abendgules: (slope)
I'm counting this as a day, since it makes a big difference.

At the shire meeting, Mistress Oriane asked about my progress, and I complained about my dry non-sticky gesso.

She said she'd been working on a batch herself, and had had to double the sugar(!) to get it to a sticky state - something in the conditions here are different, that require a different mix. 

Relief! and I said so, as I'd thought it was just me.

'It probably is just you' said [livejournal.com profile] nusbacher helpfully. What are friends for?

SO: I go home with intent to either add a teeeeeeny amount of sugar to the current gesso (I was thinking dissolving some sugar into the water, then letting a new gesso button soak in it)...I'm not quite up to knocking out a new batch of gesso, not without at least trying to salvage what I have.

But hurrah - if Oriane has to change her old-faithful gesso recipe to work in southern England, I feel much better.
abendgules: (slope)
Well, it's gilding, but not as most people know it.

Tried another button of gesso today - just 3 drops of water this time, and let it soak, and then worked with a brush to dissolve it. Had a really smooth consistency, with no bubbles or lumps.

Painted it onto some samples, let it dry. Tried lots of breathing on it, then transfer gold...nuthin'. Nothing stuck, except a tiny fringe around the edges in one corner. It was dry dry dry.

I added a layer of gum arabic on top, and reapplied the transfer gold.

This mostly worked, at least after a few tries; it sometimes took several applications to complete the cover.

As usual the pictures don't convey the project very well. But basically, it's fairly flat gilding but not as flat as if there were no gesso at all. It's not mirror finish, but is reasonably even, no lumps and fairly straight edges, that can be smoothed a bit more with a knife.

It is not perfect - one patch on one of the rectangles wouldn't take gold, not for nuthin'. I painted over it with more gum arabic, and tried again, and filled the patch, but I can see it.

I have no idea if this gesso + gum arabic has any basis in medieval practice.

jan2013 005

jan2013 001

On this one, you can see a bit of 'bleed' on the right-hand piece, on the right bar. I don't know how this happened, because neither the gesso, nor the gum arabic, appeared to bulge when I applied them. The bulge appeared only after I applied the gold, and the gum arabic seemed to have spread as if going through a hole. I scraped off most of it, but the unevenness remains.

jan2013 004

SO: I have no idea what the issue is. It's as if the gesso has mass and body, but no stickyness at all.
abendgules: (slope)
My 30 day slaked plaster will actually be 28 day plaster. Don't tell anyone, or they might kick me out of the plaster-slaking guild.

slaked paster xmas

Today's a workday for me, so this is probably the limit of my 30 day challenging today.

abendgules: (slope)

SO: freshly armed with beautifully finely-ground gesso, I tackled my next round of samples.

And I get a new problem.

Mistress Oriane had reminded me of working 'wet into wet' on gesso, rather than waiting for the gesso to dry before adding a new layer. This technique is important in other arts where you want to get a smooth even coating, like silk painting.

So I'm carefully doing the lines on my samples wet into wet, and very carefully keeping the rectangular areas wet with gesso for an even coat. It's a thinner gesso than before, but still workable. We're going swimmingly.

Then I leave it to dry... and come back to what looks like a volcanic surface. Sigh.

The pics are a bit blurry, but I think you can see the bubbles in the rectangles.

When I'd read about bubbles, I thought scribes had meant tiny pinhole bubbles that happen whe you mix something quickly and get air trapped in the mix.

These bubbles are not pinhole bubbles. I think they're from the surface buckling under the gesso layer, as it's drying, and the gesso pushing up while retaining its surface tension (rather than leaking outside the area).

gesso bubbles2

Unfortunately, by the time I reach them, they're dry and brittle. and crack when you touch them. They are not fixable with a fine pin.
gesso bubbles

The lines of gesso are fine - no extended surface area.

I'm sure this is a positive development, somehow.

I no longer have gritty gesso. I now have fine gesso, that doesn't bleed, which is good. It draws nicely in lines, which is also good.

But it needs...something. I'm not certain what. I wonder about re-wetting them, to see if they'll soften and sink.

Because it's not a complete loss, I'm thinking of sanding off the rectangles and recoating these areas.

Has anyone else fixed bubbles like this?  Sanding? rewetting? starting over?

I'm sooooooo glad these are not commissioned scrolls. I'd have packed it in on day 2 if I was under a deadline.

abendgules: (slope)
Ok, I'm taking a liberty, because some of these 'days' have overlapped in real-time - so I actually did the research over two days, not just one, and did some shopping on the same day as I did some research. It's my blog, and my challenge.

Yesterday after skiving out of work in the mid afternoon I took myself to my favourite shop, Cornelissens, for a Christmas treat.

I'd been resisting buying the specialist gilding equipment for a long time - looking for homemade bodge-fixes instead, because I'm not a gilder, I'm a calligrapher, right?  - but I've decided I don't want to fight with my tools. If they'll make the difference between frustration and success, I'm willing to spend some money.

My stocking included:
- a glass muller: I was sold on this when Mistress Oriane asked 'what are the lumps in your gesso?' and truthfully I had not done nearly as much grinding as is suggested in 'the gilded page'. So today's project is to Get It Right, or at least follow the instructions.

I was surprised to find that the Cornelissens mullers are made individually, so they vary even within the small med and large designations. So the staffer brought up three for me to fondle, and number 2 was a perfect fit for my hand. It was striking how different it felt in my hand.

- a gilder's pad. The staffer started describing the destinctions between the 'economy' and the 'professional' pad, and I told him I'd only ever planned to buy the economy one. (Honestly, he was struggling to explain the difference - AFAICT it was nicer finishing nails round the edge). I could have made one, but that would cost me more in time and fuss than the £27 it cost me. If I ever get to gild a wall, I'll make a bigger one for myself.

- a thick gilder's tip, the specialist brush that I saw all the cool-kid gilders using on YouTube.

- starter pack of loose gold. This is not really a bargain, you're better off buying a standard pack and sharing it, but I wasn't clever enough to plan that. If I finish this pack, I'll know I'm keen enough to buy more.

- more titanium dioxide dry pigment. I found some watercolour version, but am sticking to dry til I get a working gesso, then I can play with the recipe to find out what can change.

- a bunch of 15ml containers. I'm finding our small-container supply stretched as I mix and collect bits, and we can only consume so much mustard in tiny pots.

Why am I blogging on Christmas Day?  Because our Christmas is spent very quietly at home.

If you don't own a car, and get out of London on 24 Dec, you're stuck in the city for 2 days, because the Tube doesn't run on 25 Dec, and the near-traditional Boxing Day Tube strike is on 26 Dec. (Given the flooding this year, lots of people are stuck in crap places anyway - I'd rather be at home.)

So we take advantage of it, and hole up with food, drink, holiday TV (Dr Who! Her Majesty in 3D!) and crafts.

It's the best holiday imaginable.

On Boxing Day we're headed to Sir Vitus and Lady Isabel's house for a feed, but til then...gild on.
abendgules: (slope)
Found a short article about Ceninni's gesso on the Society of Gilders website. (PDF)

YouTube: I've left out the many examples of people using transfer leaf (US patent leaf) because that's not what's causing me grief.

Charles Douglas - best video I've found so far but very brief

Bethlehem icon school - water gilding an icon, very lovely, handling gold in whole sheets

How (not to) gold leaf - novices errors. Low quality video, Aussie narration.

Free online water gilding course - Lesson 4 is about actually handling the gold

Extensive series on making icons, including gilding and egg tempera - might be of interest. In Greek, w/ English subtitles

Another series, this time in Italian, about gilding wood decorations. The link is for the actual gold handling bit.

abendgules: (slope)
Unfortunately, the newest gesso...still doesn't seem to want to hold gold.
First pic - loose gold, followed by attempt of transfer gold.

When I managed to lift gesso with the transfer page...I gave it a rest.

2nd batch autumn2012 041

This is the bit where I was lifting gesso. Sigh.

2nd batch autumn2012 040

...and I managed to lift the loose gold I'd laid, cause it stuck to the transfer page.
2nd batch autumn2012 042

...so I let it rest today.

I think I still have to work out the best ways to handle loose gold. It's pretty maddening stuff.

Looked on YouTube for guidance, wanting to see how other people handle the gold itself.

It appears that on YouTube, 'gilding' to some people is applied to 1/12th miniatures; picture frames; icons; and motorcycles. Cause no motorcycle is complete without a gilded gastank. Who knew?

If anyone has some favourite links, I'd be glad of them.

ETA: forgot to mention - I did find a good example of burnishing and polishing the gesso before gilding. The person's gesso was clearly far harder than mine, to take a polish like that. He was using transfer gold, and got a far better shine on it than I thought possible.

So that was a good help - gesso has to be dry enough to polish. He also tended to use just one hard 'darth vader' breath to get enough warmth/humidity for the gesso.
abendgules: (scribing)
Second batch of gesso, painted onto more samples. I over-wetted my first button, so painted on a v thin layer, then added a second, then a third button, for additional layers of gesso.

2nd batch autumn2012 039
2nd batch autumn2012 037
2nd batch autumn2012 038

I did sand down the bumpiest bits, and scraped the edges to get them straight.
abendgules: (slope)
From last night: still stirring plaster. Having started this project, it's not a great hardship to keep going.
Made a second batch of gesso, and spread it in dollops on baking parchment: I didn't have any test pieces already sketched to use the gesso while wet.
In my first batch, I may have gotten the proportions wrong, and added too much plaster; this second batch seems much smaller.

I measured quantities more carefully this time, and took more time grinding down the rock candy fine - first a mortar and pestle, then a spice grinder, which is a bit like a muller; This kitchen item was courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] thorngrove.  I've resisted buying a real glass muller, since I don't grind pigments (yet).

I'll need more titanium pigment for the next batch!

Since I'm making it far, far more quickly than I'm using it, I'm looking for interested users...
abendgules: (Default)
What makes the gesso thing really annoying is that the non-medieval glues work a treat in comparison - first try, most of the time. This gold is laid using Cornelissen's improved gold body, on a selection of bookmarks.

Again, this is transfer gold (22.5k), the rub-off stuff. I have a book of it, whereas I have only a sheet and a half of loose leaf gold (22k), so I'm using the loose sparingly.

These critters are from the same 13th commentary on the Psalms that I used to model Katherine Percival's Pelican. They're very cheery looking monsters with very sinuous necks.

On another note- how do I get the page to lay flat? all my gilded samples are curling like crazy.

autumn2012 024
abendgules: (slope)
So in our last episode, our heroine had braved the slaking, the gesso mixing, the drafting and the laying of gesso, so far, so good.

Results are...disappointing, to say the least.

I should mention - the first two pieces are using transfer gold (the 'letraset' type, that you rub off a backing paper) rather than loose leaf gold.

I found a consistent problem - the gold stuck around the edges of the letter, or the beads, but would not stick to the 'highest' points, where the gesso was thickest. Repeated applications worked the gold up towards the highest point, but sometimes the very centre of a bead remained bare.

After the first couple of tries, I tried adding a coat of gum ammoniac, which you usually only use for flat gilding - I was thinking maybe the gesso could provide some shape, and the gum the stickiness. No real improvement.

You can see that in a second or third application, the gesso actually lifted off, and stuck to the gold transfer paper, rather than the page.

I'm at a loss here - any one had a similar problem?

I'm aware that gilding is very sensitive to atmospheric conditions. Extremes of heat, cold and humidity can help or hinder.
Since I'm in SE England, my conditions are almost continually 'damp', or at least humid. Today humidity ranges from 77-85%, and today is bright and sunny, as it was yesterday (rained overnight).

It's always humid, even when it doesn't feel especially wet. And since most English home heating systems are crap, what you get outside will dictate what you get inside.

autumn2012 023

autumn2012 019

The bottom example is leaf gold - I had a similar problem, though not exactly the same, and because this is my second try at leaf gold, I don't know how much is gesso problem, and how much is me and my lack of handling experience.

I'm still debating, but life may be too short for leaf gold - the single test piece took me over an hour, and I wasn't happy with it. I did, in the end, get better coverage, but it was painfully slow and clumsy.

autumn2012 022
abendgules: (slope)
I'm writing this retrospectively, so I know the outcome, but thought I'd break it up to reduce loading time.

These are my test pieces with gesso on them. They're bookmarks - not terribly medieval, but conveniently shaped for the strips of perg I always have leftover after cutting large sheets down to A3, A4, A5 and other easy framing sizes for scrolls.

It's based on MS Digby 36, a very pretty 15th c manuscript in the Bodleian Library - very 'girly' with lots of stylised flowers, and easy for a non-artist.

autumn2012 016
autumn2012 015
abendgules: (scribing)
autumn2012 008

It's almost an anticlimax, after reducing much larger containers of plaster, mixing, wetting, drying...and this is it? Sheesh.

Never mind. It's the process (in this case in 30 days) that matters.

the slaked plaster, once more ground to a fine powder, provides the body of the gesso, along with some powdered titanium white (in place of roasted lead);
the armenian bole provides the colour - as a dry pigment it's deep brown-orange;
the rock candy, ground very fine, provides some stickiness ('coffee sugar', a light brown coarse sugar, is an alternative);
the seccotine (fish glue, bought in a small jar from Cornelissens) provides still more stickiness
water ('purified', for a given value of pure) , added with a dropper, mixes it together

This recipe from Mistress Oriane is very similar to the one from Mistress Yvianne's angelfire pages (newer versions on zoomin available) - she uses hide glue in place of fish glue, and honey for sugar. It's also nearly identical to the one in The Gilded Page, though that author's process is much more prolonged. I may try the overnight method she suggests for another batch in future.

I did use some of the gesso while it was wet, straight onto some test pieces, after dolloping out most of the contents of the bowl onto the cookie sheet. What's in the little jar is the rinsed-out bowl contents, rinsed only with purified water, which I poured off. I wasn't feeling confident about pouring even small quantities of glue and plaster down the kitchen sink, and who knows, I may be able to use it yet. It has separated, so the glue at the bottom may be usable.

While I'm still not wild about gilding - I now have the ingredients to supply a lifetime of gilders. Anyone need gilding stuff?
abendgules: (scribing)
Need to keep closer count.

Most of my time, laid up with my back not cooperating, has been spent not scribing but stirring plaster.

I've now opted to dry out some of the plaster in small dabs, in the hopes that it'll dry faster. The stuff that is still in the container will continue being stirred and wetted, following [livejournal.com profile] wyntersea's remark about the best gesso being from 30-day slaked plaster.

I did not, and do not, intend to spend my whole 30 days only stirring plaster though that would be a splendidly lazy way out of the challenge :-). I am playing with other glue combinations, and a recent scroll went out using miniatum as a size/glue base. It's not perfect, but it's the biggest gold project I've done yet. Should be able to post soon.

Plaster drops - not peppermint candies, no matter how tempting they look.


The broken-up ones are from me testing for dryness and turning them over. The small drops dried overnight, the larger dollops are still squishy in the middle.
abendgules: (scribing)
Nothing else to report! Move along, nothin' to see.
abendgules: (scribing)
So, day 2 of the challenge, and I'm still chasing slaked plaster for gesso. Yes, I'm tired of this too.

This morning this is what my 80ml of dry plaster + 1.6L of water (with one round container's worth of water already poured off) looked like:
autumn2012 003

(Yes, we have a 70s-era fake-marble-laminate countertop. We rent. The redeeming feature of the ugly kitchen is its size.)

In daylight, I'm still not certain if the Ph is neutral or not - what looked like ranging into 'yellow-green' on the litmus paper (neutral) in artificial light was pretty yellow (alkaline) in daylight. Sigh.

Am I doing it right? I've no freakin' idea.

I'll keep pouring off the water as the plaster settles, but short of getting better-quality litmus paper, I've no idea how to determine if my plaster is ready to use. I get the impression that most scribes who go this route do this once, in an enormous batch, and then happily never to have to do it again.

Of course, if it does work, I probably won't have to do this again...and will have loads of dental plaster to pass on! I swear I could make up gilding materials kits...hmmmmmmm.
abendgules: (scribing)
Today's work (actually on 1 December) was to have a second go at slaking plaster with the 30 min method to make real gesso.

I've spent the past hour stirring, pouring off, watering and stirring some more. I *think* I've reached Ph neutral, but the litmus strip is hard to confirm in artificial light. So I've poured the plaster sludge into two plastic containers, and will leave it overnight.

If it settles I can double-check the Ph, then let it dry.

If it hardens into plaster - I guess I have two big flat chunks of plaster to carve.


abendgules: (Default)

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