The Chinese Art of Cloisonn

Cloisonné is a unique combination of copper and
porcelain working skills, traditional painting, sculpting,
and etching skills. Originating in Beijing during the Yuan
Dynasty (1271-1368), cloisonné is an intricate process
that requires many years of training for an artisan
to master.

Cloisonné underwent a major change during the Ming Dynasty
around 1426-1456 when a blue enamel was discovered, which
gives cloisonné its gorgeous look, and is still used today. Ming
Dynasty cloisonné is considered the most intricate.

china cloisonne collection

Cloisonné pieces can be found in large objects, such as vases
and other large utensils and decorative items, as well as small
items like earrings, bracelets, chopsticks, or jars.

The Making of a Masterpiece

When visiting China, be sure to visit a cloisonné factory. It’s an
experience you won’t soon forget. Cloisonné requires many
hours of pain-staking labor, and Chinese artisans have mastered
the entire process. It’s amazing to watch each of the artisans in
deep concentration creating these beautiful pieces.

Step 1: Cloisonné Design

The first step in creating one of these lustrous
cloisonné pieces is to create the design. Artists
draw the design on a piece of paper, which is
then handed off to the next artisan in the process.

Step 2: Base Hammering
In this step, copper sheets are hammered on to an enamel piece, whether it is a large vase or a small bracelet. The seams are sealed with copper solder and then the piece is put into a stove to weld it. This is a time-consuming step and must be done perfectly to achieve the desired effect. cloisonne base hammering

Step 3: Copper Wire Curving

cloisonne copper wire curvingUnbeknownst to most people, cloisonné is not
constructed of a single piece of enamel. It is
constructed instead of hundreds, and sometimes
thousands of small copper wires glued to the
copper base.
Workers shape a small red copper wire to make the design as the designer has instructed. These small, intricate designs can be birds, flowers, or any of hundreds of other types of designs. The wires are attached using small tweezers and pliers. The copper wires are then pasted on the surface of the copper body. Then another worker puts silver solder between the red copper wire and the red copper body. The piece is then put in the stove where the copper wires are welded onto the base. china copper wire small vase

Step 4: Enamel Filling

cloisonne enamel fillingWhen cooled, workers polish the piece and
then fill in the wire design with enamel
materials according to the color design.
Workers sit in front of a table using a small
suction pipe to suck the enamel from the
colored dishes into the pipe.

After filling the wires with enamel, workers absorb any remaining
moisture with cotton. The piece is then put in a kiln for the first
firing. During the firing process, the enamel shrinks. So when
cooled, workers fill with more materials and fire again. This
entire process is repeated three times until the enamel
completely fills the copper wires.

Step 5: Polishing
The final step in this involved process is polishing. Workers use emery stone to polish the cloisonné until it is very smooth. They even up the color enamel material with the copper wire. If there are places where the enamel doesn’t quite match evenly with the copper wires, more enamel is added and the piece is fired again. The polishing process will begin again. Then a soft yellow stone is used to grind off any larger imperfections. Charcoal is used last to grind the piece to a high sheen.

Creating the gorgeous cloisonné pieces we see today takes
time, patience, and ingenuity. Regardless of the type of
cloisonné piece that you have, it is sure to add beauty and
elegance to your home or office.

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About The Author, Jane Roseen
Author Bio
Jane S. Roseen is the Owner and President of Harmony Sweets, an international gourmet chocolate shop. Harmony Sweets’ mission focuses on individual consumers purchasing gourmet chocolates from around the world for their friends and relatives, as well as corporate gift-giving. Gourmet chocolate gift baskets and personalized chocolates are also available.