During the warm/hot season here in Las Vegas my routine is to work early in the morning out in the shop and then, as temps hover towards the century mark try to discipline myself to work inside. At times, the self control it takes to do that eludes me! There’s been quite a bit of progress on the BeerBoots serving paddle but once I got to a certain point on that it was time to get back to Diane’s Fig Leaf Frame. This frame has a sight of 11″ x 14″ and in the last post I had just completed the corner sample carving and used the burnisher/sealer to prepare it for the gilding stage. Before I continue though, here’s some exciting news about Diane’s painting! There is an on-line gallery called UGallery that juries in artists to represent. Diane submitted her work and was accepted. Here is a LINK to their website and to top it off, Diane is one of their Staff Favorites on the current newsletter. They do n0t encourage the work to be framed since they pay for the shipping. The website is quite interactive, you’re able pick a painting and then put it into this virtual room. You can change the dimensions and color palate of the room to get a feel for how it would look in your house. When someone buys a painting from from the UGallery website they will send Diane an Airfloat container that is pre-addressed and postage paid. She will then insert the painting and send it to her client. Check out the website, it’s a new way to purchase art. Unlike the galleries where we would have to either deliver or mail paintings (expensive!) they stay in her studio. Anyway, I’m really proud of the fact that she is back to her figurative painting and I have the opportunity to experiment with more framing.
Speaking of which, here’s the frame ready for carving and gilding. Carving is a challenging activity for me — the process of making a flat piece of wood appear to have life and dimension is appealing though. The leaves are drawn on each corner and I decided to make another corner sample to use for selecting the proper sweep and size of chisels. Being able to do that rather than utilize a V-chisel or knife will make the over-all carve more definite. That’s the traditional way of carving but requires a huge assortment of chisels and gouges which I don’t have — have to work out the design with the tools I have.
I talked about the differences of oil gilding vs. traditional laying of precious gold leaf on a gessoed surface. Oil gilding is so much easier but if you look at gilded frames you just can’t duplicate the genuine, 22kt. gold leaf. To do oil gilding the first step is to burnish the sealer using 4/0 steel wool. I always use and recommend the Liberon brand which is oil free. Next is to brush on a very thin, uniform layer of your oil size. Quick size will set up in an hour or so to achieve the proper tack and has a 2-3 hour window when it is at the correct tack for gilding. Slow set size needs to set up for 10-12 hours before it reaches the proper tack and can be worked for up to 24 hours. In the picture at the left I’m demonstrating how to check for that “proper tack”. You track your knuckle across the surface and you’ll feel and maybe even hear a distinctive sound. How to describe a sound?, well; as a mischievous grade school student I’d lick my thumb and then drag it across the desk making a class interrupting sound — ever do that? That’s similar to the sound and feel of a “proper tack”!
We’re always learning something, having never used a variegated leaf before I didn’t realize it has a good and bad side. I had a 50/50 chance and laid the first corner sheet with the back side up! Once I realized my mistake I marked the top of the package and also noticed that it’s the side that has some printing on it. The leaf comes in a book of 25 sheets, separated by thin sheets of tissue paper. You can see how garish the back side of the leaf is and of course, I started on the corner! Since this is my sample piece it’s not too big of a deal, just kind of aggravating.
Laying the leaf is a skill that takes time to learn, at this point I’m able to lay a full 5″ square section using what I refer to as my leaf layer; a piece of waxed MDF. You need to let the leaf lay onto the inner edge and slowly feed it from the leaf layer onto the frame. Unlike precious gold leaf you can handle if you’re careful and tamp it down with your fingers. Once it’s completely dry the first step for me is to remove some of the garishness of the leaf with 4/0 steel wool. Dutch gold does need to be sealed to prevent tarnishing so shellac is the best choice for that. Now comes the toning of the frame.
Not wanting to obliterate the variegated nature of this leaf I decided to experiment with some asphaltum and naphtha which seems to work just fine. The asphaltum will go into the veining of the leaf and it tones it down ever so slightly. Follow that with a wash coat of shellac and I think we’re good to go! Now to carve those fig leaves in each corner and blend them into the frame legs. The great thing about carving is that once I get engrossed and “in the zone” the heat of the shop and the cares of the world seem to simply go away!