Guest Pics From My Gold Leaf Presentation at WIA

Thanks to the generosity of attendee BL I can post a number of images from the WIA Saturday afternoon session on gold leaf.

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The preparation for either perfect polychrome or gold leafing is essentially the same, requiring good gesso and application techniques, along with attentive treatment of the surface at every step as each successive step amplifies the quality f the previous step like a blinding spotlight.

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I test the first application of dilute gesso by making a drop in my hand; I want it to look like skim milk.

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The really great things about the small audience were the ability of everyone to get really close to see what was going on, and the chance for almost everyone to try their hand at applying good gesso so they would know what it looked and acted like on the brush.

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Once the gesso is built up on top of the carving it needs to be “re-cut” or re-carved since the gesso will obscure the detail  as it gets built up.  I generally use dental scrapers and chisels for my re-cutting.  In gilding shops of old, the re-cutter was usually the highest paid guy in the shop.

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Often the final step in the gesso and bole stage is to briskly rub the surface with a piece of linen, which creates the polished base on which the gold leaf is applied.

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Here I am just showing the cutting of gold leaf on the gilder’s pad.  Since modern gold leaf is somewhere around 1/100,000th of a inch thick, a delicate touch is required.

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Prior to the start of the two-hour session I brushed some quick-set  oil size on a painted and polished surface, and at the end of the session I laid the leaf.  Here I have just set the fragile gold leaf on top of the hardening oil size and am pouncing it down.

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Brushing of the leaf reveals the areas that had been sized and those which had not been sized.

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Water gilding is a whole ‘nother cat.  Here I had just wetted the surface with my gilder’s liquor and laid the leaf on it while it was still wet, allowing the water to draw the leaf down to the surface as it soaks into the gesso and bole.

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Water gilding, done.

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At a specific point in the process for water gilding the ground dries to the perfect point where a polished stone burnisher can be worked on the surface, bringing it to a mirrored shine.

All in all, not a bad amount of demonstrating for a complex process and only twp hours to show it.