft enamel” though I prefer
"plastic enamel" myself, by industry and nobody asked any of us
whether we like it or not. I’m not even going to go to the art
school hypocrisy that that one is an alternative material but that
one is evil plastic substitute, we’ll just let it lie there. The
jewelry industry is so much bigger than they taught you in school
that I think many just have no conception. And jewelry has always,
forever, adopted technology if and as it arrives.

We want to make Mickey Mouse pins, properly licensed. Our price
point is $12.95 retail. We get our graphic, photoetch a hundred
models, make a mold and white metal cast them. Mass finishing, paint
it with resin, pin it to a card and it’s out the door. We could make
it in fine silver and use vitreous enamel but remember this isn’t
school, this is the world. Our price point is $12.95 and we can’t
use vitreous enamel on white metal and the labor costs are just
outrageously prohibitive anyway. This is jewelry - lose the snobbery

  • you don’t have to make it yourself but it’s jewelry nonetheless.
    NFL pins, Welcome to Las Vegas, Winter Olympics. And that’s not even
    mentioning Trifari and the like, all of which is perfectly fine,
    legitimate jewelry. It used to be paint and sometimes it still is
    but resin is better if it’s possible.

This isone thing they just don’t teach - production design. We could
do all ofthose things. We could make it in 18kt gold and turn it
into a hat and boywouldn’t that be a great cover shot. Our actual,
real-world job is to make a ten buck pin that’s well made (no
returns), by the thousands, that istruly artful and will attract
kids in particular. That’s the job, it makes no difference what
anybody wishes it might be, that is if you want to work.

Related - and also vaguely to the Indian jewelry recently posted. A
store I deal with called me and had a customer who had bought a huge
load of jewelry on a trip to India and she wanted to break it up and
make something contemporary. I can’t identify the style but it had a
Taj Majal look. OK, I got it, took one look and realized it was all
fake. Our traveler had had traveler’s greed and boy I just stole
that stuff from that guy and what does he know… What it really
was wasn’t so much fake as beautifully made costume jewelry - this
was some fine work, meticulously made and finished - I assume not to
decieve but just to be fine costume. We’re talking $15K worth of
gold alone if it were real gold. It’s a good story but the reason
for telling it is that there were a couple ofhundred little dimples,
each with a glass stone meticulously, carefully and cleanly glued in
place. Great design, the dimples meant the stones won’t just get
knocked off but they still showed and looked like settings from a
distance. You could say that you wouldn’t glue them because you
never use glue on anything and it’s wrong, wrong, wrong but actually
only a percentage of readers here could even make it to begin with
and it’s the right way in the right place at the right time. This
isn’t school, it’s the world. Production design, Indian style and a
good job of it too.

And I’d considered addressing Brian’s post about the guy with the
press room a few day’s back under this same topic but I’ll just
assume it was a brain fart because Brian’s a smart guy. “This $20
pendant is perfect to mark my daughter’s first tooth and yes I need
a chain. A beautifully made, clean, strongdurable silver chain with
a lobster claw for $35? Fine, I’ll take it, wrap it up.” Jewelry
uses technology, it always has, it always will and no, it wan’t
invented in college.

John D. Eighth day sitting home with the cold of the decade…

No argument about that ! If you hadn’t already surmised, I am a
lousy business man. I was simply offended for the people that have
specialized in that field of techniques. Quality enameling is
something I look forward to at the shows and in the museums when I
get a chance to go. And I feel they have earned the respect for their
work, whether they are good salespeople or not. None of this is
written with disrespect for anyone’s opinion, just throwin’ in my two
cents. Thomas III

Hi John D, got one of those colds too, yuk

We want to make Mickey Mouse pins, properly licensed. Our price point
is $12.95 retail. We get our graphic, photoetch a hundred models,
make a mold and white metal cast them.

This is a very good point, this is a business and you do what you
can to make money.

I have a friend who is a master at making hollow ware, does not make
a living at that. Not many people want to pay $50 k for a tea set.

Does production run masters to be cast in whatever is needed, white
metal to 18kt gold.

She also was the only one I knew who would repair Asian silver back
in the 1980’s. Minimum charge $30, more than most of it cost. None of
us would touch it. She did well.

From a business viewpoint jewellery is what sells, what does not
sell is crap.

Keep posting this stuff John and Jo-Ann it really make sense to those
who do not want to starve like artists.


Having admitted I am a lousy businessman does not translate into
"starving artist". Many of my heroes in the art world were and are
very successful business people. I will admit to getting tears in my
eyes looking at a couple of Van Gogh’s works, and since I have no
academic background it is not about the brushstrokes, but more a
visceral reaction and knowing a little about the life he led. That’s
a starving artist. I am not that committed! I am a very simple man
with not very lofty goals.

I have managed to raise a couple boys, build a couple shops and a
house. Helped put my wife through nursing school, and helped to get
my youngest son his own 10 acres to build a home on. There were some
tough times, and I had to work hard, but I got to mostly do want I
wanted, and feed us at the same time.

Reading the posts here has taught me a lot, and I hope I have
occasionally helped others. The last thing I want is to do is
alienate the group in general, and certainly not scare away the
"newbies". The Donivans have offered much more to the forum than I in
almost every way. I even agreed with the majority of his last post. I
certainly don’t begrudge them what they want out of life. The posts
they offer speak for themselves.

I would, just at a guess, think that among many in this forum I am
just a mediocre craftsman. As an example when some retail prices
were being tossed around recently, I realized that I have only made
one piece that went over 20,000.00. When I retired (sort of) from the
business, most of my pieces were from a few hundred to a couple
grand. In comparison to people that have a chain, that puts me in my
place. Quite frankly, it is just not that bad a place to be.

From the perspective of 67 years, are there things I wish I had done
differently; what talks to me the loudest is “I could have been a
better craftsman”. I have a feeling with twice the skills I have
picked up, I would feel the same way. I have to make things! The
choices are many, but that imperative is always there!

I am not sure what other people read into what I post, but the main
point was to give quality enamelers the respect they are due. How
this turned into me defending my lifestyle, or a marketing issue in
general I have no idea. Do I disagree with allowing paint on epoxy to
be lumped in with quality enamel work? Yes, no matter what is common
with the industry in general.

Richard, we should be able to disagree, without all the hyperbole. We
simply don’t know each other that well.

I have been swimming upstream for most of my adult life and I do get
tired, but just don’t have it in me to agree just because the
marketing says so.

Sorry about subjecting everyone to my life story again, but I am not
a starving artist. Thomas III

From a business viewpoint jewellery is what sells, what does not
sell is crap. 

I’m not sure if I’d say it’s crap, Richard, but there’s a point
there, too.

35 or so years ago - what I think of as “The Carrie Adell” years. I
came to SF, got a room to stay, and the next day I met Carrie in an
art fair. She wasn’t such a big deal to me, she was just memorable,
as those who knew her know. After a couple of years things were
going on and I was involved in the whole jewelry “scene” here in
thecity, including the arty side. I was making diamond and platinum
jewelry already, BTW. There’s a local organization called MAG
(Google it…) of which Jo-Ann was president at the time. Some
people from then I stillknow, and a few that stand out are a young,
fresh faced, newbie at jewelryJim Binnion, the recently lauded Jeff
Herman and a woman named Janet who reads Orchid sometimes.

Jim was trying to get out of the career he was in, which is his
story to tell, and was truly a novice in jewelry at that time. The
thing about Jeff, who I was friendly with but he may not even
remember me, is that his talent was obvious even then, and I mean
everybody saw it. What I saw in his work was what I have come to
believe I havealways had - what I call the human touch. His work was
stylish but still down to earth. When you saw his cases you said, “I
want that, and I want that, and I want that.” not from some strange,
ourtre design but just good, solid, beautiful work. And history has
shown where that led for him and good for him. I remember Janet
because she was cute, mostly, and she had nice, clean work that was
good but not so terribly stand-out-ish. About ten years ago I heard
her name again after all those years - she hasa shop with several
employees making her own line of designer diamond jewelry and by all
accounts is doing quite well for herself. I just don’t know what path
she took to get there, but those things don’t happen at your kitchen
table. (Watching DEE-troit put the hurt on Green Bay…)

I kind of just “am” an artist - looking back I have realized that I
just became that and schooling is important but for me it just sort
of evolved from an early age. There are plenty like me. Others take
different paths. What you see in my portfolio is largely expensive,
but we are very involved in the arts and young artists here - don’t
be fooled. What I’m saying is on Orchid but I also see it daily in
my life. One perspective can be summed up as, “I went to school and
I graduated and it says I’m an artist so I’m an artist.” Fine, and
at least to a degree, true.

The point, and the point of these writings, and what I see in the
young people locally, is “OK, what’s next?” I know plenty of people
who just want to live the fantasy - “being” and artist is an end in
itself and they sit in clubs in berets twirling their Dali mustaches
and drinking absinthe before they go to their jobs bussingtables in
a cafe. BTW, absinthe has to be the most awful thing ever

There are plenty of hobbyists, there are plenty who work at it as a
paying hobby and maybe bring home lunch money but don’t liveoff of
it and don’t necessarily want to. Again, good for them.

If you want to be a career jewelry maker then you just gotta sell
it, theresimply is no alternative, and that’s what many art school
graduates just don’t get, largely because nobody taught it to them.
In order to bring home $36K a year you need to SELL $3000/month,
every month, day in and day out and that’s disregarding gross/net

And in order to do that, you need to make things that people want to
buy. I’ve said it many times and I still see the attitude - “But
this is my ART, you don’t understand!” In that case it is you who
doesn’t understand. They don’t want to buy it. They may look and
rave and even write things in magazines, but they just don’t
want to possess it
at least at the price. As a maker and
business person it is your job to provide them with a product that
they DO want to buy.

Also what people often don’t grasp, that’s really important: This is
my ART doesn’t have to mean your dreams and rather vivid imagination
and strange fantasy pieces. That it just your own lack of restraint.
If I give you an opal and tell you to make me a ring that’s
saleable, that’s your art, too. If you make a custom band of goldfor
a wedding, that’s your art, too. Putting a stone setting on a simple
shank is your art… Everything, absolutely everything, that
you make is your art. It’s just a simple matter of you choosing to
make art that people want to buy. Well, it’s not so simple but
that’s the job.

Happy Thanksgiving! John D.

what talks to me the loudest is "I could have been a better

Very eloquent posting, Thomas. My writings on this topic have been
from trying to help people with what is often treated as a taboo
subject in art - the business of art. If it’s taboo, it’s not taught
and if it’s not taught it’s not learned, that’s all. I speak from a
pretty large experience - my own personal path but more so we deal
with young and young-er people constantly. College types bring us
work, designers bring us work, Jo-Ann teaches, I always make visits
and classes come here on field trips, too. And more…

The bottom line of it all isn’t to challenge people or anything like
that, it’s to form a perspective. Youwent to school or maybe
something else, you became an artist and maybe they even gave you a
paper proclaiming you one. And there’s a trend todayof folks going
from there and wanting to take that and start what amounts to a
business, but too, too often they want to run it like an artist.
Ifyou are going to be a business you need to run it like one if you
expect to succeed, and that starts with putting out a product that
sells. Also too, too often I hear, “But this is what I DO!” OK - if
what you DO doesn’t MOVE then you need to change what you DO…
Treat it like the business that it is. People in your area don’t like
bittersweet chocolate so offer them milk chocolate, it’s not a
difficult concept. Except that so many people don’t get it and pound
their heads against the wall.

Good businessman? What does that mean? Sounds like Thomas did pretty
well. I have a pretty good head for it all but we largely inherited a
complete line of molds that made another company millions of dollars.
We have like 4,000 molds. It occurred to me that we could market some
or allof that and do quite well. Other, related thoughts like that
have occurred to me over the years. But I’m a goldsmith, I make
things. All of those thoughts involve leaving the bench and wearing a
tie and that’s just not for me. Likely that would be my level of
incompetence, frankly. Iguess you could call that being a bad
business person but I call it havinga focus in life and knowing one’s

If it’s a hobby for you then have fun. If it’s a career or you want
it to be, then treat it like one, that’s all.

Happy Friday…John D.

PS - high value? I didn’t make it but someone brought a diamond
necklace to me of some hundreds of carats. It had a fringe of
diamond briolettes just for a start, and they wanted the 2 carat
drop changed to 5 carats to be more prominent. I don’t know the
value but it was well over a million. My job was small…

So John, I have already said I agree with most of what you say. Your
life sounds like the one I dreamed of. I wasn’t there, just passed
through Cal on the way to Viet Nam. Turned 21 over there, and saw
what Americans are capable of, to keep their lifestyle going the way
they like it. When I returned and was stationed in Cal, where I
finally got my discharge, and I got slightly involved in vets against
the war, I got things thrown at me and spit on from the hawk side,
and when I didn’t commit, the liberal side called me a baby murderer.
My first chance to vote would have been for Bobby, even though I was
still in the Air Force, and was being pressured to vote for general
LeMay, Wallace had chosen him as a running partner, and he was the
head of the Air Force. When Bobby was killed some of the people I
worked with actually laughed asking “now who you going to vote for?”

I left the Air Force with some serious PTSD, when the government was
still not even admitting there was a problem. The next ten years
were a blur, with me trying to find my own identity again. That
imperative “to make things” kicked in, and I started with candles and
soapstone pipes. Not a hobby, a living. Never gave a thought to being
an artist, still don’t call myself an artist. I just make things. I
still haven’t made my peace with my fellow countrymen over the need
for oil, and big SUVs, and what we are capable of doing to feed that
addiction. Probably require professional help to get past that one.

I did finally go to the VA to get some help with meds about 7 & 1/2
years ago. At the time my doctors had given me about six months
(probably less). The VA said they would help with some of the meds,
but I would have to be examined by their heart specialist. Gave me an
appointment for a little over six months away.

Back to now, My wife (the ICU nurse) talked me into an appointment
with the head of the local VA, who informed me that every symptom I
have in a long line of symptoms, were almost certainly caused by
"agent orange". He has filed my case and expects it to be approved,
possibly as soon as two years. My health has been getting worse
again, and odds are I won’t make it that long. I get up each day to
excruciating pain in my legs, at one point a few years ago I actually
had to use a walker. Still made it to the shop most days. Didn’t get
much done, but I got down there. The pain started with my feet, and
over the years has worked it’s way up my legs to just above my knees.
I tell myself not to whine, lots of guys come back from a war zone
with no legs.

So John, anyone that would pick my life over yours would have to be
an idiot. These are brief descriptions of our years of growing, and
I am sure that there is much more to your life just as there is to
mine. Somehow (and I am not trying to be dense), your point or mine
is being lost here. In the main I agree with you, except for a couple
of years when I was foolish enough to believe my own marketing, and
the smoke a couple of gallery owners were blowing cause they were
making money from my pieces, I have very rarely admitted out loud I
wanted to be an artist. My life has been me getting away with making
things on my own, and GETTING PAID.

What does any of this have to do with separating two different
techniques, because one requires a very exacting set of skills, and
the other can be performed by someone with almost no skills. As I
said before I had a person in mind when I spoke out about the
difference being important, she deserved better.Comparing my life to
yours is pointless as far as I can tell. I have to say you tell a
good story, and it has been interesting reading, but for the life of
me I can’t see what any of this has to do with respect to a fellow
crafts person, and make no mistake, she was an artist.

I got very carried away here, and must apologize again, most of this
has nothing to do with my original point. I am apparently too dense
to grasp what John is trying to get across. I will leave this alone
now as I feel I have wasted way too much of your time, John, even
Richard and whoever else sees what I am incapable of seeing. Thomas