Cloisonne enamel meets watch demand
Updated: 2014-05-15 09:20
By Wang Kaihao (China Daily)
Xiong Songtao's studio is one of the country's five only places to produce enamel dials.Photo provided to China Daily
In a village in Huoxian town, a one-hour drive from downtown Beijing, there is an unremarkable looking warehouse. It seems incredible that this inconspicuous place is where delicate enamel creations of the highest craftsmanship are produced.
He wears a confident smile. "I don't want to go to town to market my product. People who know about my vitreous enamel will come to me," he says.
Among the numerous delicate pieces that sparkle throughout his workshop, the miniature watch dials are his greatest source of pride. He uses cloisonne, an ancient technique for decorating metalwork that involves applying 0.04-mm-thin golden wires to form raised lines on a silver body, which contain different areas of enamel.
Cloisonne enamel in China is generally believed to date back to the 15th century and was greatly beloved by royals, but traditionally, a copper body was used.
"I accidentally picked up a luxury magazine in 1998 and saw European enamel watches," Xiong says. "I said to myself: I was born making enamel. Why not give it a try?"
Xiong is the third generation in his family to work with enamel. Some artisans from the royal workshop in the Forbidden City scattered to the outskirts of Beijing in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Xiong's grandfather became an apprentice.
Having graduated from college with a business major in the mid-1990s, Xiong was at first reluctant to take over the workshop from his father.