Introduction: Cloisonné Tea Tray

About: We make a bunch of random stuff, mostly crafts

Cloisonné enamel (掐丝珐琅) is a traditional decorative technique. Wide flat metal strips are applied to a metalwork object to make artwork with small compartments. Then various paint, gems, glass, and other decorative materials are used to fill in those wired compartments.

This technique originated in Egypt and fully developed in Europe. It spread to ancient China and the best works were produced during the Ming dynasty, during the reign of the emperor Jing Tai. As a result, the artwork made during that time period is called “Jing Tai Lan”, after the ruling emperor and “蓝” ("lan", blue) as blue was a popular color to use in cloisonné. One of the unique characteristics of the Chinese take on this art style is the paint used. The paint is rich in sand, which makes some amazingly smooth gradients. The artwork is kilned to finish.

Nowadays, this decorative technique can be used on a broad range of materials other than metal, as long as the material is sturdy and water resistant. Still, some materials are quite expensive (enamel in particular) and not everyone has a kiln at home.

I wanted to explore a more accessible way for this technique by making a Cloisonné version of the famous Song dynasty Chinese painting “A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains” by Ximeng Wang. This painting stands out in ancient Chinese art history by its usage of vibrant colors - yellow, blue, and green. The original artwork is a very long scroll, so, I am only going to portray part of the whole thing.

I hope everyone who is interested has the resources to give it a try!


  • 3mm wide flat jewelry craft wire 18-gauge aluminum wire
  •  B7000 Glue clear with precision tip
  • Ferrero Rocher chocolate box (bottom) or any other acrylic box as long as it has a solid and flat surface.
  • Jewelry pliers: wire cutters, bent nose pliers, regular plier.
  • Tape
  • Glass paint & brush
  • Color sand set & small tool to scoop up/apply sand (I used bubble tea straw)
  • Clear Elmer’s Glue
  • Epoxy resin

Step 1: Wires

You can use outlines of any artwork. Print it out, then tape it of the bottom of the box as shown.

Trace along the outline with glue. Only do a small section at a time.

Bend the wire along the outline and cut off the extra with the wire cutter.

Stick the wire along the glue with a bent nose plier. 


  1. If you have chosen an artwork with relatively complex outlines, there's no need to trace every single outline, just do the main ones. Too many wires will make the artwork too crowded.
  2. After applying glue, wait a bit before sticking on the wire, so the glue has time to solidify slightly.
  3. If the size of the printout does not fully match the size of the box, extend some outlines as needed.

Step 2: Base Color

Use glass paint to add color according to the original artwork. This serves as a guideline for the next step, where we'll add colored sand. 

Step 3: Colored Sand

First, mix the sand. I mixed the clear glue and water at 1:1 ratio. Add sand until the opacity is to your liking.

There are several reasons to have relatively more water. First, after mixing, sand will settle at the bottom. This means you can scoop out the mix from different heights to get a different opacity. You can also stir the glue-water mixture to get a new less dense color. This helps to create color variance and is especially useful when working on the water and sky. Finally, you can use a pipette to take away extra clear mix.

Since we want to have a transition when different colors meet, you should have several color sand mixes at hand at the same time, rather than working on just one color at time. This way you can mix different color sand mixtures as needed. Extra water will slow down the drying of the mix.

I started with blue. Use a spoon with sharp tip for accurate application of the result. I cut a bubble tea straw as shown. Apply mixed sticky blue sand to the blue parts in the work.

Repeat this for other colors. Note that the key is to create layers of different colors, and pay attention to gradients. You can make a gradient by swirling a toothpick between different colors of sand.

Note: I tried and failed to color the sand with acrylic paint, glass paint, and resin paint. So I had to just get colored sand.

Step 4: Top Layer

Give it at least a day for the color sand mixture to dry before applying the top layer of epoxy resin.

You want less than 1 cm of resin on top. In my case, I needed approximately 400 ml. Carefully pour out the resin into the box on top of the artwork.

Give the resin a day to dry.

Step 5: Edge

Cut flat wire and place it along the edges of the box for decoration. Glue on with B7000 glue.

Step 6: Finished!

Now I can enjoy my tea with this newly made tea tray! And I hope you can enjoy it too! 

Metal Contest

This is an entry in the
Metal Contest