Cloisonne combines sculpture, painting, porcelain making and copper-smithing, and called jingtailan in Chinese is a native art form in Beijing.
Cloisonne originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and underwent a major change during the Jingtai period of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when a new blue pigment was discovered. Jingtailan got its current name based on the Chinese word lan for blue. Cloisonne reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) due to innovations in copper-melting techniques.
Making Cloisonne requires elaborate processes: Making the copper-body; copper-strip inlay; filling in colorful enamel materials, burning it in the stove, finishing the surface and gilding. Each Cloisonne piece is fired three times with a fresh coat of enamel. After firing, pieces are polished to look like gold, which require sophisticated techniques and artistic flair.
Cloisonne is one of Beijing's four famous kinds of arts and crafts commodities, well-known for its elegant shape, harmonious colors, various categories and brilliant characteristics at home and abroad.
Cloisonne can be found on large objects such as vases and other large utensils and decorative items, as well as small items, such as earrings, bracelets, chopsticks, bowls, lamps, and ornaments. All products are beautiful and elegant in molding, brilliant and dazzling in colors and splendid and graceful in design. Beijingers like to give Cloisonne as gifts.
Since more senior craftsmen are passing away, the production factory struggles to survive and the technique may soon disappear.
Detailed Making Process
The making of Cloisonne involves a complex process, which includes base-hammering, copper-strip inlays, soldering, enamel filling, enamel firing, polishing and gilding.
Base hammering is the first step in making Cloisonne. Materials used for the body is copper, which is malleable and ductile. The step requires sound judgment in the shaping and uniformity of thickness and weight, much like the work of a coppersmith. The difference is that when an article is shaped, the coppersmith's work is finished, whereas the Cloisonne craftsman's work has just begun.
The second step is filigree soldering, which require great care and creativity. The artisan pastes copper strips to the body that are 1/16 of an inch in diameter and a desired length chosen by the artisan, making up a complex but complete pattern. The artisan creates a blueprint in their mind and makes full use of their experiences, imagination and aesthetic perspective in setting copper strips on the body.