Chinese Cloisonné Enameling

Cloisonné enamel was probably introduced to China by missionaries from central Asia during the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). It used to be reserved for the Emperor and his court, but today everyone can enjoy its magnificence.
The process may be observed at the Beijing Enamel Factory.
Vessels are constructed with several pieces of copper that are formed and soldered together. A copper plate is measured with calipers, then marked for pattern placement. The pattern is pinned to carbon paper, then carefully traced to transfer the design to the surface of the metal.
Cloisons are made with copper that is bent with pliers, following a pattern on paper. After dipping the bottom edge of the cloison in glue, it is placed onto the vessel with tweezers. Vessel with soldered cloisons.
Eye droppers are used to fill the cloisons with enamel paste, then the piece is fired in an electric kiln. The heat causes the enamel to vitrify and settle into the cloisons. Three or four coats of enamel are applied and fired until the cloisons are completely full. 
A second coat of enamel paste is applied over the fired enamel.

The final coat of enamel is applied.

The enameled surface is ground smooth on an electric lathe with water and emery stones and re-fired. The final polishing is also done on a lathe, but with water and charcoal. The final step is to electroplate the exposed copper with gold or silver.

Grinding and polishing on a lathe.

After grinding, but before refiring.

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Photographs, web page, and text by Carol Ventura.