Enamel is a form of glass that is ground to a powder and bonded to metal after being fired in a kiln at high temperatures. Its use dates back to the Mycenaean period in Greece, Cyprus and Crete in 1200 BC when glass was applied to metalwork. For centuries, enamel was used decoratively in jewelry, art and religious artefacts. The application of enamel on iron cookware is referenced in the 18th century in Germany, Sweden, France and the United States where it was used to prevent rust.
Notable 20th Century Enamelware Producers:
Enamel Renewal and Process: Barn Light Electric (Titusville)
Across the Indian River from Florida’s Merritt Island, most notably the home of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is the small town of Titusville. It is here where Barn Light Electric owners Bryan and Donna Scott turned a part-time hobby of collecting and refurbishing vintage lighting into a full-fledged porcelain enamel manufacturing business, with three facilities and over 80 employees.
Since 2008, when Bryan and Donna left their professional careers, their company has been working hard to revive the lost art of enamel manufacturing, a process that hasn’t seen much action in the United States over the past 50 years. Barn Light Electric metal artisans transform flat discs of commercial-grade steel into shapes that will become light fixtures, bowls, plates, cups and signs.
Steel metal is spun onto a mold while applying constant and intense pressure. To create the desired shape, the spinning of the bowl reaches approximately 2500 RPM. “This craft is extremely difficult,” explains Katie Schilling, marketing manager for Barn Light Electric. “The metal artisans use their strength to keep the bowl spinning while the precise shape develops.”
Once the desired shape and style is reached — in the case of Barn Light Electric, a vintage, industrial look — the spun objects are taken to a factory where workers apply two coats of porcelain enamel glass onto the nearly finished goods. Finally, the products are fired in a 1600 degree Fahrenheit oven to seal the high-gloss finish and to ensure anti-corrosion.
Photo Source: Barn Light Electric