Deb DeWolff: Graphite Etching & Enameling with Sunshine Colors

Written by Deb DeWolff













Referring to Jan Harrell’s “Enameling with Graphite and Sunshine Colors” video, I created my own enameled copper piece! I enameled both the back and front with graphite sketches on the front:

The back of a small piece of copper (2″ x 2-1/4″) ready to be counter-enameled. It was cleaned with kitchen cleanser and a scrubby, dried, then a very small amount of surfactant was applied.
The piece is ready for the kiln. First it was sprayed with a Klyr-Fire and water mixture, then sifted (100 mesh) with Thompson’s #1995 Black enamel. It was sprayed and sifted again two more times. Dried and fired at 1475°F/802°C for 2 minutes.
Out of the kiln and cooled. Oooo, shiny!
Now I needed to decide what to put on the front of my piece. I created a few sketches, then decided on the top right.
This shows the piece after enameling and fired in the kiln. First the piece was pickled and thoroughly cleaned on the front. The front was enameled just like the back with Thompson’s #1030 Foundation White with a 100 mesh sifter. Fired at 1475°F/802°C for 3 minutes.
After the piece cooled it was etched with Armor Etch for 10 minutes and thoroughly cleaned. The drawing was done with an ordinary mechanical pencil. A very thin layer of Thompson’s #2020 flux was sifted over using a 200 mesh sifter and fired at 1475°F/802°C for 1-1/2 minutes. After the piece cooled a very small amount of surfactant was applied. Please note: This is my first piece. It cracked after I finished it and the graphite lines had faded a lot because I had done two firings of the Sunshine Enamels. Jan had talked about the “volatility” of the graphite technique in her video so I tried another version of the same design, which you can see in the next photo. 
















I mixed my own custom colors using Sunshine Enamels and distilled water. For pastels I mixed the colors with 19-1231 Mixing White. For the pink bird I mixed 77-1234 Purple with 10-117 Mixing Flux. Some of the colors looked much different before they were fired; once fired I was a bit disappointed in the resulting color. My recommendation would be to test-fire the colors on a scrap piece of copper (on the same foundation color) before using in your final piece.

The enamel “paints” were mixed to a thin consistency and applied like watercolors. After they dried I used a clay shaper to remove them from unwanted areas such as the graphite lines and the background.

This time the piece was fired at a lower temperature: 1375°F/746°C for 2 minutes.

It should be coated with one more thin layer of clear flux, but I haven’t decided if the piece is finished or not. I might want to add more color to some areas. One reason for not doing this would be that with each firing the graphite lines get lighter and less defined.

Sunshine Enamels can also be applied more thickly like acrylics, but if they’re too thick they can crack. If you like painting or coloring you really need to try these enamels. They are a lot of fun!

July 6, 2017

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Metalsmith and Instructor Terri McCarthy

Written by Diane Rein

Terri McCarthy is truly an inspiration!  She transformed her studio in the historic Grafton Mill in Grafton, WI and it includes an open studio classroom.  I have had the pleasure of taking classes from Terri.  Adults who have an interest in fabricating jewelry or small metal objects are welcome in her studio, for individual or group instruction.  Terri is a well respected and accomplished metalsmith in her own right as well as a talented instructor.  Her teaching style is laid back, she has a great sense of humor and gives each student the time and mentoring needed when questions arise.

Her studio is beautiful and well stocked with every metalsmithing tool you can imagine.  She routinely brings in well known artists and instructors for weekend classes. Terri offers ongoing workshops in casting, enameling, fold forming and etching, in addition to her regularly scheduled classes.  If you ever get the chance to take a class from Terri or one her invited metalsmithing guests, you’ll learn a lot and have fun too!  Terri’s website

One of the classes I took focused on etching metal.  This was a first for me.  The process was interesting and fun! Now I have some great raw material and ideas for pendants and earrings.  I used bronze and copper in this class.

Here are a few photos of some of the etched pieces I created.

Etched Copper
Etched Copper
Etched Bronze
Etched Bronze
Etched Bronze & Copper
Etched Bronze & Copper


Here are a few photos of Terri’s work.

Enameled Pendant by Terri McCarthy
Pendant by Teri McCarthy
Pendant by Terri McCarthy
Enameled Brooch by Terri McCarthy


I used the E-3 Etch Kit by Sherri Haab. Cool Tools also carries Silver, Copper, Bronze and Brass Sheet, the perfect blank canvas for etching!  Etching metal is an interesting technique that cannot be duplicated in any other fashion. It is achieved by protecting certain areas and leaving the rest open to the action of the acid. The greatest master of this technique was certainly Rembrandt (1606 – 1669).  He produced over 300 etchings in his lifetime.

August 14, 2015

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