Roundup: Classic Cloisonné

via andrea schumacher interiors

Good day, design friends! Peggi here. How are you? Can you believe we’re approaching the end of September? Tempes fugit. While you’re sipping that pumpkin spice latte, I thought we could chat about cloisonné. (pronounced klwa-zaw-nay) This technique involves adhering thin metal ribbons to a surface, creating spaces which are filled with enamel paste. The item is then fired and polished. The resulting intricately decorated enamelware caught my eye years ago. I own several small pieces, but I don’t have the focus nor the discipline of a true collector. Call me a fancier. I do, however, enjoy researching my finds, and I had quite the interweb meander preparing for this post. (One article took a confoundingly metallurgical turn and lost me completely.) Click through if you’d like to know a bit more about cloisonné and to view some stunning examples.

via architectural digest

Despite the valiant efforts of my high school social studies teacher, I have never developed a head for history, but I do want to share just a smidge of information garnered from my reading. Artisans have practiced this enameling method for thousands of years. Some of the earliest examples of cloisonné were found in ancient Greek and Egyptian jewelry. Later works appeared throughout Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Japan. Cloisonné likely made its way to China during the 14th century, where it is still manufactured. In fact, most of the pieces you’ll encounter will probably be 20th century Chinese, unless you’re fortunate enough to catch an exhibit.

The involved designs on this endearing bunny’s head illustrate one of my favorite aspects of cloisonné. Check out the collage below for loads of detailed beauty.

Click right on the images to be redirected to the source, or use the numbered links below to shop my finds.

01: pair of large vases // 02: pelican figurine // 03: white horse // 04: tall bamboo container // 05: dragon shot glasses // 06: black bunny // 07: drinks table // 08: turquoise trinket box // 09: pair of candleholders // 10: deep blue floral trinket box // 11: antique hand mirror //12: cloud motif ginger jar // 13: shallow bowl // 14: large blue war horse // 15: set of napkin rings // 16: miniature salt and pepper // 17: custom lamp //

Mesmerizing, right? If you have the time, clicking through for a closer look at the impossibly elaborate patterns does not disappoint. For my top picks, I’ve chosen two practical, one aspirational and one no-brainer. I’ve already shared my tablescape enthusiasm, so I definitely put a set of napkin rings on my wishlist. The colors on #15 are fab for fall. I also remain tickled by the notion of itty bitty salt and pepper sets for each place setting, so I obviously need #16. (Only I could list this under my “practical” picks. Ha.) My dream item is #4. I adore this modern cloisonné artist’s use of the medium. Her creations are showstopping. Finally, given the RFT affection for all things lighting, I had to include a stunning lamp! I especially dig the modern lucite base. What do you think? Do you spy any must-haves?

In addition to learning this craft was older and more widely practiced than I thought, I stumbled upon two wonderful contemporary artists. Robert Kuo began creating cloisonné works in his Beverly Hills studio in the early 70s. Search high-end resale sites for his designer lamps and vessels. I included his magnificent black and brown fish scale jar in the slider at the end of the post. Another artist who completely captivated my attention is Fabienne Jouvin. My fave piece from the collage is hers, as is the canister set in the Architectural Digest image. Visit her website for some amazing scenes of the cloisonné process! I love how these two interpret an ancient craft in a modern way.

via stefani stein

So many reasons to be enamored with enamel! Artisanal quality. Striking colors. Nearly unbreakable. Timeless shapes. Classic motifs. Honestly, if you’re into ginger jars or chinoiserie interiors, consider cloisonné. I feel compelled, though, to mention two minor drawbacks to these lovely treasures. First, many pieces are quite diminutive; be sure to check measurements provided by sellers! (Consider my opening image an example of creating big impact with a small collection.) You can absolutely find larger statement works, but that leads me to the second downside. Prices can reach four or five figures. Gulp. If your decor budget is closer to mine, don’t despair. While I don’t see them often, I thrifted each of my finds for a few dollars. Calibrate those thrift goggles!

Alrighty, friends. Are you a cloisonné convert? Maybe you’re already a connoisseur…or even a collector!  Please chime in if you’ve got expertise to share! Like me, do you enjoy investigating a new acquisition? You know I love to hear your perspectives. Have the loveliest day! Until next time.

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  1. Good morning Peggi,
    How are you? I have to say I never heard of this art technique before, I have seen pieces over the years but assumed it was painted. Very intricate and highly detailed art form indeed, no wonder it comes with a high price tag. Thanks so much for educating me as I honestly had no clue of this process. When Sarah mentioned you would be posting a discussion today on cloisonné I refrained from searching as I love surprises 😉 You are such a wealth of information, obviously an incredible teacher and your writing style is so captivating. I so greatly enjoy reading your posts. These pieces are truly an investment and would definitely be a beautiful heirloom piece to pass down to an appreciative loved one. Even a piece of jewelry would be lovely.
    Fall has arrived here and I have already eaten a full batch of pumpkin scones 😋 wishing you a beautiful day! Thanks again for this very educational and intriguing post!

    1. Good morning, Colleen! Thank you for the sweet compliments. Also, I love that you waited to be surprised!😄 I think what really made me love these pieces is the level of artistry and craftsmanship. All those delicate wires! A piece would definitely make a worthy and appreciated heirloom. Although I didn’t feature any jewelry, I did save to my Etsy favorites a gorg pendant by Robert Kuo. I can’t imagine any piece of cloisonné would be unwelcome!
      A batch of pumpkin scones sounds delightful; I’m chomping a pumpkin oatmeal cookie at this very moment. We’re still in the 80s here, but the changing light tells me fall weather is SO close! Have the loveliest Wednesday, friend!

  2. Very interesting post! I, like Colleen, have never heard of cloisonné before. I have stored your wealth of information in case I ever come across a piece. Must check out some jewelry pieces because that and shoes are my weakness. Ditto to Colleen said about your writing style. It is captivating and intriguing!
    Have a wonderful fall day!

    1. Hello, Danna! Thank you! Happy to introduce you to this beautiful art form. I’ve definitely seen lovely cloisonné pendants and brooches, but I doubt you’ll find shoes. HA! (And now that you two have mentioned it, I may need to do a little jewelry searching myself!) I appreciate you chiming in. I hope your day is stupendous!

  3. I wouldn’t have known what to call Cloisonne but I love it. And now I’m stuck trying to justify a $300 pelican… that is GORGEOUS!

    1. Hello, Dawn! Haha. I’m happy you learned something but sorry you may have acquired an expensive obsession. Isn’t that pelican exceptional? Did you click through and see the little orange fish on the front of the bill?! Gah. The tiny clever details on these slay me. Maybe Etsy will have some killer holiday sales? 🤞 Thanks for popping into the comments. Have a wonderful day!

  4. I’m a day late to the discussion but nonetheless excited. Good morning Peggi! This was indeed an interesting post- I have seen many pieces over the years and have always admired the intense colors, the intricate details of the designs, but never knew what it was called. Lamps, vases, and trinket boxes tend to be the ones I love the most. (Side note: I’m kicking myself for not buying the pair of lamps I saw on FBMP- they were absolutely stunning!) I do own a small trinket box, gifted to me from a dear church friend. Naturally my picks from your lovely roundup are #10 (the navy, sage and lotus flowers 😍) and #17. The lamp is jaw dropping- the little flower detail at the bottom has me swooning. My final favorite is the pelican. Can. You. Even. I love unique and unexpected pieces like this one, much to the chagrin of my husband. Hahah! We had the most lovely storm yesterday with unexpected thunder, lightning and rain. Waking this morning to much cooler temperatures and a crisp breeze has me thinking of fall baking and hot cocoa. I hope you’re experiencing bits of fall in your area as well. Have a lovely day friend!

    1. Hello, hello! The door is always open, friend! You PASSED on a pair of cloisonné lamps on FBMP?! I hate it when my rational side overtakes me; the regret really stings. Because I need more lamps (snort), I dream of finding a thrifty pair. Just for future reference, many cloisonné lamps started their lives as vases; so don’t sleep on those. As for your picks, #10 is definitely stunning. The quality appears topnotch. That pelican is bananas in the best possible way. I included it because of its quirky nature. (Our impeccable taste does not need to be understood, Lauren. 🤣)
      Your morning walk sounds lovely. We had some clouds and a little breeze, but the rains never came. Today is supposed to be our first day to stay in the 70s! Huzzah for fall! Have the best Thursday, pal!

  5. I am certainly late to the cloisonné party! As always, I love reading your posts, Peggi. Thank you for sharing this beautiful art-filled post with us. I learned so much and now have a mission to thrift some cloisonné of my own… I can’t believe I don’t have any here at home. It’s stunning! I also really enjoyed your styling and seeing some vignettes in your house! I hope you have a fabulous weekend ahead. Maybe I can sneak away from work early to visit some thrift stores. I’m going to keep my eyes peeled. xo

    1. Hello! Now that you say it, a cloisonné party sounds kinda fab! Ha. Although it might be more colorful than your typical aesthetic, the classic lines and delicate details would be smashing in your home. I’m picturing a piece in your guest bath with that amazing blue backdrop. I mean, what wouldn’t look stellar in there? I’m thinking some of the epic estate sales I’ve seen in your area might house some cloisonné treasures! 🤞 Thanks, as always, for being so sweet and supportive!💜

  6. Informative post! But “call me a fancier” made me smile! What a great turn of phrase! I too don’t have the money, time, space or discipline to be a true collector of any one decor item or trend right now but I can still appreciate and enjoy their beauty. I think I used to have a pair of cloisonne earrings….I’ll have to check next time I’m at my parent’s house to see if they’re still there…

    1. Hello, Nicole! Thanks for popping into the comments! Discipline is definitely the barrier for me; I get distracted by ALL the beautiful things. Like you, though, I still enjoy looking. I bet you did have a pair of cloisonné earrings! They were quite popular for a time. Fingers crossed you can unearth them and enjoy a renaissance. Have a super day!