Thanks to some colored examples of pewterwork I saw at the fantastic Billy and Charlie booth, I have had an interest in trying to color some pewter badges of my own.
A few weeks ago, I saw some colorful tubes of paint at Michael’s in the jewelry aisle. Turns out they were Martha Stewart’s Jewelry Enamel, which came out in early 2013. I wondered if it would work on pewter, so I bought a few colors to try it out.
My first attempt on pewter was awful. I tried it on my gnome themed wedding pin, and got a rather messy result, since the paint just wanted to flow from the high points to the low ones, and that pin is basically all high points.
Back to Billy and Charlie, on their Facebook page they post some of their newest creations and often answer lots of questions from curious folk about their products, and have mentioned several times that they use a paint called Pebeo Porcelaine 150. I found some at a local art store and picked up 6 colors. I tried painting another gnome pin and found that it worked much better for that pin. You can see that while the MS Enamel ran into the cracks, and pooled in all the wrong places, the Porcelaine acted much like an acrylic paint, staying put, and drying quite quickly.
Now while I didn’t care for the way the MS Enamel behaved, the finished result was sort of pretty. The product reminded me of the way some real enamel appears on some pre-17th century jewelry. Check these out: Diptych, ring, hat badge, toothpick, metal, earring, coronet, necklace, badge. In most of these examples the enamel is sitting in a recessed area, which the MS ‘enamel’ would be fantastic at since there’s nowhere for the paint to ooze away.
I have done a bit of googling since then, and found that some people have had success with letting the MS enamel sit for an hour or two after you mix it (it takes a 48-72 hours to cure) then applying it to your surface, which will make for less issues with pooling/falling off high points. So I could do simple things, like the dots of white on this ring, but none of the fancier miniature portraits you see in the later 17th century.
With the idea that recessed areas would work best for the MS enamel, I looked at the many pewter purses on Kunera and started carving away.
Eventually I got the whole thing casting (the left loop was the last stubborn bit), and gleefully went home with my four successful castings.
I am particularly pleased with the little quatrefoil shapes in each square.
Since I don’t think I have mentioned it before, MS Enamel is a two part mix, with one part pigment to two parts ‘Activator’. I suspect it is in the epoxy family, but I can’t confirm that. There are a few more colors available than what you see here, but they were out at the store when I bought these.
You can buy a silicone mat to mix your paints on from the Martha Stewart line, but I didn’t, so I am using the plastic sections of spam mail envelopes.
I think one of the things that didn’t help my first gnome pin attempt was trying to use a paint brush to apply the paint. Unless you are covering much larger areas than I am, there’s no need for a paint brush. I’d recommend using a tooth pick, or even a pin (which is what I used for the majority of my application). Also, be warned that a brush will be ruined by this paint. It doesn’t wash out very well, and will harden on the bristles. I now use the end of the one I ruined to mix my pigment and activator. You can definitely mix colors, just remember to keep the two:one ratio intact. Then apply to your hearts content!
The blue MS Enamel is particularly lovely, when you apply it sparingly, you get that pretty transparent center, with darkened corners. Red does it too, although the center becomes a bit pinker than I would like, the yellow is too light against the pewter to apply thinly, the ‘Olive Green’ doesn’t get quite as transparent, nor does the black. I’d really love to see how the other 5 colors in the set act.
While applying thinly gets one look, putting enough in to almost fill the square gives another look.
Both looks are quite appealing in person, but in very different ways of course. The thick reminds me a bit more of the period examples I linked to earlier than the thinly applied.
Martha Stewart Jewelry Enamel:
- Visually similar to glass enamel
- Sinks into recessed areas, making them darker
- Cures to a shiny smooth surface
- Colors can be mixed to make more
- Takes 48-72 hours to cure fully
- Sinks into recessed areas, even when you don’t want them too
- Which also means you need to keep your piece as flat as possible while curing (difficult for a pin back or button)
- Only 10 colors available currently
Pebeos Porcelaine 150:
- Many colors available, in various levels of transparency
- Colors can be mixed to make more
- Dries quickly
- All sides and angles of an object can be painted in one sitting
- Can paint with good detail
- Bakes to a hard, sturdy finish
- Requires 24 hours between painting and baking
- Dries quickly: your surface will only be as smooth as your paint job