The Classic Enamel Mug Combines Functionality With Art

Enamelling has long been a decorative art, with artefacts dating back to the 9th century. Some of the objects remain in exquisite condition due to the durable finish that is achieved using this powder infused glass technique. Nowadays, we most commonly see enamel used to create sturdy enamel mug designs, cookware, as well as some decorative pieces. It was not until over ten centuries later in the 1800s that crafters realised that enamel would make a fantastic cookware surface. During this time it experienced peak popularity in both consumer products and industrial settings.
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Despite this recent surge in more practical uses, enamel has for most of its history been known for its contribution to jewellery and other decorative art. Perhaps one of the reasons for its popularity was that it could retain very vibrant colour. By fusing the powdered glass over colour, it promotes a glossy surface that makes the colour look brilliant. We now know enamel as being mainly fused to metal, primarily steel, but this was not always the case. In fact, the Egyptians used to fuse it to stone and pottery. Persians, Greeks, Celts and Chinese are also known for their ancient use of enamel for decoration. 

The introduction of metal enamelling demanded more accurate and advanced technology. In order to set the powder once it has been applied, the object needs to be fired in a kiln or oven. The trick is using a high enough temperature so that the finish sets adequately, but not so high as to melt the base material. Stone and pottery did not prove to be such a problem, as extreme temperatures are preferable. Stone and pottery can withstand temperatures up to around 1500˚C, while steel can only take around 1300˚C.

Enamel CupsThe Chinese cloisonné technique was extremely popular in the 13th-14th centuries, and is a very distinctive art using vitreous enamel. This often floral design is incredibly fine and intricate, with each compartment of colour being separated by a visible gold or silver wire. Cloisonne was popular right up until the 1800s in China, and is now recognised as a historic Chinese art form. While cookware and industrial pieces were first crafted in the 1800s, it was not until the First World War that the Humble Enamel Mug really boomed in Australia.

Troops heading off to war needed a basic kit that would serve them while they were serving the nation. This included one or two metal enamel mugs that were famously used for tea, coffee and sometimes soup. They were designed to be lightweight so as not to be too heavy to carry in a pack, and also using fewer resources meant that more could be made for the same cost. As a result, thin steel sheets were used. The simplified design shape meant that production was very simple; it was simply a matter of stamping out shapes and moulding them.

 The enamel mugs that we use today for camping or simply having a cup of tea may seem basic, but are steeped in a long and shifting history. The technique has been refined over the centuries so that the surface is smooth and glossy, and that the colours remain bright for a long time. However, the enamelling process does not deliver entirely identical products. Minor surface irregularities are a part of the process, and are considered signs of originality rather than flaws or imperfections. To browse through a large range of Enamelware Products, or to ask our attentive staff more about interesting enamel mug history.

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