Saturday, 5 February 2011


(forgive me for the lesson)

Although produced widely throughout Europe from the latter 
half of the 19th century, utilitarian tinware, or enamelware,  
that was painted and glazed became known as French Enamelware 
due to it’s particular popularity in France. 

The process of enameling had been around for centuries with 
examples of fragments of enameled pottery and metal having been 
excavated in Eygpt and dated back to ancient Eygyptian times.

Vitreous enamel involves the fusion of powdered glass to an object 
through firing at extreme temperatures of between 750° -  850°C. 
This creates a durable and smooth coating on metal.

Prior to around 1890 foodstuffs would have been stored in 
ceramic lidded crocks, wooden pantry boxes, cloth bags, glass jars 
and rather crude tin containers.

With the advent of cheaply manufactured metalware sheet steel 
enameled items became sought after in European households 
and were produced primarily in Belgium, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

The  wartime industrialist Oskar Schindler (1908 – 1974) 
who was an opportunistic  business man himself acquired an 
idle enamelware factory in Poland profiting from the 
German invasion in 1939.

Schindler who was an ethnic German born in Moravia and a 
Nazi party member went on to employ, protect and ultimately save, 
it is estimated, around 1200 Jews. He, at great risk to himself, 
employed them in his ammunitions and enamelware factories 
insisting that they were his vital workforce.

By 1900 and until the late 1940’s European kitchens were well stocked 
with enamelware ranging from the simple white jug with it’s 
blue rim to more elaborate designs both abstract and figurative.

Vintage Enamel including jugs, canisters, candleholders, salt boxes, 
matchboxes, bread bins, cake tins and milk pails are today 
highly desirable decorative items adding old world charm 
to modern interiors. The term shabby chic is rather tired yet enamelware 
is a key component of this much loved look.

Enamelware comes in a rainbow hue of colours and 
whilst prices have dropped due to recent modern day 
reproductions rare and colourful finds in good condition 
are still sought after and therefore continue to 
command good prices.

A lively market for enamelware exists today in America 
whereas during it’s golden era it never really captured the hearts 
of the Americans. During this period in the USA great 
quantities of Japanned tin containers and wooden salt 
and spice boxes were manufactured instead.

Today the Japanese also go wild for quality vintage 
French enamelware and in Japan stylish examples often 
sell for exhorbitant sums.

As you know since 2001 I have lived in Northern France near Lille 
and worked as an artist/antique dealer buying and restoring 
French furniture and vintage objects to sell to my clients who included 
Cath Kidston the queen of floral textiles, distressed authentic 
painted furniture, vintage and enamelware.

Throughout my wanders in French street brocantes my heart 
always skips a beat when I spot something enamel and I have myself 
a small collection of honest household items which continue 
to give me simple pleasure.

When  I quietly contemplate my  enamelware I often wonder 
of it’s origins and like to think that perhaps my humble  jug was made 
by one of Oskar Schindler’s Jewish holocaust survivors… 

(blogger is bleedin bugging excuse me for odd linefeeds)


Emma said...

I love enamel ware too.
I watched the film Schindlers list the other day,I managed to cry several times through it x

gallerydarrow said...

Fantastic post Linda!
I enjoyed all the interesting facts. I have a lot of American antiques and often wonder about the former owners, antiques have so much soul. Most of our furniture is handmade or antique, it's much more fun and interesting to share a household with objects that embody the past and talented human hands.

I love your enamelware and if my husband didn't make so much pottery I would hoard it like a pocket mouse.

Have a great weekend, xo

Trudi * Fabricated Tales said...

What a lovely collection! What an interesting post!

Cari-Jane Hakes said...

I love love LOVE enamelware! I don't have very much - my favourite pan is enamelware and I'm always surprised by how easy it is to clean (and it must be more healthy than 'non stick' which always seems to flake in time and kind of scares me - the thought of all that non-stick stuff floating around inside me ... yuck).

If I ever get a kiln in my jewellery studio I will be enameling away till the cows come home!

Bon Weekend to you.
(and, yes, I get those blogger linefeed problems too - and it IS the most annoying thing. Sometimes it just seems to have a mind of its own)

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