Faux Cloisonne Techniques

  • 01 of 08

    Make Miniature Faux Cloisonne from Fine Wire, Paint and PVA Glue or Art Mediums

    Two miniature butterflies and a shamrock made from bent wire dipped in colored acrylic medium / PVA glue. Lesley Shepherd

    Cloisonne is the art of laying enamel into a gold wire frame. A similar look can be made by dipping wire into sticky lacquers that dry quickly to form a tough film. For miniatures this technique is easily replicated with safer materials, using watercolor paints and PVA glue or artist's mediums for the film. The size of the 'cell' or wire shape, has to be small enough for the liquid medium to fill the shape and dry into a smooth film layer without splitting or cracking. The technique requires only fine wire and a liquid for the film. As the liquids used here are based on PVA glues or acrylic artist's mediums, they can be colored easily with watercolor paints or pencils.

    The success of the technique will depend a bit on your altitude and the humidity at your workspace. Experiment with common PVA (white) glues and 'tacky' PVA glues on simple shapes to see how wide an area your glue can span, and how quickly it dries. Very thin glues may not set up into a film, glues which are too thick will need to be diluted so they don't form thick blobs. Try a few basic shapes of wire to test out your materials before you try to make elaborate flowers made from shaped petals, or the tiny butterflies shown here. Simple hearts are easy to shape, as is the shamrock for the hairpin.

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  • 02 of 08

    Materials You Can Use for Faux Cloisonne Miniatures

    Wire, PVA glue, acrylic medium paint and wire used to make faux cloisonne or stained glass miniatures. Lesley Shepherd

    To make free-standing faux cloisonne in miniature you will need:

    • Fine Gauge Wire - I used a 28 to 34 gauge brass beading wire on a reel.
    • Watercolor Paints I use either tube watercolors or watercolor pencils to color my glue/medium - the finely ground pigments in watercolors will create clear transparent layers when the film dries.
    • Artist's Mediums or PVA Glue - Any fairly thick acrylic liquid medium or PVA Glue will work. Try to find one which won't yellow as it dries. I used Sakura 3D Crystal lacquer as well as liquid artist's glaze and regular PVA glue.
    • Bent Nose Tweezers - or beading pliers to bend the wire.
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  • 03 of 08

    Shape Fine Wire "Cells" For Faux Cloisonne in Miniature

    Bent nose tweezers are used to shape a simple wire form that will be dipped in PVA medium to make a faux cloisonne hairpin for a miniature doll. Lesley Shepherd

    To begin experimenting with the technique of making miniature dipped wire cloisonne, start by making simple flat, then simple bent shapes from fine wire. Cut sections of wire three to four inches long to start and practice making simple heart shapes or three loops together to make a shamrock/clover. Try to shape the wire evenly over the ends of your tweezers or pliers. For your first shapes, use the tweezers to flatten the wire loops or 'cells', as you learn how your PVA glue or acrylic medium fills the shapes you can experiment with making shaped flower petals, leaves or butterfly wings.

    Make your shapes small to start with and gradually work to larger shapes, testing how far your medium will stretch as a film without breaking. Each shape should be closed with the wire twisted tightly together at the base of the shape to allow you to dip it easily into your medium.

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  • 04 of 08

    Testing Your Acrylic Medium Over Simple Shapes

    Miniature wings or flower petals and leaves can be made from wire shapes dipped in fluid matte acrylic mediums. Lesley Shepherd

    Simple closed wire loops can be used to make tiny wings for fairies or butterflies. To test this matte acrylic artist's medium, I shaped simple loops of wire and dipped them into a puddle of the medium, gently tapping off the excess or moving it off with a pin wiped across the wire surface. You want the liquid to form a thin film across the shape. Allow the film to dry (set it in a scrap of styrofoam packing or dry florist's foam) and test your medium to see how strong it holds on the wire. Heavy glues or mediums may break apart as they dry, leaving films with cracks. Some mediums will simply shrink back from the wire as they dry. Some mediums, like this matte artist's medium, will dry opaque rather than clear.

    Once you know how your medium behaves and can use it to make thin film coatings over your shapes, you can experiment with tinting the medium with watercolors to get different colors and produce blended or marbled effects.

    Note: - You can use this technique with nail varnish, but acrylic mediums and PVA glues are safer to handle and much easier to clean up.

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  • 05 of 08

    Color PVA Glue and Artist Mediums for Faux Cloisonne

    Miniature wire shamrock hair pin with faux cloisonne made by dipping the wire in acrylic medium. Lesley Shepherd

    You can mix tube watercolor easily into PVA glue or liquid acrylic mediums (including acrylic floor polish) to produce clear or opaque films for your faux cloisonne. Place a bit of paste watercolor into a small container with a lid, I use artist's paint cups so I can custom mix several colors. Use a toothpick to thoroughly mix the paint into some clear drying PVA glue or liquid acrylic medium (or acrylic floor polish), until the paint is completely mixed into the medium.

    Dip your wire form into the medium, so the shapes are filled with a thin film. Allow to dry.

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  • 06 of 08

    Shape Miniature Leaves and Petals For Faux Cloisonne

    Miniature leaf in faux cloisonne made from wire dipped in colored pva medium. Lesley Shepherd

    Once you know how your glue will dry as a film, and how large a shape you can make, you can experiment with larger shapes for leaves and simple petals for tulips or lilies. If you want your leaves or petals to curl, bend the wire cell into the curve before you dip it into your medium. The PVA will create thin films over gradual curves, but it will not form films where the wire is bent at right angles. Try making different shapes to see how much of a curve you can make in your dipped leaves or petals.

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  • 07 of 08

    Shape Tiny Butterflies From Fine Wire Loops

    Simple loops of fine wire are bent into a basic shape for a faux cloisonne butterfly in dollhouse scale. Lesley Shepherd

    When you understand the process you can make more complex shapes to dip into your colored medium. The basic butterfly is a simple grouping of two small loops and two larger loops shaped from a single strand of wire. Begin at the center of a two or three-inch section of wire and make small loops that cross over the center of your wire length. Take the end that comes off this loop and make a larger loop the goes back to wrap around the center of your butterfly. Twist the loops after you have made the basic shape (shown in the photo) so each 'cell' will be completely closed. Twist the ends of the wire tightly together below the butterfly's wings. If you wish, you can turn the wire ends into legs for your butterfly.

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  • 08 of 08

    Blending Colors and Effects for Faux Cloisonne in Miniature

    Miniature wire butterfly with wing film made of acrylic medium on a dollhouse scale clivia flower. Lesley Shepherd

    This tiny cloisonne butterfly uses fine mica pigments as well as transparent watercolors to color the film used for the cells. You can create streaks and patches of different colors by applying them to the first layer of film with the tip of a pin, while the first dipped layer is still wet. You can build up additional coats of pigment or brush on streaks or lines with a fine watercolor brush when the first coat of film is thoroughly dry if you want to add painted detail.