I went on a gilding course this weekend. I learned a lot about the process. I had no idea that gold leaf sits on a cushion and the cushion is made of bones and chalk and mud.
The first thing we did was melt some rabbit skin glue and I felt right at home after that as it smells like gelatine, because it is basically the same thing. Then we made gesso. I have never really given much thought to what goes into gesso, but proper gesso is basically glue and chalk. It made a much more satisfying goo than the stuff I buy in Cass Art. In future I will be making my own gesso, it has a creamy texture and is much easier to control for obvious reasons. This is definitely my kind of process.
Gilding is of course an old art. So along with an old art comes a lot of old and unfamiliar words. Even the brushes have picaresque names; a sash brush, a round fitch, a pointer or a coach liner. But the best word had to be sissing, which is a wetting defect that can be used for interesting effects later. I am going to be doing a lot of sissing in the next few weeks.
The way you treat your materials is also important, so don’t use a blender to mix the gesso, don’t shake your tin of oil based size. I just enjoyed the words and the processes. It also helped me think about how I would give a course in some of the processes I work with as they are also long winded and difficult to complete in a short space of time.
The course was at Handover in Stoke Newington, their workshops are here: http://www.handover.co.uk/information.php?info_id=11. I only discovered this shop about 18 months ago, which is kind of embarrassing as I have lived on Church Street for about a million years. It was run by Marisa A Delpoio who took us through the processes in a really informative and interesting way. I can’t recommend it too much.
But for me, as a word nerd, one of the highlights was being given the price list for the stuff handover actually sells. Who could possibly resist a Badger Softner, Eurostar Tape, a Flat Pure Squirrel, Gilt Cream or a Jamb Duster or a Toray Pointed Artist?