Sheila Beatty Biography
"The luminosity and vibrancy of the color that comes from the marriage of glass and metal is what drew me to enameling. I think it's magical"
Artist, enamelist, and jewelry maker, Sheila Beatty, has had a lifelong love affair with the visual arts. Even as a child, she preferred drawing to most other activities. After obtaining a BA in fine art from Rutgers University, she continued to draw and paint and, in addition, took up calligraphy and book illustration. Always open to new artistic outlets, she took a course in cloisonné enamel, which turned out to be life changing. It sparked a passion for enamel that became the focus of Sheila's artistic expression.
The process of creating a cloisonné piece begins with a design. Fine ribbons of silver or gold are then shaped by hand according to that design, and placed on a prepared metal backing. (Sheila uses fine silver.) The compartments thus formed are painstakingly filled with thin layers of vitreous enamel glass ground into powders in vibrant colors. Each layer is fired in a kiln at temperatures around 1400° - 1500°. The application and firing of many thin layers of enamel permits the subtle blending of colors and creates great clarity in the enamel.
Sheila uses other enameling techniques to add visual interest to her pieces. Silver or gold foil can be inserted early in the process and enameled over, or late in the process where they remain on or close to the surface. Basse taille involves imparting texture to the silver base, which shows through the transparent and opalescent (translucent) enamels applied over it. Guilloche is a process wherein the fine silver is engraved, by others, using a machine called a rose engine. This results in metal with an intricate and fine-lined over-all pattern, which provides a beautiful base for enameling.
When sufficient layers of enamel have been applied and fired, the piece is carefully polished and a hand crafted setting is created for it. These small-scale jewelry pieces, inspired by nature, fluid and organic in design, are like miniature paintings. They are pieces of wearable art.
Sheila's work appeared in the book, The Art of Fine Enameling, first edition from Sterling/Chapelle in 2002, and second edition, with additional examples of Sheila's work, from Stackpole Books in 2019. Her work also was featured in Jewelry Artist magazine in June, 2009. She was a Niche Award finalist in 2011 and 2012, and a Niche Award winner in 2013.