abendgules: (callig_cats)
I think I've heard of this source before, but haven't explored it for shopping as it's US-based. But their articles and forum look very useful.

All about animal glue, from Natural Pigments

Blurb about rabbit-skin glue, yet another binder to try

Articles about gilding, from Natural Pigments
abendgules: (Romanesque_Initial)
Last weekend Robert and I made our way to the Vitus-haus to enjoy an afternoon of folding canvas pavilions, restashing the medieval-camping trailer and sword work on the pell. (Ok, we don't get out much.)

So we did all these things - us, Ozbeg and Katherine, Earl Paul and Lady Anne, Isabel and Vitus, and alternately helped and held up by assorted children.

It was a beautiful afternoon, so a fine time to be out of our own house and in someone's garden and you never go hungry in this crowd. The BBQ groaned under the weight of sausages, marinated chicken parts and chicken livers (way better than I expected), and Saturday is ice-cream day for the kids.

And I had a fine intro to two-hand sword with Paul, who is quite knowledgeable in matters two-handed-sword related, particularly the distinction between German and English styles. He's got all the fancy names for positions down pat, and can explain why you move from one position to the next in a very clear way with his usual cheery enthusiasm.

I was talking over illumination and gilding with Katherine (who is starting illumination, and was trying out different mixes).

Vitus over heard me talking about what gesso is made of. 'Oh', he says, 'you should use Gesso di Bologna for the filler, like I did when I was priming this box with gesso and bone glue'.

(It stank, said Isabel, even from the garage you could smell it...)

'Sure' says I, whenever you have a load of gesso di bologna, let me know. It's very expensive and you get huge quantities, when you only need tiny amounts. (Cornelissen's smallest quantity is 1kg, when I might need a teaspoon's worth at a time.)

He stares at me, then reaches down (he's standing in the garage as we're reloading the trailer) and picks up a 5kg bag of gesso di Bologna.

Apparently when you're Vitus, you buy it on the Internet from a German source in industrial quantities. Why am I not surprised?

So now, on top of every other esoteric ingredient for gilding, I have a lifetime supply of gesso di Bologna...and so does Katherine. I helped myself to some Ziplocs and we each made off with about a cupful, earnestly hoping neither of us got stopped by the cops carrying a bag of white powder.

SO: does anyone have a recipe for gesso that uses this stuff? how is it different from plaster of Paris, or is it suspiciously similar? Anyone got any success stories?

Since Ozbeg doesn't travel w/out his iPad, I was able to point Katherine to the recipe's of Mistress Yvianne's, which are almost identical to Mistress Oriane's. Both these call for slaked plaster vs the Bologna powder; Oriane uses coffee sugar rather than honey (less control over what goes into honey), but otherwise quantities are very similar.

This isn't directly related to my 30-day challenge, but it's part of the Great Gilding Project which may yet take off again.
abendgules: (scribing)
Posted one item from Investiture to Dragon's Scribes. A second one is TBA.

Generally pleased with it, and the photos don't show up the flaws of the gilding. :-)

I think I'll do more in this hand, because it was a real delight to practice.

Work is full-on this week while my mgr is away. Knackered.
abendgules: (downhill)
I'm now feeling more human, as in functional and thinking, rather than just walking, talking variety. Coughing mostly limited to morning, and far less serious.

This bout reminded me that my dad suffered from lingering coughs for years and years, long before his most frail years.  I wasn't terribly sympathetic at the time - Dad was a hypochondriac of the first order so giving any time to his ailments was risky (one of those vexing people who, if you said, 'how are you?' as a greeting, he'd tell you, in detail!) - but as I'm aging, I'm remembering him.

Dad was a longterm smoker, and lived with smokers, like the rest of his generation. He grew up in an industrial region of NE England, long before anyone considered occupational health, and then lived through WWII. I've always thought his asthma and emphysema (now called COPD) was life-related, rather than genetic.

Similarly, his father was a painter and decorator, and worked with all the best chemicals for that purpose that the 20th century could create (lead paints, solvents, etc) with little concern for his breathing, and unsurprisingly he was short of breath in old age.

Returned to the gym this week, testing the waters cautiously for coughing fits. Haven't keeled over yet.

Am still working on my 30 day challenge, but have taken time to do commissions. I'm expecting to incorporate gilding into at least one.

Even though I've not mastered authentic gilding, the main upshot of the 30 day challenge for me is that I'm not afraid of it anymore; afraid of getting it wrong, and afraid of using the wrong stuff. I've now seen that both the authentic stuff works (for flat gilding) and the easy-peasy one-step gilding sizes, and I can use what works, as needed. 

This is a good thing (TM) since I've long avoided exemplars with a much gilding, and have grudgingly used gouache as needed to accommodate any. I can now do better, and am free to choose those exemplars that include gilding without fear.

Ok it's not fear like fear of the dark or something - more that I don't like biting off more than I can chew artistically, and falling short (though this is a tried-and-true method for lots of folks, and guaranteed to teach you lots).

I'd much rather do something well within my capability, and do it really well. I generally avoid human figures, a lot of naturalistic details, and complex shading on this basis.

But adding gold to the repetoire, even in small quantities, opens up loads more options. 

Last weekend we went to the Hobbit, and I started a review, but now that I have a brain, I'm actually working at work, rather than blogging, so it's not finished.

Short version: The Hobbit - a disappointing journey. 


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: (scribing)
Sigillum rex, for Matthewe Baker: text by Robert de Canterbury, calligraphy and gilding by Genevieve. Goat(?) parchment, logwood black ink with a quill, Miniatum size and transfer gold, outlined with a crow pen.

I haven't used a quill in some months, but I really wanted these pieces to be as completely medieval-made as possible (didn't quite make it, the size and transfer gold are modern, though the gold is real). The results weren't as smooth as they could have been with a metal nib, but frankly I was pleasantly surprised they were as good as this.

One silly mistake: I use my slope almost all the time for scribing, and I forgot you need a flat surface to lay the size on the parchment, otherwise it pools at the lowest point. So I can see a pool of size in the foot of the P, where it gathered overnight.

autumn2012 032 crop

One very cool aspect: Robert made me an inscrbing tool for making lines in parchment.

Somewhere, I've read, that the lines you see in manuscripts aren't pencil - they're silverpoint. The scribes used a silver-tipped 'pencil' to indent the lines in the parchment. What you now see is the effect of tarnished silver embedded in the parchment, which has turned dark with years. But initially, you would not have seen it.

So Robert took a piece of broken arrow (lots of them in this house) and inserted a nail in one end, to create a slightly blunted point. It's sharp enough to make a line, but not so sharp that it breaks the surface of the parchment.

You can just see the shade of these lines on the pic.

Copy of autumn2012 028

There's a large space at the bottom, so that it could be folded and sealed, as well as signed. I'll have to ask Matthewe to bring it to an event, to ensure this happens, because I know I didn't manage to convey that before it was given out.

ETA: link to the full text on Robert's wiki

abendgules: (slope)
Second scroll for Coronation: HE Paul's county. Wording by Robert, calligraphy and gilding by me, goat parchment (same skin as previous scroll), logwood ink, Miniatum size, transfer gold, crow pen outline.

To my great annoyance, the picture of the whole scroll is poor, though you can see the gist of it: I was finishing just before packing and running out the door to catch a train, so I didn't take the time on the pictures. It looks lopsided, because I was shooting from an angle, trying to get the shine on the gold.

autumn2012 034 crop sharp


The closeup of the initial was good, and you can see the texture of the parchment well.
The large word KNOW is on purpose, not a scribal goof - it's modelled on a 16th c grant of arms from the English college of heralds, that doesn't use capital letters to start sentences, but uses large 'miniscule' letters instead. Proper names are capitalised though. In the photo I have in a book, there's no sign of periods to end sentences either but the photo may simply not show them. 

Again, the slopey-ness of the text is from the angle of the picture, not in the original. Honest.


Copy of autumn2012 033
abendgules: (slope)
So on Christmas day, after my entry, I put the TV on Carols from King's and headed to the kitchen to test out my new toys, after re-reading the gesso instructions in The Gilded Page. I'd in fact read them, and started, on Christmas Eve, as the suggestion is that you start the glue base the night before.

Mistress Oriane having (rightly) taken me to task for the lumps and bumps in my previous gesso made me aware that I wasn't grinding enough - and rereading the instructions brought that home too. Hence, the muller, which brings grinding particle fineness to a new level.

Some things I tried:
- Per Oriane's recommendation, I both ground pigments and sugar (individually) in the mortar, then sieved these using cheesecloth. It's useful because you can then grind the bits that remain in the cloth some more.
- I cleaned all my tools like the muller, slab, and burnishers to remove grease from handling. Instructions recommended rubbing alcohol, but I used meths (known as 'the purple stuff in the cupboard' in our house, since I wasn't familiar with it by that name in Canada).
- The instructions recommend mixing the gesso in a bowl or mortar, then dividing it up to mull it, then grind each batch three times. This works out to a lot more grinding than my lightweight grinding and mixing had yielded before.

Using the muller, in a circular or figure-8 fashion the way all the instructions say, is a real pleasure in itself.

Next time I'll make a bigger patch. It's a bit of a letdown to work for an hour and half for a net result of about 2 teaspoons of gesso. But until I get one that works, there's no point in making larger quantities.

Scraping 'rested' gesso for more mulling. Finished batch is on the paper.
gesso xmas


gesso xmas 2

Slab is bijou, rather than useful.

gesso xmas 3

Trying to contain the mess...

gesso xmas 4

Some things I didn't know:

- I can generate a sound worse than nails on a blackboard, by scraping out my marble mortar and pestle with a plastic measuring spoon. Yeeeeech.
- I need a bigger slab for grinding. We have small medium and large marble slabs in our house, the largest being a base for soapstone carving. I'll have to clean up the medium one next time, because keeping all my runny ingredients on the small slab was a PITA.
- I also need some decent rubber or silicon spatulas. Scraping micro-quantities with a spoon gets old fast.
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 Monday, while I was home with the snots: I started painting in the bookmarks.

This isn't directly about gilding, but it is about finishing the pieces. I now have a selection of half-painted scraps across the slope. I'm hoping to have a handful to donate to the gift basket at 12th night.
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: (scribing)
Lady Kerttu has set a challenge to the scribes of Drachenwald, to take on a new skill or hand, and practice it for 30 days.

Her original challenge is on FB, and I am not, so I'm repeating what I've read on Dragonscribes.

My own challenge will be to improve my gilding skills. I've talked about it a lot, and it's time to quit yakkin' and just do it. It's holding back my ability to do the scrolls I want, because I'm continually working around my weak gilding.

SO, plans include:
  • second try at slaking plaster, this time armed with 5L of 'purified' water
  • using said slaked plaster in a gesso recipe recommended by Mistress Oriane (she is, of course, a confirmed gilder, and has tried many gessos, and this one, she says, has never failed her) - near-identical to the one on Mistress Yvianne's pages.
  • making some test pieces, probably bookmarks to go into the regalia
My starting point is a recent scroll (will post when it's presented), and flat gilding I've done over the summer. These pieces are, at this point, the best I can do, and I'm not happy with them.
abendgules: (Romanesque rules)
I've long avoided gilding, partly because I love calligraphy best, partly because of the esoteric ingredients list. Slaked plaster is just the start of the weird-ass stuff you have to collect to create true gesso, that creates raised gilding.

In my long-term avoidance, I've collected every other imaginable form of glue (gum arabic, gilder's malt, gilder's milk from Oriane, improved body size, acrylic gesso, white glue, and most recently miniatum), putting off the inevitable. You want something sticky? I got it (ok except hide and rabbit skin glue, but I got fish glue).

No matter: I'm determined to 'get' this stupid gilding thing, or at least have a go.

So I order my dental plaster - costs more in shipping than in materials, and probably have three lifetimes supply.

Can I find distilled water, anywhere, in this world capital, in any of its myriad shops, chemists, pharmacies? Of course not. Apparently it no longer exists, having given over shelf life to Bach remedies and aromatherapy.

You can get 'purified' water (not sterile, no explanation of how it's purified, but about £5/5L), you can get de-ionised water for same price, smaller quantities.

But distilled? no go. Apparently noone does ironing anymore, nor are there wet-cell batteries.

I have some purified water left from previous search (where I gave up and settled for purified H2O for mixing gouache), so I set up to test out a 30-min slaking process (also required Ph strips, which no pharmacy I can reach stocks either - one staffer in a pharmacy suggested a stationery store. Hunh? Thank goodness for eBay). 

AFAICT, though, I've failed...and instructions lie like a cheap rug. 30 mins? Um, no.

The instructions are to basically to start with high-quality plaster (Cennini's month-long soak is to remove impurities in part); soak the plaster in more water than it needs, keep stirring to keep it from setting, drain off excess periodically, and add more water, repeat 2-3 times, til Ph shows neutral, same as original water (which you checked).

Being concerned not to run out of my purified water, and not wanting to overflow my bowl either, I think I skimped on the first 'wash' of plaster, and as a result I now have not one but two containers of soggy plaster mix that won't set. And almost no purified water left.

Not a rousing success. Read a lot about Ph over the day, the dangers of distilled water (don't drink it, unless you're being poisoned - really); and now have plaster sludge to dispose of, somehow. Argh.


ETA (20 December): adding the 30-day challenge tag to this entry, as a prologue to my project. This was my first attempt at gesso.

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