ANNE ELISE PEMBERTON - WORKING WITH SILVER FOIL
My website, with photos of silver work in “Mixed Media”: http://www.anneelise-art.com/
Types of foil used:
Must be .999 pure/fine silver (not sterling silver) - often sold in books 4” x 4”. Bullseye sells it, also Ed Hoys, and Thompson Enamel. Enamel Supply Co. and Bullseye have large sheets. Enamelwork Supply Co. may be best. They are very helpful with advice. They have thicker foil (4.5 microns) – ginbari foil, but Bullseye‘s also looks good - it is 3.5 microns.
Very thin foil tends to burn out, fracture, or disintegrate – however, the fracturing and disintegration can produce very nice effects. Similarly, all foil can crack easily if slumped.
Equipment/ other materials used:
Paragon kiln GL-22AD – old, only top elements
1” (or 5/8”) x 20” x 20” thick fiber board shelf (coated with kiln wash if needed), for convenience, and to avoid bubbles in larger projects, and Bullseye thin paper (safety issues). I always placed the fiber board on top of my mullite clay kiln shelf.
Glass saw - Tilematic
Polisher – Glastar B1 20” variable speed diamond disc grinder
Cerium oxide sometimes used for polishing edges of jewelry
Medium grit sandpaper, rolling pin, felt – for perforating thicker silver foil
Bullseye clear fusible glass (tekta not available then), medium or fine size frit, and powder
Klyr fire adhesive : https://thompsonenamel.com/product/a-1-klyr-fire-water-base/
Tracing paper – a piece on top and under the silver sheet makes it easy to cut without tearing .
I mainly made thick wall hangings with several layers of Bullseye glass and silver foil, plus jewelry. The wall hangings generally required several firings.
My main concerns were to control the color of the silver, and to avoid unintended bubbles. Firing slowly at lower temperatures helps. Generally, I fired up to 1425 or 1430 degrees and held for however long was needed to get the desired top surface. Also the thickness and size of the silver matters. I did numerous experiments to check all of this.
Generally I used a sheet of Bullseye 3mm clear glass as the first layer then I placed a piece or pieces of silver on top. I perforated heavier silver to avoid bubbles (see details below). Thin foil is too fragile to perforate and it’s not necessary. For jewelry I used regular and thin glass. Then I used a small amount of Klyr fire to adhere the foil to the glass using a soft brush, always allowing it to dry before firing. Use a clean brush to smooth the foil. I would then cut a piece of clear glass a bit larger than the silver – the size did not have to be exact, and I then put medium size frit under the edges of the piece of glass to avoid trapping air. After that I filled in all the gaps around this/these piece/s of glass with medium clear frit and small pieces of scrap Bullseye clear. I used different sizes of frit or powder to add color. The large size coarse frit did not work well for me. I had to use a fiber board dam or similar when assembling and firing the glass to hold all the frit in place.
I would repeat the process in a separate firing to add more layers of silver. I would place a piece/pieces of silver on top of the already fired piece, again using klyr fire adhesive, cap it/them with more glass, and fire again. However, if I refired siver that had turned gold, it became darker, and generally less attractive.
To avoid chemical reactions and undesirable color changes I wanted to avoid allowing most colored glass in direct contact with the silver, particularly any warm colors. * Cobalt blue is one exception, it actually prevents any color change in the silver – I would sometimes fire a sheet of silver on top of cobalt blue sheet glass, or use clear glass under the silver and sprinkle some blue frit on top of the silver. Green glass tends to make the silver turn gold, and if it touches the silver the glass often strikes and discolors. Turquoise frit can produce a beautiful brilliant effect. It all depends on how much you use – generally you don’t need much. Red glass close to or in contact with the silver foil usually turns it black. The underneath side of the silver would sometimes remain silver or become gold, so sometimes the back was nicer than the front.
Often I would use my tilematic saw to achieve a smooth edge. I also used my polisher to smooth the edges, especially for jewelry.
Useful link from Bullseye on using foils:
The silver sometimes stains the kiln shelf, athough this rarely happened and was minimal. Because I used fiber board I could avoid damaging the mullite shelf. One website suggests using Bullseye thin paper on fiber paper on top of fiber board, or the kiln shelf, and smoothing the kiln paper with a roller after firing (remove the thin paper first).
*However, in her jewelry Lynda Slayen used silver wire and mesh on red opal glass and also vanilla opal, capped with clear glass, and fired up to 1400. She obtained excellent results, with no discoloration of the metal. The wire and mesh are much thicker than the foil, and the firing temperature is lower, so this could explain why there was no discoloration.
Silver foil notes – from Enamelwork Supply Co. website
Piercing: Many enamelists pierce the foil with small pinholes in order to avoid blisters forming under the foil when it's fired. Others don't believe this is necessary with the thinner foils. I think the thicker Ginbari foil from Japan should be pierced. The easiest way to do this is to lay it on a sheet of 220 sandpaper, cover it with a piece of felt and roll a brayer or a rolling pin over it once or twice. Gold foil is porous by nature and does not need to be pierced.
Manipulation: There are many ways to use foil. It is important to know that any time you are manipulating foil you need to keep it between pieces of paper. Tracing paper works well because it is thin and you can see through it to see where the foil is placed. The heavier Ginbari foil can even be embossed. I save all my ginbari foil scraps to make foil “bits”. Put the ginbari foil in a blender with some water, turn the blender on high for a few seconds, pour the mixture out into a sieve, dry out the foil bits and separate them by size by shaking them through a series of shakers - like salt and pepper shakers. You can then shake them onto an enameled piece freehand or control the design outline by using a stencil. You can also wad up leftover bits of foil and melt them into balls with a torch.
For framing my wall hangings I used Artistic Custom Framing, 11410 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton – 301 939 8988