February – the month of Love!

Hello All!

This month I was excited to be a part of a fun contest at 18karat, this is one of the galleries that carry my work.  The contest was for Valentine’s Day and was titled “Love Letters”.  Many adorable love letters were sent in and the top two were awarded prizes.  A pair of my “Poppy studs” was one of the prizes.

The love letters sent in were so touching that as I read through them I missed my bus stop by 7 stops!  đź™‚  
Click here to read the winning love letters and scroll down to read an interview I did with the gallery!  Answering the questions for the interview was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to share with others my love for what I do.  
Hope you’re ready for March because with spring in the air I am kicking it into high gear for a new Spring/Summer collection!  
Thanks for reading!

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

For the past two months I have been working day and night like a nut, trying to get a series of pieces finished in time for the deadline to apply for the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. Now, if you know anything about the jewellery scene in Toronto, you know that this is one of the great opportunities to show your work in this city. It was my goal to apply to this show this year, and I’m not sure if I’m ready – but when will I start if I don’t apply this year? Next year? In two or in five years? If I don’t apply now, I will never be ready.
It’s possible that I may not be accepted but I learned so many things in preparing my application. I found a unique style, I really progressed as an artist, and I am very proud of myself. I don’t think that my pieces are perfect, and I don’t like every piece, but the important thing is that I am trying. I think that I have accomplished my goal this year.

– Young Ko

Studio visit with a master enamellist

In December I had the pleasure of visiting a true enamel master in his studio outside of Montreal in the town of Les Cedres. Seguin Poirier is a master enamelist who began his career as an enamel artist in the late 1960s. He enamels primarily on large scale sheet metal. He told me had done some jewellery work earlier in his career, but after a short time began to use enamel in a loose and unprecedented way, applying it liberally and without inhibition, playing with enamel as painter mixes paints on a canvas. His studio was impressive, jars of enamel powder everywhere, by the ton, which he imports from near and far, including India and China. I enjoyed a candid tour of one of his two studios, this one in a traditional Quebec Habitant style home (the other an impressive space in Griffintown, the old Irish part of downtown Montreal). He was very helpful to me, taking a look at some of my one-of-a-kind jewellery pieces and had very positive feedback for me. “Just go for it” he said, “you will have no problem, as long as you love what you do and you keep making something different that no one has seen before”. Solid advice from a hard worker. Something about that great Quebec spirit, made me miss my home town of Montreal!

So here are some photos I took while visiting:

OK, so first off, let’s talk about this kiln. This is a serious kiln. I forgot to ask how long it takes to heat up, but I imagine many many hours. It is a custom-built electric enamel kiln designed by Seguin Poirier himself to accommodate his very large sheets of copper. This is actually the world’s largest enameling kiln. It was still warm from the previous day’s firing, and two people could lie comfortably side by side in the kiln. HUGE! 
Next was the “Chapel”. This room is covered floor to ceiling with enamelled copper artwork. The walls are decorated with enamelled panels, from small plates and tiles to 3x5ft paintings. The walls of this room depict historical celebrations, seasonal transitions of Quebec (everything from the harvest to the Jazz Festival!)
He uses this room, which took over 7 years to complete, to host creative suppers (my father has gone to one for Valentine’s Day) where patrons can enjoy a great meal, music and live demonstration of enameling by the artist, who completes a painting during the evening with input from all the guests!
 I tried to get photo of the wall close up, you can see the scratch lines and textures the artist makes, one of the techniques I teach in my enamel class, so I was really excited to see it used on such a large (and colourful!) scale. Overall it was a wild and overwhelming environment, especially for me the enamel enthusiast.

You may visit Seguin Poirier’s website to see more of his work, community projects, installations and shop here: https://www.seguinpoirier.com/indexz.htm

So since the holidays and this fun visit, I have been cultivating more ideas on how to use enamel in a more painterly fashion. It is harder to do on a smaller jewellery scale, but I have been experimenting with oxides, changing pale colours (i.e. whites, creams, pale blues) naturally with copper dust, or by exposing parts of the metal surface. I typically have used solid opaque enamel surfaces in my jewellery, but for my latest piece, which will soon be show at an curated exhibition in the York Quay Building at Harbourfront Centre, I’m embracing the overfired, burnt and oxidized look. The pieces for the show entitled “Yield” which will showcase 8 Canadian Contemporary Jewellers have to do with stress as a theme, both in concept and material treatment. Coming soon! I’ll post more details and a sneak peek as soon as I shoot the photos with my friend Kate, who has been immensely helpful with photography as of late. The show is scheduled to open mid-April. Other jewellers are Catherine Allen NS, Colleen Baran BC, Paul McClure,ON,  Silvie Altschuler QC,  Shannon Kennedy ON, Anneke van Bommel ON and Bridget Catchpole BC, what a great roster!

If you want to learn more about enamelling, I am teaching my 8 week class at Jewel Envy starting this month, Thursday, February 17 (that’s next week!). There is also a 1 day workshop scheduled for Sunday, February 20. We now have two kilns, which is super exciting, room for more students in a class, which is always great, as I think the more experimenting that goes on and is shared amongst students the better…..you can always discover something new with enamel, which is why I am so passionate about the process, and enjoy teaching others about it too! Hope to see you there!
Until next time, keep plenty of colour in your life.


A Sunday with ChiaChien

Time flies. It is February!!! The opening for student exhibition was successful on Friday night. I am proud of them how creative and well craftsmanship they are.

This is what I did in studio on Sunday which is a day for sleep in. Tube Setting! Here are the basic tools you will be needed. A setting bur, burnisher, wax and magnify goggle. When choosing the right size of stone, it is always better to have it at least .5mm smaller than the tubing. Therefore, there will be enough space and metal
for covering the girdle of stone, and then your stone is set!
Even though I have several experiences of stone setting, I am still always nervous while doing it.It requires a lot of practice in order to become precise and clean without creating scratches on stone. I prefer using protoplast while setting stone. It is very hard like a rock when it’s cool but easily soften with hot water. You are able to shape it into anything while it’s soft just like clay.
Okay ~ I have to go back to work and finish all the setting. Hopefully I can have it done by this week!

Colouring metal with coloured pencils

As someone with a long time obsession with pencil crayons ( I own a bin full–and yet there is always a new colour beckoning me in the art store), I was captivated by the jewelry on the cover of the most recent Metalsmith magazine. It shows a beautiful piece by Helen Shirk using enamel paint to add colour. Inside were many more of her pieces employing pencil crayons.
It seems that the basic technique involves first preparing a suitably rough surface for the pencil crayons to adhere to. This can be achieved by sandblasting, hammering metal over a rough surface (sandpaper, cement…), applying a thin coat of gesso, using the rolling mill, or adding a patina first.
The next step involves the slow and long process of adding layers of colours–fixing the piece occasionally with a workable fixative.
And finally, sealing the piece with a durable matt or gloss fixative.

Sounds fun to me!

– Lianne

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