All that glitters . . .

In this case is gold.  23.5 carat to be precise.  I’ve been trying my hand at gilding, a decorative technique that involves covering an object with fine layers of gold leaf (although silver, copper and mixed leaf can also be used).  Gilding can be used on loads of things, in the past I have used it on paintings, but it’s more likely to be found in nice houses or on fancy statues, for example:

Some serious gilding spotted by me in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam

I started out with a wooden corbel (prospective plant stand) picked up from a second hand shop.  The first thing I did was paint the corbel yellow using enamel paint.  The enamel provides a good base for the size which the gold will stick to, and ensures that the size will not sink into the wood.  Yellow is a good colour to use as will not be obvious if there are any missed patches of gold.

After this was dry I added a layer of oil based size.  This took about two days to get to the right sticky/tacky level for me to be able to apply the gold leaf.

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Application of loose leaf 23.5ct gold, cutting the gold into pieces to apply it more easily

Use of soft camel or squirrel hair tip brush

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The next stage was to ‘mop’ up the gold using circular motions with a soft brush to brush away the excess gold.

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Finally the gold could be polished gently with cotton wool:

About £25 worth or one book of 23.5ct gold went into this – plus several hours of work over a few days

Gilding tools: soft brushes, knife, gilding cushion, cotton wool, loose leaf gold

Gilding is a highly skilled trade, and like all highly skilled trades it looks really easy until you attempt it yourself – and then realise that there’s no chance you can get anywhere near the speed and neat application of a real pro.  There are several different techniques you can use, for example, water gilding.  If you feel like real gold leaf might be a bit pricey (and the price of gold is still on the rise) then you might want to opt for transfer leaf, which is a lot easier to apply, but not quite so shiny.

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