Friday, February 12, 2010

The bling goes on

          Detailed below is a further trial using loose gold leaf, and the same reversible PVA. Loose gold has to be handled a little differently from the transfer gold because the slightest air current can disturb it before it has been laid, and waft it into a mangled heap. I show in the photos the tools I use, a gold knife (which is not particularly sharp on purpose), which has quite a broad blade and I sometimes use this to manoeuvre the leaf, along with the gilder's tip. That is the wide brush made (I think) from badger hair that you use to lift the leaf and position on the page. You could also use a piece of stiff paper. 

          The gilder's cushion is one I made way back, and I think I made it from a piece of binder's board and a piece of batting cut to the same size and covered with an oddment of suede leather. You hold the gold book in your left hand, bending back the front cover, and lift out the leaf with your right, and lay it on the cushion, ready to cut into suitably sized pieces. If it folds over on itself, you can often just lift it with the blade and flop it back down gently.
          One of the problems with using a coloured paper is that you can't see where you have painted the PVA, so next time I will add more red watercolour to the mix. They used to use armenian bole, a rust coloured earth pigment, to colour the gesso, but watercolour does just as well, and probably mixes better when you're using PVA.
  Briefly, the steps are as follows: paint the PVA where you want the gold to stick. Let it dry. Cut the gold so you have a piece the size of the area to cover. Breathe on the PVA and immediately lift and place the gold in position. Using a piece of thin silicon paper or tracing paper, place this on top of the gold and press onto the PVA with your fingers firmly. Rub gently through the paper, then use a burnisher rubbing gently at first then applying more pressure. Remove the paper and check if it has adhered by gently brushing with a small soft paintbrush. When you are sure it is completely dry you can re-burnish to a high shine. If it is patchy you can try the 'breathing, applying gold' steps again as gold will usually stick to gold. You can also re-size if it still won't stick, but be careful not to apply too much. The moisture from your breath re-activates the PVA. The gold which has not stuck to the PVA will fall away as you brush (I call these 'gold crumbs'). You will be left with a gilt letter or shape. 
  I save the gold crumbs for use as 'shell gold', the old name for gold paint made from real gold dust. Do your brushing over a piece of paper which has one edge folded up about two inches, then you can shake the crumbs down to the fold and into a small container. See photo of little jar. Then can be pulverized to a powder and mixed with gelatine. (I use the medical gelatine capsules bought from a pharmacy - heat gently to melt, then mix.) This makes real gold paint, which can be reactivated with water and keeps for a long time. It can also be burnshed when dry but it is never quite the same as the sheer bright look of gold leaf. 
Here is the result of the second experiment. The actual size of this print is 55 mm x 70 mm or about 
2 1/8" x 2 3/4" .

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