Basse-taille (“boss-TIE”) uses etched patterns in metal, but differs from champlevé in how the metal is treated.
In champlevé, the enamel is ground off the high points and bare metal is always left showing. In basse-taille, all the metal is covered with enamel.
Often the enamel is transparent so that the etched pattern can be seen below the surface. “Fern Spores” uses white in the recesses, with the whole piece covered in transparent glass.
Basse-taille can sometimes be a much easier process to control than champlevé because the glass doesn’t discolor as much. It can also be much less time consuming because the stoning process is eliminated.
With this first piece in the “Salt Point” series, I applied black enamel first by sifting it very lightly onto the entire piece. The white areas were filled after the black was fired. However, the white had to be painstakingly removed from all the black enamel dots before each firing, a process that took many hours each time I fired.
As much as I love the textural result of this basse-taille piece, I decided that champlevé was my technique of choice for the “Salt Point” series. Not only are the pieces less laborious but champlevé imparts a mysterious three-dimensional quality because of contrasts between semi-translucent glass and bare blackened copper.