I knew my The ShuttleSmith Glass/Enamel Copper Tatting Shuttles were unique….I just didn’t realize HOW unique until I just recently did a Google search for ‘enamel tatting shuttles’ and ‘glass tatting shuttles’. I was surprised by what I found (or should I say what I did NOT find!).
In my Google search, it was no surprise to me that Heidi Nakayama’s name, photos, and website came up….she is the ‘Queen of Tatting Shuttles’. Heidi wrote the book on tatting shuttles, literally and physically: Tatting Shuttles of American Collectors is a must-have book any tatter interested in the beautiful tools that have been a part of tatting’s history. Check out her website at: Tatting Shuttles of American Collectors Website . It is full of eye-candy and great articles on contemporary tatters and shuttle collectors. Heidi has Dora Young’s shuttle & tatting collection as well as rights to Dora’s very unique book, which she is planning to republish.
A chapter about my The ShuttleSmith Sterling Silver Tatting Shuttles (I used to make) is included in Heidi’s book. I had the good fortune to meet Heidi at the 1998 IOLI Convention in San Diego, California. It was at this time she was still actively researching and writing her book and had taken photos of my handmade sterling silver shuttles. It was there that Heidi asked me if I had ever considered enameling my silver shuttles. At that point in time, the answer was ‘No’–I had a full-time job, two small children, an active family lifestyle, and active ‘in my spare time’ teaching needlework and lacemaking techniques, teaching weekend motorcycle safety classes and creating silver tatting shuttles….there simply was no time for another hobby!
Now flash-forward to a year or so ago—I stumbled into a class on enameling and was hooked! Of course, my first thought was applying the artform to tatting shuttles (everything is TATTING related!). I don’t want to know how much money I dumped into this new artform….but I have had alot of fun in the process. And just now after doing a search on enamel/glass tatting shuttles I have realized how very unique my shuttles are.
What I did find on the internet was a couple of photos of old/historical enameled shuttles. Most have a thin layer of glass/enamel over silver. Many times, the underlying silver is patterned. This is an enameling technique/style called ‘quilloche’ or ‘basse taille’. I have seen a few enameled shuttles in other peoples collections but have never found one myself in antique stores. I believe old enameled shuttles to be fairly rare. Now that I am an ‘enamelist’ I know that enameling does not work well with ‘sterling silver’. The base needs to be ‘fine/pure silver’. The impurities (the 7.5% of non-silver metal) in ‘sterling silver’ will not allow the glass particles of enameling to fuse to the metal base.
Beyond the historical enamel shuttles, probably from the early part of the 20th century, I could not find any reference to Enamel Tatting Shuttles until I created mine. Now if you Google search ‘Enamel Tatting Shuttle’, my The ShuttleSmith Glass/Enamel Copper Tatting Shuttles come up in big numbers. I use copper as the base metal for my tatting shuttles–A. it’s alot cheaper to buy, B. it’s easier to use, & C. why use a precious/expensive metal when you are going to cover it up with something like glass?
ShuttleSmith Glass/Enamel Copper Tatting Shuttles are a layer of copper metal upon which glass particles are fused/melted to the base metal using high heat (ca 1300C) from a hand-held torch. Both sides are coated in glass, though the backside is quite plain due to enameling process limitations. The result is a flat, hoare-style tatting shuttle that IS glass. It ‘tinks’/sounds like glass. And it can/will break like anything glass if it is dropped (usually from a distance to a hard surface such as concrete).
Check out ShuttleSmith Glass/Enamel Copper Tatting Shuttles for sale on Etsy: The ShuttleSmith Etsy Store