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Chinese Cloisonne

History of Chinese Cloisonne
The hand-crafted Chinese Cloisonne is a testimony to the splendor of the imperial court . Beautiful and delicate, yet sturdy, they symbolize the timeless beauty of fine art. Chinese Cloisonne is also called "Enamel with copper roughcast and inlayed copper wire" abbreviated for Enamel and usually called cloisonne.

cloisonne; is a unique art form that originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). In the period titled 'Jingtai' during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), the emperor who was very much interested in bronze-casting techniques, improved the color process, and created the bright blue that appealed to the Oriental aesthetic sense. As blue is the dominant color adopted for enameling It is actually called the "Blue of Jingtai". The emperor liked it so much that in his palace nearly all the imperial decorations were cloisonne.

Generally speaking, cloisonne works from the Ming Dynasty seem massive with colors of pure red and green. Most pieces were signed with a character indicating 'made in the Jingtai Period of the Ming Dynasty'. During the reigns of Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911), cloisonne improved and reached its artistic summit. Colors were more delicate, filigrees more flexible and fluent, and scope was enlarged beyond the sacrifice-process wares into snuff bottles, folding screens, incense burners, tables, chairs, chopsticks, and bowls.

Its artistic feature is all of its style, pattern, color and brightness are very wonderful. It has a great deal of types. Most of them are daily vessels. Their styles are often grant and elegant. The patterns are very rich. Taking the traditional artistic skills of needlework, jade, china and lacquerwork, it gives prominence to the pattern style of sketching lines and filling colors. The color of glaze includes blue, red, yellow, green, white, sky blue, navy blue, carmine, dark yellow, light yellow, light green, milk white, deep violet, bright blue and amaranth, etc... Caved gold and rich colors are so magnificent and luxuriant.

Today owing to the brilliant color and splendid designs, cloisonne has been highly appraised at home and abroad. People believe that cloisonne represents Chinese culture.


cloisonne produce
Regarding the making of cloisonne, it involves quite elaborate and complicated processes: base-hammering, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel firing, polishing and gilding.

The process is to form copper pieces into various shapes with a hammer according to a design, joining them under high temperature. As copper is easily hammered and stretched, it is employed to make the body of cloisonne. A sound judgment is required because it determines the uniformity of thickness and weight. In contrast to the work of a coppersmith which is ended when the article is shaped, base-hammering is just the beginning in the making of cloisonne.

Filigree Soldering
The second step can be compared to embroidery, as both require great care and high creativity. The only difference is that instead of embroidering on silk, the cloisonne craftsman adheres copper strips onto the copper body. 1/16 inch in diameter, these strips are shaped into delicate flower patterns. With a blueprint in mind, the craftsman exerts his experience and imagination in setting the copper strips on the body.

Enamel Filling
Then comes to enamel filling, which requires such basic elements as boric acid, saltpeter and alkaline. Through this interesting procedure, the cloisonne wears colored clothes. Due to the different minerals added, cloisonne appears different in color. Usually one with much iron will turn gray, with uranium, yellow, with chromium, green, with bronze, blue, with zinc, white, with gold or iodine, red. After ores are ground into fine powder and contained in plates, workers apply them on the little compartments separated by filigrees. Just one filling is not enough to make the filigrees extrude, and the surface is dull. They have to fuse powdery glaze in the smelter at 800 degrees centigrade, then take the object out and repeat the process three or four times until its surface becomes smooth.

Enamel Firing
The fourth step is enamel firing, which is achieved by putting the article with its enamel filling into a kiln. Soon after, the copper body turns red, but in time of firing re-filling is repeatedly required, as the enamel in the little compartments will sink down a little after firing. This process will go on repeatedly until the little cells are full.

To make the filigree and the filled compartments even, the artisan has to polish the half finished products again and again, which begins with emery. Then after the whole piece is put to fire again, a whetstone is employed for polishing. In the end, a piece of hard carbon is required in order that the article will obtain some luster on the surface.

The sixth step is gilding, which is done by placing the article in gold or silver fluid, charged with an electric current so as to keep the cloisonne free from rust. Another electroplating and a slight polish are demanded for the exposed parts of the filigree and the metal fringes of the article.


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