Wednesday, January 30, 2008


So after our cold but highly rewarding trek on the Great Wall, Nicole (our tour guide) took us to a cloisonne factory. I don't think the girls had a cloisonne factory as high on their list of priorities, but I had a professional interest.Because it was cloisonne that inspired the style of my 2007 snowflake for Robert's Snow. I had thought about making it real cloisonne, but after researching the process I settled for an look-a-like painting. That is because real cloisonne is a multi-step, complicated process.First there is the actual making of the copper objects--vases, hairpins, bracelets, etc.
Then someone traces the desired design onto the vase.
And then, someone painstakingly hand bends and lays the wire onto the vase to follow the design. Yes, every gold line in cloisonne is a hand-shaped wire. The wire has to be bent in right angles so that it does not curl up and it is stuck onto the vase with a special glue that will burn off during the firing process. This is eye squinting work, the use of tweezers and magnifying glasses is standard.

Then, the vase is painted with special paint--really colored powdered glass. Each outline of wire filled in meticulously. It is an extremely elaborate paint by number activity.

Then the vase is fired, the powdered glass paint melts onto the metal, creating a the shiny color and a lovely cloisonne object.

After seeing how beautiful it looks, I am almost disapointed that my snowflake was not real cloisonne. Well, maybe next time.


alvina said...

Yes, I think this was one of the things I learned on the trip that most surprised me.

You forgot to add that the really high quality cloisonne is fired, glazed, fired, reglazed, fired etc a bunch of times--I think Nicole said 10-15 times?! They take months to complete!

Cloudscome said...

I adore cloisonne. I visited a factory in Tianjin and bought some green ginger jars for my parents when I was there in 1983. Thanks for explaining the whole process here. It really is amazing!

Phyllis Harris said...

Thanks so much for blogging about your visit to China! It's been great traveling along with you!

Oh and btw, I have awarded your blog the "You Make My Day Award". To see what that is go to my blog at: