Flower Frame

When learning to gild, it can sometimes be tricky getting the gold to go where you want, without it sticking to other areas that you DON'T want it too. Large gilded areas may have some elements gilded, with a painted or bare background that must be preserved. This section will look at how this process can be achieved by gilding something simple. However, the process is the same for larger areas too.

In this exercise, I am going to be oil gilding some localised areas of a picture frame. This exercise will also show that gilding does not have to encompass an entire piece of work. Sometimes less is more, and just a few gilded areas can really brighten up an object and it needn’t be expensive either.

For this exercise, you will need the following equipment:

This picture frame is an ideal unit to work on. It is made from resin and has a lovely delicate feel to the decoration. What I plan to do is to isolate and gild some of the daisies, whilst leaving the rest as they are, namely white. Being a relatively small piece, it will not take too much time to size and gild, therefore, it can be completed as one single piece.

Even though the frame is clean and free from grease, gold leaf will still stick to the surface of anything it touches unless a 'resist' is put upon the surface. A resist is basically something that will 'resist' the gold application and prevent it from sticking to unwanted surfaces or areas, so before I start I am going to lightly dust the working surface with a 'pounce bag'. A pounce bag is a piece of cotton (I used an old shirt) that contains some cotton wool and some talcum powder or gilders whiting (chalk). This is secured in the bag by tying at the top of the bag. By lightly 'pouncing' or tapping this bag over the surface, you will coat all the frame with a very fine layer of powder and prevent the gold from sticking on these areas, or where you do not want it. I have even put a coat over the glass, as the gold will easily stick here too!

The next stage is to apply oil size to the areas where I wish to place the gold. For this piece, once again, I am using a 3-hour gilding size. For application I am using a small artists brush with synthetic bristles. The leaves of the daisies are very delicate and require a steady hand and accurate placement of the size. It can sometimes help to have the piece angled slightly towards you, especially when gilding larger pieces where your arms are likely to get tired.

I have started in the bottom left corner and worked my way around the frame, picking out daisies that are relatively even spaced. However, in this case I have also sized two together occasionally to prevent it looking too orderly. By working in a logical way around the frame, when it comes to leaf application I will repeat the same order, ensuring that the gold is applied at approximately the same time all around the frame and will have the same kind of finish, as areas with wetter size will have a more matte finish.

Once the oil size has reached sufficient tackiness, it is time to start applying the gold leaf. I start applying leaf in the same location as where I started the size application, and in the same order. Because of the small nature of the daisies, I am cutting the gold leaves into equal quarter sheets - around 4cm each side. Using a thin squirrel tip, I pick up a quarter of the leaf and lightly place it upon the surface of the size.

In this particular case, once a piece of gold leaf has been applied upon the size, I am going to apply another identical piece directly on top of the previous layer. This second layer is then manipulated with a good quality (I use sable) artist brush to push the gold lightly around. Where the top piece of gold is sitting upon the another layer, the soft brush will slide around until it finds some uncovered size and will then stick. It is important not to brush over any of the bare areas. Since these have been pounced over to prevent the gold sticking, your brush may pick up particles of whiting and deposit them onto the size, thereby satisfying the tack and preventing the gold from sticking where you want it too.

I now work my way around the frame. It is not really worth trying to salvage any of the really small pieces that fall onto the glass or around the area because they will inevitably introduce residue, dust or the 'resist' powder onto the size, and remove the adhesiveness of the size.. At all times, care must be taken to prevent either the gilders tip or the sable used for pushing the gold around from coming in contact with the size, as this will make the brush end stick and cause a lot of aggravation.

If there are any areas that have been missed with the size or have been contaminated with the powder added to prevent the gold from sticking, they can be faulted now. Do this by pushing the gold onto these misses with a stiffer artist brush, instead of a gilding tip. If you need to, you can re-size those areas. If you do, make them a little larger than the fault and repeat the processes of re-gilding on these areas until all is satisfactory, although this is something that you have to try and avoid in the first place, and eventually you will not need to do hardly ever. Well, almost never... Personally, I think a little gap here and there in the finished piece gives it a handmade and natural quality and am inclined to leave them there.

Once the gold leaf has been applied to the entire surface, just closely check that all areas have been covered. The piece is then left overnight for the size to dry. The next day, a soft gilders mop can then used to lightly go over the surface and remove all the residual gold and pouncing powder and to tidy up the piece. It is sometimes desirable to leave some of these flakes on the surface though, as they vatch the light as they flutter in the wind, giving a glittery look - but that is down to personal taste. Being pure gold, the surface will not need to be sealed.