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About Diane Echnoz Almeyda and Plique-a-Jour
What makes plique-à-jour enamels so unique and in demand
- RARITY - There is an extremely small number of skilled artists
who have perfected the art of plique-a-jour enameling. There are
no others, to my knowledge, who have adapted it for use in miniature
stained glass applications for the dollhouse or architectural
projects in standard mini scales, such as 1:12, 1:24, and 1:48.
- DIFFICULTY - Few artists are able to master the skills necessary
to succeed at this enameling technique, which incorporate not
only the skills of a jeweler, including the construction of fine
filigree forms, but also enameling "in air" (that is,
with no metal backing).
- BEAUTY - resemblance to the intricate work of the great artists
of the Art Nouveau period - Rene Lalique, Louis Comfort Tiffany,
and Peter Carl Faberge.
- ARTIST'S VISION - unique designs and applications as well as
artistic alliances as in Bloodwood Door #1 in which artist Gary
Goodman executed the wooden door and frame.
- GLASS - colors are permanent, brilliant, translucent, and items
resemble miniature stained glass.
- PRECIOUS METALS - fine silver, sterling silver, and/or gold
- FRAGILITY - fine ribbons of silver and gold filigree wire support
thin layers of glass enamels within their borders.
- VISUAL APPEARANCE - refraction and reflection of light due to
absence of metal backing - ground glass is suspended within each
tiny frame and fired many times to achieve the tiny panel of thin
enamel which spans each cell.
- KILN FIRING - multiple firings yield permanence - the glass
actually fuses to the metal when heated in a kiln at very high
- STRESS - inherent differences in basic attributes of metal
and glass and of their joining (stress of expansion/contraction
involved in heating and cooling - the "nature of the beast",
so to speak). Each piece is quite a miracle!
- TIME- labor intensive - made by hand and may require days,
weeks, months, or even years of work on special items. There are
no short-cuts in quality work!
- DOLLHOUSE AND ARCHITECTURAL APPLICATIONS - mini stained glass
windows, doors, lamps, panels and more! The most realistic way
to recreate stained glass items in miniature.
- LIMITED AVAILABILITY - Small number of pieces made.
Miniature Stained Glass and Plique-à-Jour Enamels - Who,
What, Where, When, and How.....
Hi - I'm Diane Echnoz Almeyda. I'm an enamelist, jeweler, and metalsmith
- and I love plique-a-jour enameling, the art of making miniature
stained glass. I make vessels, jewelry, objets d'art, and miniature
stained glass windows and lamps for dollhouses and architectural
models in various scales (1:12, 1:24, 1:48) using real glass and
metal. I work only with glass (vitreous) enamels and metals - usually
silver and gold. I don't use resins, plastics, or paints. Actually,
this is my favorite topic of conversation - so I'm glad you're here!
How I Got Started with Plique-à-Jour Enameling.
It was love at first sight when I first saw a miniature box incorporating
plique-a-jour enameling in the lid. The brilliant colors of the
enamels added so much to the metal structure; it simply amazed me.
I knew I had to add color to the silver and gold metalwork I was
creating - and this little box convinced me that enameling was the
way to do it. There was a delicacy in the glass yet the colors were
so brilliant. It was the perfect addition to the metalwork.
Life sometimes has a way of leading us where we need to go - and
so it was for me when I saw that my state goldsmiths' group was
offering a class in plique-a-jour enameling to be given by a master
jeweler from Russia. Well, that was the beginning.....
A little bit of technical information...
Enamel = Glass Fused to Metal
Whether you say enamel, smelzan, esmail, smalto, shippo, emaux,
emaille, email, or esmalta you're still discussing the same subject
- glass fused to metal, the technical definition of enamel!
Just what is plique-à-jour?
The Dictionary of Enamelling by Erika Speel (ISBN 1-85928-272-5)
defines Plique-a-Jour as "Translucent or Opalescent Enamels
fused to span across a network of cells formed with gold, silver,
silvered copper, or copper, without a backing under the glazed areas.
The fused enamel is an integral part of the finished surface, with
the glaze forming a shell veined with metal outlines. Plique-a-jour
is seen to best effect when lit strongly from the back. Lacking
such illumination the enamels tend to look dense or semi-opaque."
She also states "Plique-a-jour has been in fashion since
the late 19th century for jewellery and small decorative articles.
Although visually very alluring, plique-a-jour pieces are more fragile
than other types of enamel work and require careful handling in
use. Making these pieces is more time-consuming than other enamel
work and there is a potentially higher failure rate." "Therefore
the worth of these pieces resides in the inspirational designs and
high quality of craftsmanship rather than in the intrinsic value
of the metal base."
How are plique-à-jour enamels made?
There are three basic ways of creating plique-a-jour:
1: Filigree plique-a-jour: This is a building up process whereby
a planned design is interpreted using gold or silver wires which
are worked over a metal form (i.e. bowl). The wires are soldered
together. Enamels are ground and applied to each "cell"
created by the metal wirework. The piece is fired in a kiln. This
process of placing and firing the enamels is repeated until all
cells are completely filled.
2: Pierced plique-a-jour: A sheet of gold or silver is pierced
and sawed, cutting out a desired design. This leaves empty spaces
or "cells" to fill with enamel powders (ground glass)
as described above.
3: Japanese plique-a-jour (Shotai shippo): A layer of flux (clear
enamel) is fired over a copper form. Wires are fired onto the flux
(similar to cloisonné) and the resulting areas are enameled
in the colors of choice. When all the enameling is finished, the
copper base is etched away leaving a translucent shell of plique-a-jour.
Plique-a-jour enameling saw its heyday in the latter part of the
1800s and early 1900s primarily in Austria, France, Japan, Norway,
and the United States.
It incorporated the Art Nouveau ideals seen in works of artists
such as Rene Lalique whereby precious and common items were used
together to create incredible works of art based mainly on the vision
of the artist and skill of the artisan.
Plique-a-jour was a very secret process which makes it difficult
to learn about this ancient technique.
I have been using the first two techniques described above for
my own work - those of filigree and piercing - as they allow a "finished"
and clear surface on the fired enamels.
While I have been making both two and three dimensional plique-a-jour
vessels, jewelry, and objets d'art for many years, my latest research
and developments have led me to successfully re-create stained glass
windows and lamps into miniature for dollhouses and architectural
projects in various mini scales (i.e. 1:12, 1:24, 1:48).
Today and the Future.
This is an exciting field, filled with challenges which keep me
constantly thinking about how I can somehow try to tame these two
diverse materials - metals (silver and gold) and glass. I do remember
the words of my teacher telling me that one needs to work with the
materials - not against them. Now, there' s a challenge!
That serendipitous beginning has brought me to where I am today
- a respected authority in my field. I am always looking for ways
to expand on my craft by experimentation and by continuing to learn
from artists in other specialties. My work is in demand and is in
numerous private collections. I teach at schools of art and craft,
at professional conferences, as well as at private classes. Each
finished piece reinforces the need to continue and grow - to stretch
the boundaries and break through the barriers. It is what drives
me - my passion, my life.
I hope you find this art form as exciting and beautiful as I do.
Please enjoy the photos in my gallery and read about upcoming classes
and shows on the Schedule page. Please use the contact form to send
any questions or comments you may have. Thank you.