Creating your own art pieces can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Whether you want to adorn your home with the product of your own self expression, give your artwork as a gift to loved ones, or even sell them for profit, they are a true reflection of your talents and who you are.
You can learn how to hone your artistic talents at the Plein Air Painting School in New York City. Their outdoor classes provide a unique way to develop your craft, and they are always keeping it fresh with different locations and scenarios to paint. Danielle Hatherley provides one-on-one instruction and direction, building confidence in the novice artist, and helping more seasoned painters discover new ways to express themselves. Check their website at www.thepleinairpaintingschool.com for further details.
Once your new masterpiece is done a gold frame will add the final ‘piece de resistance’ to make it complete. Frame gilding has been around for centuries and companies like Lowy specialize in the craft. Lowy also specializes in art conservation, work on historical reproduction and contemporary frames, giltwood and antique frame restoration, as well as conservation of antique and period frames. Their skilled conservators, carvers and gilders, show the same passion, dedication and uncompromising standards as their forbearers, who started the company over 100 years ago. Their client roster includes renowned museums, fine art galleries and art auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s. They are also frequently called upon to care for prestigious private collections including those of David Rockefeller, Ralph Lauren, Richard Manoogian and Mrs Randolph Hearst. As described at lowyonline.com, “they also collaborate with top architects and interior designers on elements such as cornices, mantle pieces, picture frames and framed mirrors. Over the years they have served artists such as Salvador Dali, Alfonso Ossorio, Arbit Blatas, Leon Kroll, George L. K. Morris and Paul Jenkins. They have also worked with the estates of Maurice Prendergast, William Glackens, George Bellows, John Sloan and Max Weber.
Their conservation department has successfully conserved paintings by a wide array of artists including El Greco, John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Albert Bierstadt, Franz Kline and Ad Reinhardt, to name a few. They have also reframed many pieces including Paul Cezanne’s The Bather, Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Joseph Roulin and three large paintings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo for The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
A Brief History of Gilding:
The gilding, or metal leafing process, dates back to 2300 BC. This is when artisans discovered a way to hammer gold into fine sheets and adhere them to objects. Images of goldsmiths making gold leaves appear in Egyptian paintings, and metal leafing appears in Phoenician and Early Chinese artwork. Metal leafing appears constantly throughout art history, including Byzantine icons and mosaics. It was also a staple of Medieval illuminated manuscripts, and as a widely popular finish for Baroque period sculpture, frames and furniture.
Historically the gold or silver would have been placed between sheets of parchment, and pounded with wooden mallets until it was thin and malleable. The sheets were then cut down and placed between sheets of paper for their protection. Today’s technology allows the production of micro-thin sheets from a number of metals and alloys. These can easily take the shape of the item being gilded such as sculptures, frames, jewelry and mixed mediaartworks. Metal leafing comes in many varieties including gold, silver copper, as well as variegated or irregular color patterns of greens, reds and blues. It can be made from genuine gold, genuine silver or a composite of metals created to have the look of gold.
We spoke to a former gild artist about the process, to find out more.
How long does it takes to work on a piece. How many pieces do you work on at any given time, and what do you specialize in doing there?
When I was first hired, I remember the Director telling me to leave everything I learned behind, and that I was about to upgrade. It has been such a wonderful and creative experience, getting to finish some of the most extraordinary frames. It’s very hard to say how many I do in a week, but when it’s busy it can be up to 50 to 100 frames, depending on the project. In most cases we will have a very large to frame to work on, and it will take a team to work on each step for completion. Since starting there I have been promoted to Traffic and Production Manager. That means I’m responsible for what comes in and making sure it leaves in good shape, back to the client. So, on a day to day basis it can be very hectic coordinating pickups and deliveries to and from some of the major museums, auction houses, and galleries here in New York and around the world.
My career got started in Atlanta, and while I was in school I got hired by a frame shop. I had no experience but watched and learned from the other gilders working there. You need a great deal of patience, as the sheets are extremely thin. If you are too rough with the sheet it would disintegrate in your hands. It’s a very thin layer of gold and you are putting it on the frame. Any mistake can result in having to do it all over again. It’s really a form of meditation in a way, while you are doing it. You need a lot of concentration. It has influenced my other work in wanting to achieve a great deal of patience and concentration. That is how I approach my work now, by using that same philosophy. You can see the results in some of my work so far. This is the first stage of what I have done so far. I can push it even further than what I have. Being in New York allows me to push my work, and I can do some complex pieces of art. It’s all very exciting. I use imitation gold and metal leaf, as it’s a lot thicker and easier to use, although the processes are different between the two. With gold leaf you put water on the clay and then the gold leaf on top of it. With metal leaf you put varnish on first, like a paste, and then it sticks with the metal leaf. Depending on the size of the frame it could take a group of people two weeks to complete, but sometimes we do 100 in a week.
Gilding has been around for such a long time, it even dates back to the Egyptian period. A lot of them used it with primitive tools. They used a tiger’s tooth to furnish gold, or press it into the object. The harder you press onto gold, the brighter it gets. They would use stones to press or smash the gold into the clay. All of their artifacts have been gilded, from decorative pieces as well as with frames. These days it’s very rare for artists to use it. I consider it unique that I use it. It’s a specialized skill. Very few artists will use it in their work.