Chinese Culture 


 Chinese Culture






Design Arts -- Cloisonné

Cloisonné also known as Cloisonnéenamel, is the decorative art of applying enamel of all colors to the surface of a copper or bronze object which is then fired to become a bright and colorful work of art. This artistic technique did not originate in China; it was in fact transmitted from the West and reached its peak of perfection as a result of Chinese artisans. Chinese Cloisonnébecame the standard by which to measure the quality and appraise the beauty of Cloisonnéall over the world, and it ranks as one of China's major contributions to the world's fine arts.

The technique for Cloisonnéenameling was passed onto China by missionaries from central Asia sometime in the early to mid-14th century. After mastering the skill of manufacturing enamel products, the Chinese constantly improved and enhanced this special technique, thus making it a distinctly Chinese art. During the mid-15th century of the Ming dynasty, Cloisonnéproduction was extremely prosperous, and many Cloisonnéworks of the most delicate quality were produced.

Such awesome achievements were possible in so short a time after the Cloisonnétechnique had been transmitted to China because the Chinese nation of the time possessed excellent conditions for developing Cloisonnéenameling art. The Chinese already had metallurgical technology, such as bronze casting; glass and glaze production techniques were well-known; and how to accurately control the firing temperature was already understood. Another reason was that the enamel was as soft and smooth as jade, as glittering as jewelry, and as delicate as china which satisfied many existing Chinese affinities.

The general method for making Cloisonnéinvolved first soldering brass wires or copper strips to the surface of a copper object to form a pattern or illustration, then, according to the requirements of each pattern, colored enamels were filled in.

Enamel was made by melting different materials such as red lead, boric acid borate, and glass powder together to become an opaque or translucent glistening substance. A variety of oxidized metals were added, and the substance then changed into enamels of different colors. After the melted enamel cooled and became solid, it was then ground into powder and mixed with water prior to the filling in process.

After the spaces delineated by brass wires on the copper object were filled in with enamel paste, the object was then fired. After every firing, the enamel would contract, producing an uneven surface. It was then necessary to fill in the uneven places with enamel paste of the same color many times over. This procedure had to be repeated many times until every filled-in space became thoroughly smooth without any depressions. Only then was the firing process complete.

a Piece of Cloisonné/center>
Enamelware that had been fired then needed to have its surface polished smooth so that the soldered brass wire pattern and the enamel substance were melded into one. Finally, the exposed brass wires between parts of the patterns as well as the rim and the bottom of an object, to which enamel had not been applied, were gold plated. Thus, a work of Cloisonnéart was finished.

Modern Day
In recent years, this kind of traditional art work has once again drawn public notice. Many people are fusing modern machines and industrial technologies with artistic creativity to produce a variety of Cloisonnéornaments, art works, and household utensils. This has allowed the integration of classic Cloisonnéinto modern life.

An exquisite piece of Cloisonnémust have colors that are glossy, fresh, and bright, a body that is substantive and sturdy, a wire inlay that is neat and well-proportioned, and gold plating that glitters. The making of Cloisonnécombines bronze and porcelain-working skills with traditional painting and etching.