Cloisonné is the combination arts of porcelain and metal. The earliest extant Cloisonnéwas made in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The best was made during the Xuande period (1426-1456) of the Ming Dynasty. During the Jingtai period (1426-1456) of the Ming Dynasty, it became more popular, handicraftsmen found dark-blue enamel that gave Cloisonné a gorgeous, solemn look, the technique turned to be quite mature. As the blue color was mostly used, so it is called Jingtai blue, and this name is still used today.
Cloisonné is the technique of creating designs on metal vessels with colored-glass paste placed within enclosures made of copper or bronze wires, which have been bent or hammered into the desired pattern. Known as Cloisonné (French for "partitions"), the enclosures generally are either pasted or soldered onto the metal body. The glass paste, or enamel, is colored with metallic oxide and painted into the contained areas of the design. The vessel is usually fired at a relatively low temperature, about 800°C. Enamels commonly shrink after firing, and the process is repeated several times to fill in the designs. Once this process is complete, the surface of the vessel is rubbed until the edges of the Cloisonné are visible. They are then gilded, often on the edges, in the interior, and on the base.
The making of Cloisonné integrates bronze and porcelain-working skills, traditional painting and etching. It is the pinnacle of traditional Chinese handicraft. Cloisonné has another name "inlaid enamel", which refers to the unique technique of the combination of porcelain and bronze.
Below is the procedure of Cloisonné making:
First step: Vessels are constructed with several pieces of copper that are formed and soldered together.
Second step: A copper plate is measured with calipers, and then marked for pattern placement. The pattern is pinned to carbon paper, and then carefully traced to transfer the design to the surface of the metal.
Third step: Cloisonné are made with copper that is bent with pliers, following a pattern on paper.
Fourth step: After dipping the bottom edge of the Cloisonné in glue, it is placed onto the vessel with tweezers.
Sixth step: Eye droppers are used to fill the Cloisonné with enamel paste, and then the piece is fired in an electric kiln. The heat causes the enamel to vitrify and settle into the Cloisonné. Three or four coats of enamel are applied and fired until the Cloisonné are completely full.
Seventh step: The enameled surface is ground smooth on an electric lathe with water and emery stones and re-fired. The final polishing is also done on a lathe, but with water and charcoal. The final step is to electroplate the exposed copper with gold or silver.