Mixed media enamelling with Mikhail Selishchev, enamel artist from Khors enamel centre, Rostov the great, Russia

Mixed media and enamel

Using examples of his own work to inspire you, Mikhail will show the process of creation stage by stage and demonstrate his working methods using liquid enamels on copper. (Students may try these enamels, in addition to using their own.)

He says “the combination of such materials as enamel, glass, wood, metal, stone, shell, opens vast horizons for an enamel artist’s fantasy. Their interaction, conflict and harmony give birth to new sensations and images”.

After outlining ideas, drawing and planning the sequence of work with mixed media materials, exploring and discussing the effects of changing colors, textures and combinations in search of innovation.

Enamel in combination with other materials.

In this report I`ll try to answer three questions what, why, and how.

  1. At first the question WHAT and here we speak about subject, vocabulary I use as it is necessary for understanding.
  2. Then comes WHY. It is a more philosophical part of the report and I`ll give you the key for your independent search.
  3. The third question HOW. It`s a practical part of the report. I`ll tell you how to work with different materials step by step beginning with an idea, sketch and at last design.

Hope` such construction of the report will give you the opportunity to understand the essence of the method and we`ll have enough time for you to create something here and now. My report is for those who have elementary, basic knowledge of enamels. But if there are questions, you are welcome.

I`ve brought CD and an album. You may see the variety possibilities loking through the album.

           The subject of the report.

I`ll speak about works where enamels are the main part “the basic” of the composition. The works are lagre mostly for interiors, hung on the walls. With the word “enamel” Imean glass on metal (copper) with the temperature of melting 700-850 C.

The following vocabulary is used  in the report:

Materiaals – things, necessary for work – enamel, wood.

Object- three-dimensional work, for example, candlestick.

Collage –flat work, where the space goes deep into flatness, for example, enamel miniature.

Space – real or thee-dimensional space.

Combination – visual, aesthetic feeling that happens in our mind in the process of gazing at different materials simultaneously.

Mythology – complex conception, including history, sensens and the importance of the material or subject.

Archetypos (arche-beginning, typos-imprint – prototype, the original idea that formulates creative activity.

Enamel- material, glass on copper, fired in the kiln. Enamel paint not fired.

Wood – material often used in works with enamels.

Stone – materials a rule not precious but attractive with its history and texture.

Thread – fabric, thread, rope, string of different color  and texture.

Sand – material often used in building, different color and size of fractions.

Fabric – different texture, structure colors.

Sketch – drawing on paper in pencil or pen, fixing the idea of work.

Cardboard – sketch in natural size with all studied details.

Tracing-paper – the drawing, transferred from cardboard to tracing-paper.


I have always been interested in mixed different materials. For me today it is not important what is painted and how. It`s more important the spectators` associations while they are looking at images.

Taking different kinds of materials, I try to greate not simply a beautiful piece but some universe or more precise to render, reproduce my universe, or some kind of a pattern. It is very important as the basic of my method. I address to human experience, accumulated during centuries. The experience is expressed in images or according to the words of K Yug, ‘in archetypes’. They are a special kind of the language with which an artist experesses the universe. For example, if we speak about wood, it’s natural to recollect World Tree, which exists in all peoples’ minds. Speaking about a river, an image of the River of Life comes to surface. If an artist uses natural threads threads then the image of Greek Moires comes to mind, the ones who had the threads of Fate. You can have lots of such examples every nation has something similar. But I don’t study history or mythology exclusively, I just use it as an instrument, as some kind of language.

The material itself, let it be wood or metal is mythical, each has its history. You can’t avoid it, when you use it. At the same time new feelings appear, when you combine traditional materials  with the  ones that don’t have mythology and the ones that  appeared 10-15 years ago. There is no tradition here and the artist has vast boundless space for fantasy.

Enamel has a long history that is why it’s very mythical. It’s like a semi-precious stone which keeps its inner beauty and the secret of the universe. There is lot of devices and techniques in enameling which can be used by an artist, while creating jewelry and paintings as well. Enamel combined with stine or wood is interesting not only with different (seminar) structures, but also with interaction of their history. Taking the history of the material into consideration, we can create multiplanned compositions that reveal the beauty and information on different levels. If you don’t do this, it will have negative affect on results.

Sequence of work


It expresses the main plastic idea. The  composition of the whole piece, all parts of it’s colors, structure are solved and also the main rhythms are carried out. It is a usual work with a sketch; the difference is only in the material.

I can also add that composition at first is built on verticals and horizontals and their interaction:  long or square, horizontal or vertical; the interaction of vertical and horizontal defines the order of composition. It’s the interaction of two beginnings: earth and heaven, male and female. There is one important question: what would be the proportion between enamel and wood or other material? Which one should be more and which less? Or is there a golden mean? I guess, everything depends on your idea. I had a lot of experiments in this and I would say that there is no exact appropriateness here. It’s not worth to look at the other material as a decoration, trating it as the secondary importance. Framing, so usual in painting, cannot be used here. Interaction of materials is built on their inner bonds. At the same time, when you use lots of wood, enamel disappears and this  should be justified as well. Don’t forget that among all materials we can use, enamel is the most interesting and beloved.


It is a drawing in natural size. It’s the most responsible part of the preparatory work. Whatever you haven’t done in sketch, will be finished here.

Besides working out the composition and studying the detals we must think of the construction of the work itself: how, what and in what order every detail will be fixed.  When we draw in nayural size, we have to consider that copper plate will become bigger in size with each firing. That’s why “the nests” for enamel in the wood are made not in the size of cardboard but according to the size of finished enamel part or with some reserve, bigger in size. You can try different options on this stage and you can make experiments.

If the composition consists of some enamel parts, then I put numbers on cardboard and also on copper plates when I cover them counter enamel. It makes work easier.

 When the cardboard is ready, I make tracing papers for copper pattern and wood or other materials. These tracing papers are to some degree samples when marking wood and copper plate. QAfter this I cut each part which must match the others perfectly.


The next stage is work with material. Here almost any technique of enameling can be used. Only you shouldn’t forget that everything must be interconnected, enamel and wood. Thus, the drawing  KRAKLE  may resemble drawing in stone. Color can be often repeted in different materials. To my mind, line in enamel, transforming into thread outside enamel, can be very interesting. Such colors as metallic and black metal can be very close.

Besides nuances, 6the composition can be built on contracts when one material is opposed to another. It may have results when you think over series of pieces with the beauty of material. Don’t forget there is always unexpected ness and surprise in enamel which can not only disappoint but also bring joy to you.

As an example, I would like to share my experience. I would prefer several layers of enamel, when one layer is transparent and interacts with another. I often use liquid (fluid0 industrial enamels and transparent jewelry  enamel together. I also like to put one and the same paint several times as well as fire several times achieving some pictorial effect. I also like to use copper wire in my works. I can show how to do it in the process of our work.


Some words about the progress.

I won’t tell you how to do it properly; I only want to attract your attention to the fact, that the precess of firing is not only technological but also artistic. We may deliberately keep a copper plate not enough in the kiln or keep it there longer than it should be, achieving some results. It’s painting with fire. When paints are burnt and also melted and are alloyed, acquiring new quality. The main thing here is experiment. Be confident, bold, try different ways of firing, don’t be afraid to break the rules.


After we decided that the wood to be seen. That is why I often use pine as its texture is clearly seen and interesting. But we can choose and other tree. I had experiments with old trees the other days, its color is noble and structural but it is difficult to work it. Now, as a rule, I take new wood and structural but it is difficult to work with it. Now, as a rule, I take new wood and work with it. At first I make half-finished detal of the necessary shape. Then with the help of soldering-lamp I make it black, then rub it with metal brush. Then ashes are cleaned away, the wood shows its structure. After this it is time to rub it with sandpaper paying attention to ends, making them smooth. The next is paintiting. The success of your work depends greatly on the right color/ I try don’t use building materials: furniture lacquer, penotex, etc. They create furniture impression. The best are oil paints: rich range, well absorbed and kept on the wood, they also have mat luster.It is quite possible to use white acrul putty. The last thing is to cover wood with wax and create noble mat luster. During the process of painting don’t foget to fit enamel to wood from time to time to be sure in color. When the wooden part is ready, it is time to connect and fix everything.

There are several ways to fix enamel to wood. The best are “nests”, then glue and at last nails.

There is a problem in connecting two materials: wood and enamel, they react to the changes of the surrounding environment differently. Wood reacts to humidity and temperature, it breathes. A copper plate doesn’t change. That is why “nests” are better. The only short-coming is that they are visible and catch on. Glue can be used when connecting enamel plate and wood, PVA is preferable with me.

Nails are used when besides constructive functions some decoration is needed.


 Sometimes you don’t get what you have expected. Then you have to think and change some parts. It can be eiyher wood or enamel. It happens so that sometimes I make several versios ( variations) to choose the best.

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