Cloisonne Enamel

This industry is largely practiced both in China and Japan. But little is known, however, in regard to its history in China, where it originated, and whence it was introduced into Japan towards the end of the XVIth century. It became the local industry of three villages in the province of Owari, not far from the town of Nagoya. The process consists of soldering the edges of flat brass wires on the surface of copper vessels, and filling in the cells formed by the winding and crossing of this wire, with vitrifiable colors, which are then baked, ground and polished.

The design to be produced is given to the workman drawn upon paper. He covers it with a plate of glass, and bends the wire to fit the lines of the design until all are reproduced. He then fixes the shaped wire design upon the copper vessel by means of a gummy decoction, made of the root of a kind of orchis. When the wire has been all thus attached, it is further fastened in place with brass solder and borax, applied with a brush wherever required ; and the piece is baked in a charcoal fire. The cells thus formed are then filled with vitrifiable enamels and fired ; this latter process has usually to be repeated several times before the requisite thickness and uniformity is acquired ; the surface is then ground down with coarse and fine-grained stones, and finally polished with charcoal.

At Kiyoto, Osaka, Tokio, and also in Owari, porcelain objects are treated in the same manner. For this purpose the parts to receive the application are either left unglazed, or the glaze is ground off and the wires fastened, not with solder, but with a very fusible glass.

Great quantities of cloisonne enamels are annually exported from China and Japan. The general style of the Chinese decorations on these objects is similar to that on their bronzes, and the combination and quality of colored enamels is often very effective; flower designs are also occasionally met with. Early Japanese cloisonne workers copied these designs, but soon adopted their own national characteristics of decoration. The dragon, the hobo, and other mythological creatures, and even human figures and landscapes, are reproduced by the Japanese enamellers.