IN 2017, artist Ravelle Flores was grieving the death of her father, Humberto Flores, a silversmith and Contemporary Hispanic Market jewelry artist. She channeled her emotions into productivity, dedicating herself to cleaning his studio.
While digging through towers of tools and organizing scraps, Flores noticed an enamel kit’s bright tubes of colored glass. A full-time jewelry maker whose grandparents and parents were all artists, she was determined to try the ancient art form. “I immediately cleaned my workshop and built an area with lots of light to enamel,” she says.
Enameling has a long history in creative cultures. Enameled treasures have been found in Grecian tombs, Celtic caves, and provinces of the Roman Empire. The technical process fuses glass to a metal backing with high heat. “The glass is the consistency of fine sugar,” says Flores, who learned the techniques by watching online videos. Every layer of colored glass must be placed on a clean copper backing and then fired in a 1,500-degree kiln before adding another color. “Depending on the look I am going for, I put it into the kiln three to seven times,” she says.
Flores draws inspiration from the moment to create her enameled rings, necklaces, earrings, and buttons (which she’s including on her hand-knit pom-pom beanies for winter). Her earrings, for example, range from brightly colored flower posts to dangling guitars, mushrooms, and luna-moth wings. “I like things that are whimsical and colorful,” she says. “I think about how I can make my pieces really pop and help someone who wears it feel empowered.”
Flores, who lives and works in Columbus, near the US–Mexico border, frequently seeks advice from her mother, Denise Lee Robertson, and other enamelists. “The artist community feels like family,” she says. “I remember watching my dad, and that taught me. My mom taught me, too.”
As her skills have developed, Flores has delved into more intricate and complicated creations. She frequently wears a necklace with a bright red heart and golden wings. “The prong setting was difficult, but it was so worth it,” she says. “It’s my signature piece. People try to buy it, but I want to keep it.”
Flores frequently updates her Artistry By Ravelle Etsy page with her latest creations and sells work at arts-and-crafts shows in Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico, including the Contemporary Hispanic Market in July. “Jewelry tends to give us power,” she says. “I like jewelry to have meaning.”