The Gilding Arts Newsletter educational resource  

for Gold Leaf Gilding


Seattle, WA
In This Issue
Workshop Schedule
The Gilding of an Altar
A Question on Shellac
The Book Shelf...Recommended Reading
Newsletter Archive
Quick Links
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2014 Gilding Workshops   
Winter Quarter, 2014  

Introduction to Gold Leaf Gilding 

Feb. 1, 2014 


Oil Gilding
Feb. 8, 2014

Glass Gilding as used in
Verre Églomisé 

Feb. 22, 2014

Traditional Water Gilding
with Crackle Gesso

March 6, 7, 8, 2014 

The Golden Age of 17th c Holland:
Creating the Dutch Black Finish

March 22, 2014

Crackle Gesso  


Register Below


Greetings from Charles Douglas Gilding Studio
Dear Friends,

Happy 2014! May it be a great year ahead for all of you...

Some new classes are in the lineup for this current Winter Quarter with an emphasis on single-day workshops that offer focused attention in a variety of areas beginning with an overall view into the gilding world of traditional water, oil, and glass gilding. For those interested in learning how to prepare Crackle gesso, you may wish to take part in this alternative version of the popular three-day water gilding class.  Hopefully many of you who are desiring to visit Seattle to study the art of gilding will be able to make it this year!

Meanwhile, it's always wonderful to hear from you as members of the Gilding Arts Newsletter community and your thoughtful questions are always appreciated as we share insight in the world of gold leaf gilding.

For those of you who are painters interested in incorporating gold leaf into your works of art, look for a new class later in the year for gilding on canvas. The allure of adding genuine gold leaf for meaningful embellishment to works of art can be seen in examples from Klimpt and von Stuck to the 18th c Peruvian painters of the Cuzco Province as presented recently in the Peru Exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum.

Happy reading!

Peace, Health, and Clarity
~ Charles

"Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."

~ e e cummings, US Poet (1894-1962)
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The Gilding of a Superyacht

Superyacht, a term often used now for a commercially operated Luxury yacht where one may find marble floors, spiral staircases - or, if you prefer - an elevator. And in this case, 900 feet of 23kt traditionally water gilded moulding.  


2013 saw the completion of Invictus, a yacht built by Delta Marine in Seattle who contracted me to gild the interior of the Executive Office on the top floor of this magnificent 215 foot ship.

When I first met with Delta and the Diane Johnson Design team, we reviewed the plans for gilded mouldings that would later be fitted into routed grooves (see photo below) along with cove and floorboard mouldings that would combine gilding and black catalyzed varnish. Black and Gold Yacht Moulding

The presentation of various samples of gold leaf gilded mouldings resulted in a choice for water gilding due to its elegance and ability to balance the requirements of a hint of brilliancy against an aged appearance with a rubbed leaf over a dark, earth-red ground. The hermetically sealed design of the ship, of which I was informed is better than one's home, would provide a suitable environment for the gesso-based gilding.

The final design plan was to use water gilded 23kt gold leaf, burnished over a custom-mixed dark red bole consisting of 50/50 German Red and Black clay. The leaf would be rubbed to expose the dark red bole and then toned with an umber-tinted Ruby shellac.

As for challenges, there are always difficulties with a large scale project that need to be confronted and resolved. In this case one of the larger issues was that the mouldings to be fitted into the wall panelings measured only a quarter inch wide and were joined at the mitres like picture frames so the mitre cuts wouldn't show. Unfortunately, once hydrated, the frames bowed in the middle causing some of the corners to pop open - I would sometimes actually hear them snap from across the room! - so the handling of these delicate mouldings proved very difficult, especially during burnishing. As the wall panelings were already meticulously painted the gilding needed to be done separately and the mouldings inserted. Interior Yacht Gilding

Applying weights on the corners of the frames after any hydrating helped stabilize them and after many hours all the various sized frames were finally gilded, toned, and installed successfully.

One of the aesthetic challenges was that some of the gilding was accomplished in the studio, some onsite in the manufacturers's workspace - the size of a small airplane hangar - and also onsite on the yacht itself in a separate hangar amongst the wiring, cables, woodworking, and painting of the yacht builders. The goal was to maintain a consistent antique color tone on all 900 feet of moulding, executed under three separate lighting conditions while also envisioning how the appearance may change once the ship was launched where the lighting would change once again under natural conditions. The only true approach to this is to maintain awareness, make sure the toning recipe and application is consistent, and to not go too dark on the tone - it's always easier to make something a bit darker later than lighter.

In the end, the look of the water gilded gold leaf set against the deep, dark black elegance of the varnished walls and cabinetry was quite stunning. Several studio assistants were on hand to contribute their skills throughout this year long project: Madeline, Heather, Alyssa, and with a special thank you to Swedish Gilder and Restorer Malin Isaksson who flew many miles to be involved and lend her assistance. (To view some of Malin's work visit the website at the Stockholm Furniture Fair.) 



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Gold Leaf Gilding...A Conversation

24kt Oil Gilded Miniature Carriage

Questions Submitted by our Members and others from around the (Art)World.


Q.  Regarding the restoration of gilded frames..."I usually stabilize loose gesso with watered down PVA glue but is this the best way to stabilize the gesso or is there a better product that I should be using?

Secondly, how do you set about matching the existing patina?


~ Brian, UK


A. I assume you refer to Polyvinyl Acetate (white glue) rather than Polyvinyl Alcohol which may be used by conservators in certain gesso applications during conservation. There is some difference of opinion in the choice of materials for gesso consolidation which can range from delamination of gesso segments to friable or flaking gesso. A weakened PVA emulsion with a wetting agent is a demonstrated method to help consolidate flaking gesso. For re-attaching loose sections of gesso and re-adhering gesso that is delaminating from the wood surface I recommend using a 10% RSG (rabbit skin glue) solution with a drop of ox gall during application to retain the same traditional protein binder that would likely have been originally used on your frames and in the gesso.  


To prepare a 10% solution, soak 1 part dry RSG : 9 Parts Distilled Water and then heat to no more than 120F. If necessary to facilitate the Size under sections of gesso or into crevices, slightly dilute the RSG solution to ease its way but maintain the full 10% glue strength wherever possible.  


If gesso has 'blistered' to where it is no longer securely attached to the wood and there is no entry point to insert the RSG, consider drilling a very small hole in the gesso layer to inject a small amount of glue through the opening and apply gentle pressure to the gessoed surface to help stabilize it. This should be a last resort as one of the main goals during treatment is to maintain the original finish as much as possible; however, if the gesso is blistering and is no longer attached to the substrate it seems an approach that is the least invasive to gaining access to the underlayer of the delaminating gesso.   


To protect the gilded surface before gesso consolidation treatment, apply a solvent-based resin to the area of gilding to be protected which can be reversible such as Soluvar or Acryloid B-72.  Maintain care that the resin remains strictly to the surface area. 


Matching the existing patina of exposed gesso and of a gilded surface represents some of the art of gilding. There is much to consider as this is a complex area. You may wish to research the Gilding Arts Newsletter for previous articles that would provide some element of depth.  


Essentially, there are a variety of toning mediums that are used and the proper medium needs to be chosen for the method of gilding used. Raw umber is a color that is used quite often, sometimes in conjunction with other colors. Toners may come in the form of tinted shellacs, RSG-based washes, casein, asphaltum, Japan paint, and others. The process of rubbing the leaf and applying clear RSG solutions or matt-Soluvar as a topcoat also contribute to toning.      

The topic of gesso treatments and consolidation are discussed in great length in this month's book recommendation Gilded Wood. 


Q. "What is the best way to see if it's real gold or metal leaf?"...and also "What to use on worm holes under old gesso?" ~ Malin, Sweden  


A. Generally, the first indication whether you are looking at metal leaf (also known as Dutch Metal, Composition Gold, Imitation Gold, or Brass or Aluminum Leaf) is to see how far apart the overlaps between the leaves are. Brass or Aluminum leaf is about 5 1/2" wide while most genuine gold leaf measures 3 1/8 - 3 3/8" Wide, depending upon the country of origin (some leaf in Thailand is much smaller). A trained eye can often tell the difference by the tonality and identification of tarnishing which occurs with brass but not 22kt gold leaf or higher. Instrumentation available to conservators can give a specific view of the metal used but generally this isn't necessary for most restoration.  


Concerning worm holes, it's necessary to determine whether the object contains live insects. One way to visually inspect certain objects such as picture frames is to place the object on a large white board overnight and check it the next day to see if there are any tiny black 'droppings'. However, if there is any doubt then one efficient method is to have the object fumigated using a reliable and trusted firm that can do this for you. In Seattle I use Paratex.

Something else to consider, of course, is whether the worm holes present are genuine or fabricated to simulate age. Many times a rue worm hole will have both a point of entry and exit, so look for two holes. But obviously, the can be reproduced as well.

As for restoring gesso that has experienced insect infestation, adding garlic to the new gesso can act as a natural fungicide (while adding an aroma to your studio at the same time!).    



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The Book Shelf...
Recommended Reading

Gilded Wood
Conservation and History 
Gilded Wood, published by Sound View Press and compiled under the guidance of Deborah Bigelow, Project Director and one of the General Editors  of this magnificent publications, remains one of my favorite research books for gilding. It is filled with a wide range of scholarly papers on many facets of gilding stemming from the 1988 Gilding Conservation Symposium at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Within these pages lie topics ranging from
Ancient Egyptian Gilding Methods and
The Chemistry of Filled Animal Glue Systems to
The Use of Nontraditional Gilding Methods and
Materials in Conservation and
The Routine Care and Maintenance of Gilded-Wood Objects.  


New and Used versions of this book can be found on Amazon and other marketplace sellers.  


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Gold Leaf Gilding
Workshop Schedule 
Gilding: Using the Gilder's Pad~ Charles Douglas Gilding Studio
Gilding: Using the Gilder's Pad
~ Charles Douglas Gilding Studio
Winter Quarter, 2014  

Introduction to Gold Leaf Gilding 

February 1, 2014   
Workshop Fee: $150.00


Oil Gilding Workshop  
February 8, 2014      
Workshop Fee: $150.00 

Glass Gilding as used in
Verre Églomisé
February 22, 2014   
Workshop Fee: $165.00 

Traditional Water Gilding
with Crackle Gesso 
(includes frame, gold leaf, & field trip to museum)
March 6, 7, 8, 2014   
Workshop Fee: $650.00


The Golden Age of 17th c Holland: Creating the Dutch Black Finish 
March 22, 2014     
Workshop Fee: $150.00
Workshop Summaries
Introduction to Gold Leaf Gilding 
Enjoy a day of discovering the methods behind this ancient craft. Explore the techniques of oil gilding, glass gilding, and the beautiful method of traditional water gilding. Apply genuine gold leaf on a variety of surfaces and stretch  
your creativity!

Oil Gilding
A one day intensive in acquiring the skills to execute a proper oil gilded surface. Learn to handle genuine 23kt gold leaf; explore the options for preparing grounds and choosing among a variety of oil sizes. 

Glass Gilding as used in Verre Églomisé
A one day intensive in discovering the art of glass gilding, the basis for verre églomisé. Learn to apply genuine 12kt white gold, preparing glass for gilding, making gelatin size, and creating special effects including candle-smoked glass, abrading gold leaf, and the combined use of water color additives.

Traditional Water Gilding with Crackle Gesso
Traditional Water Gilding is an ancient craft that goes back over 4,000 years ago to the early Egyptians. This popular workshop is an intensive, hands-on class with a focus on the use of Crackle Gesso as the foundation for a water gilded surface. Students will be taken through each step f the process, from preparing crackle gesso and clay bole grounds to laying and burnishing genuine 23kt gold leaf. A field trip to either the Seattle Art Museum or the Frye Art Museum to view the gilded frame collections is included.
The Golden Age of 17th c Holland: Creating the Dutch Black Finish Learn the foundation of creating the simple but beautiful hand-rubbed Dutch Black finish reminiscent of those used during 17th c Holland for picture frames. (Involves the use of non-toxic casein paint and alcohol-based shellac).
12kt White Gold Leaf, Gilded Glass Mirror 
Class Size limited to 8 Students


Charles Douglas Gilding Studio
Gasworks Gallery Building
3815 4th Avenue NE (off N. Northlake)
Seattle, WA 98105

To Register by Mail: Click Here to download the Registration Form (PDF).   
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The Gilding Arts Newsletter periodically publishes technical information concerning the various methods of gold leaf gilding. Some of these topics are in series formats such as the current series on Traditional Water Gilding.

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