window Gilding for acme studio

The architecture and design studio acme commissioned me to put the finishing touches to their heavily gold themed kitchen by gilding their window. We settled on a two tone convex-style design to create some dimensionality to the piece, using 23-carat gold leaf in both a mirrored and matte style. Here are some pictures of the process:

After the outline has been painted in in black, the loose-leaf gold is applied for the mirrored sections.

After the outline has been painted in in black, the loose-leaf gold is applied for the mirrored sections.

Once the gold has dried and been burnished to a mirror finish it is backed up using enamel paint.

Once the gold has dried and been burnished to a mirror finish it is backed up using enamel paint.

Once the back-up paint is dry the excess gold can be cleaned away, leaving the mirror sections on the other side of the glass. 

Once the back-up paint is dry the excess gold can be cleaned away, leaving the mirror sections on the other side of the glass. 

Finally, the matte sections are done by applying a gold-size and then pressing the gold into the size once it has come up to a light "whistle-tack". 

Finally, the matte sections are done by applying a gold-size and then pressing the gold into the size once it has come up to a light "whistle-tack". 

Reverse Glass Gilding Process

Reverse glass gold-leaf signage is generally considered as the pinnacle of the traditional signpainter's work. The brilliant luster of the finished product is the result of a protracted process that hinges on an incredibly delicate and expensive material: 24 carat gold-leaf. It comes packaged in "books" of twenty five leaves, with each leaf an eight centimetre square, separated by a thin layer of tissue paper. You need only breathe a little too hard, move a little too suddenly and you are liable to ruin a leaf.

Despite its temperamental nature, gold-leaf gives an undeniably luxurious feel to the finished sign, and is well worth the extra investment. So here is a little insight into the process, breaking it down stage-by-stage. 

Firstly, the areas of the lettering that wont be done in gold leaf are painted in with one-shot enamels, applied in reverse. For the "SOFT" I wanted to create matt centres, done by painting them in with a varnish. The second photo shows a close up of the varnish which you can just about make out.

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Now the sign is ready for the first layer of gold-leaf. A "water size" is made by diluting a small amount of gelatin into distilled water. This water size is then generously brushed over the surface of the glass before the gold-leaf is applied using a gilder's tip, a wide brush made of squirrel hair that is passed through your own hair picking up enough oil to lift the gold-leaf from the tissue-paper and onto the glass. 

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As the first gild dries overnight the leaf flattens against the glass creating a mirrored gold surface. The excess leaf is then removed with a piece of cotton wool. Regardless of how carefully the first gild was executed there will always be small holes in the leaf, so a second layer of gold-leaf is applied in the same fashion as the first. When the second layer has dried and the excess has again been cleaned off the gold is ready to be "backed-up".  This is done by applying a pounce pattern (there's full explanation of pouncing in my previous post) and then painting in within the pounce lines. 

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The leaf that lies outside of the backing up paint is then cleaned off using a slightly damp piece of cotton wool. Flip the glass round and you're left with the finished gild. 

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Now all that needs to be done is put a black shadow on the SIGNS that will help bring out the gold, and to fill in the arm that will have 'Hand Painted' on it. Here'd the finished piece: 

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Society for the Protection of Unwanted Objects Signpainting

This was my first time painting a piece of shop front signage, and weighing in at 40 characters it was a baptism of fire that took place over a couple of freezing days earlier this year. I thought it would be good to give a bit of insight into the process of creating a traditional hand-painted sign. 

 After figuring out the maths of fitting all those characters into a space 30cm x 3m, I drew out a full pattern by hand. Then I traced the lines of my pattern with a pounce wheel, a strange tool that looks like a miniature cowboy boot spur on the end of a scalpel, creating a line of tiny perforations around the design. 

The perforated pattern is then lined up on the painting surface before a white chalk-like powder is brushed over it, leaving behind the design ready for painting.

 

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Close-up of pounce pattern

Close-up of pounce pattern

First up was a coat of metallic gold for the letter body's. An alternative method for a gold look could have been to do a surface gild, using 24 carat gold-leaf, but with this number of characters it wouldn't have been particularly cost effective... 

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Excuse the out-of-focus shot, very cold hands by this point! 

Excuse the out-of-focus shot, very cold hands by this point! 

After finishing this first coat I came back the next day to apply a second coat of gold. Finally, I painted in the letter shadows, to give that faux 3D look which really makes the letters 'pop'. And after second coating the shadow the job was done, here's the final result:

The finished sign with the Society's inimitable owner James Castle

The finished sign with the Society's inimitable owner James Castle

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If you would like a traditional hand-painted sign for your business or a personal piece then contact me at: softcityclothing@gmail.com

How the first collection was made

The "BE" "UP" and "ON" shirts are the final product of a multi stage process. From their beginnings as sketches each t-shirt goes through a printing, cutting and sewing stage to arrive at the finished product. It took a bit of time to develop a means of production that could deliver a consistent level of quality, so I thought it would be good idea to share with you the details of each stage. Here's run down of process.

Firstly, I fleshed out the idea, trying out a few different two letter words, colour relationships and fabrics. With the aim of finding the right balance of combinations that would give the designs to best look. Here are a few of those sketches:

 

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I felt IF and IT looked a bit weaker graphically so I dropped them and went with BE, UP and ON (the NO was an ON that I absentmindedly painted upside down). The next step was to send off the final designs and their colour combinations to the screenprinters in North London and heres what I got back from them:

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Then it was off to the laser-cutting service to get the letters cut for each shirt. By using a laser-cutter rather than a employing a professional pattern cutter there would be absolute consistency in the cuts which would ensure they would match up to the dimensions of the letter shadows that had already been screenprinted.

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Next, each pair of letters was carefully ironed on to t-shirts (they were cut with an iron-on backing already in place).

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Finally, all of the t-shirts were sent off to professional machinist who applied a top-stitch around the ironed-on letters to permanently fix them in place and give them a crisp finish.

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Leaving us with the final product!