Friday, July 3, 2009

Aunt Irene's Sugar Jar (Vaso Zucchero di Irine)

Ohhhh... Vel Hellloooo der...

Below is a small realism work that caught my eye at the Ft. Worth Art Fair last year, 'Aunt Irene's Sugar Jar' by Brad Watson, so I bought it unframed. The frame I put on it is a standard barrister type with copper gilding done by yours truly with a bit of burnt umber over it to get rid of that annoying 'new penny' look and mix better with the colors presented in the painting.

A comment a few days ago from yet another funny Brit, The Jules, reminded me of gilding and some of the work I have done in that craft. Let's face it, most people can't afford to manufacture things out of solid gold, and even if they could, for things like crown molding, picture frames, or largish SUVs like Hummers, it would really be too heavy. So the idea is to cover the object with a thin layer of gold so you have the illusion of being gaudier than Donald Trump in a full length fur coat on jewelry bling day.

In ancient times they used some methods of gilding that, well, let's just say they were not particularly environmentally friendly. One such method was called fire gilding. It involved mixing gold with mercury.
Now not many people know that gold dissolves into mercury, which can be used to greatly amuse people you meet at cocktail parties. 'Who wants to see a magic trick? May I borrow your Rolex for a moment, Miss?'

Anyway, the gold-mercury mixture was brushed onto the object that needed to look like gold and then was exposed to a hot fire which vaporized the mercury, leaving the gold behind in a perfect shell. The color of this perfect shell was a little dull, so they apparently used agates to rub it down to get it back to a more brilliant yellow color.

Back then as today, inhaling mercury vapors is NOT a good thing. Some historians say that 60 workmen were killed by fumes from the fire gilding of the dome of St. Isaac's Cathederal in St. Petersburg, Russia. So whenever I burn mercury in alchemy experiments, I use a diving snorkel with fins and stand way back (kidding, DON'T do this).
Here is a mercury fountain in Spain that would probably help out with all of this.

The method I used for the picture frame border was glue gilding in which adhesive is brushed on, then gold leaf follows (or in the frame example above, copper leaf). In my experience, a fan brush worked best with this technique. Then you let it dry, and don't be afraid to put on multiple layers to make it really thick.

Maybe a really good trick to thwart burglars would be to gild all of your gold bullion bars with Velveeta, unless they were hungry for some queso and corn chips because that must be lots of work moving all those heavy expensive items out of houses. In any case, I suppose it would take them a while to scrape all the gilding off the media room moldings.

Per favore, non utilizzano mercurio per doratura!!!


  1. If that's really truly your actual media room in your house, I officially hate you. But only out of insane jealousy.

    I really like that painting you bought (even though it is clearly some sort of urn and not a jar at all) and the gilding is nicely done : ) seems like you have good taste! Good in this case meaning "same as mine".

  2. In the library at my work, there is gold leafing (not sure if that's the right word) on the ceiling and on many of the columns around the room and I think it's beautiful. Your frame turned out great.

  3. No wonder the painting caught your eye, it's lovely. You did a great job on the frame too, makes a georgeous package. As far as the guiding, wow, you do everything the hard way? lol.. or at least the old way, your just to cool!

  4. Nice gilding, Eric. Tell me: how much mercury vapour must one inhale before one's gilding skill can even begin to approach yours? (Educated guess: a lot.)

    Oh, and that mercury fountain was freakishly wonderful to watch. How's that for a flashy show of supreme surface tension and reckless disregard for heavy metal toxicity?

  5. Hey, I see what you're doing! You're only bloody well educating me under a thin veneer of entertainment aren't you?

    Like intellectual gilding, this post.

  6. Soda, my media room is similar with two levels and stuff, but no gilt yet and this one has more elaborate trim. (I was actually thinking of trying to make it look more like this picture, which I heart a bit). We do have similar taste then, great minds and all that... :)

    JoLee, thanks, I think I like to make frames. It's strange that sometimes really old frames can be worth as much as the actual canvases they surround! Your library at work sounds wonderful. Ours has statue heads which is nice, but no gilding.

    Toni James, thanks, that means so much coming from a truly talented artist with a great eye for color. lol yes, everything the hard way / old way. You can't spell esoteric without eric, although I still don't know what 'esot' means.
    ps - I emailed a favoritist person about your blog a few days ago and they were very impressed (they knew about the brand of cp's you use since they do some nice work too).

    the girl wtptc, thanks! Sure, I've tried mercury, but I didn't inhale... :)
    Isn't that fountain excellent? I like how you put it, do you mind if I quote you on that in the future?

    The Jules, well at least you indirectly imply that the entertainment part is gold, sir... Although I'm not sure what that says about the educational content. ;)

  7. I have several unframed paintings hanging around. Now that I have seen your work I will send them to you so you can do your magic :)

    And that media room pales in comparison with the living room we used to have when I was a kid. It looked a lot like this:

    God, I hated all that gold. Who did she think we were, the Russian Royal Family? If it had been pure gold, we would be rich right now :)

  8. Dutch Donut Girl, ok, send them, I have lots of gold leaf ready. That *was* a really nice living room! If only all that was gilt was solid... :)

  9. Eric Eric Eric... Tj works ya know. :D. Aren't you sweet, sending one of your favoritist persons to my neck of blogland, I'm quite honored! Really, I am. ;). Thank you.

    Esoteric.. Eric (OOOooooOOOOoo it rhymes!) ...esot.. hmmm reminds me of well something, oh nevermind. Of course Esot is not Aesop, no doubt there are NO fables to be had on your blog lol!

  10. :) ya, Tj is always working, if I could do 10% of the work you do, I would be awesome... lol

    hahah, no, no fables, just a bit of humor? sometimes... You know I like your work a lot!

  11. Tj doesn't work enough!

    Seems to me that you have some other job that takes a lot of your time, affords you the luxury of playing with lime, clay, tile and gilding things, if not the time. Not to mention travels to drool over antiquities etc?

    Me, I just, well I don't have one of those!

    I do enjoy your blog, always interesting and amusing. I too, have shared your link with a couple special people whom enjoy your humor like I do. Thanks Eric, for not just lurking on my blog! If you had, then I would never have been able to visit yours! What a shame that would have been.


  12. However.. I have no plans to learn Italian, sorry. lol.

  13. You are truly a special individual. You are right, not enought time, yet travels and antiquities...

    Thanks, I would never just lurk on a blog of an artist as talented as yourself. Your works should be in the DMA... ;)

  14. p.s. no Italian skills??? say it isn't so... :)

  15. Awww DMA? What an honor. Thanks Eric, for hte vote of confidence! I've been playing with my oils this week.. they are kicking my butt atm. lol. ;)

    Sorry dear, in my neck of the woods a smart second language option would be Spanish. One I've done my best to avoid learning all these years. I'm impressed by your additonal language posts, very clever indeed. I should try that with Spanish ... or not! lol.

    Special? You trying to tell me I ride the short bus? HEY Take it back! lol.

    What you accomplish art wise now is a gift. You enjoy it don't you? When you create 5 or 6 days out of 7, it's very easy to lose sight of the "fun". It's one of those things you have to push thru, because you have to. Make sense? So, while you don't have the ability to give all your time to your art, you can continue to really enjoy and treasure what you create for years to come. Hey, the time tested materials you use will be around a long time, yes? Heirlooms?

    Oh.. and don't forget to show us! lol.

    Thanks Eric!

    haha.. and OMG you tweet! I just noticed! haha.

  16. Excellent Frame...I bet your house is AMAZING!!!

    I like the gold media room...a picture from donald trumps penthouse suite?

  17. Lopez, thanks! It's ok, keeps the rain out.

    The trimwork in that media room is so great, it was a picture from one of the audio visual forums. I'd like mine to look more like that one. Thursday night karaoke parties would be so much classier, lol.

  18. When I get married, I'm inviting you to the wedding, just because I want something gilded as a present.


  19. LiLu, Thanks!
    I'll go, because surely you don't want a gilt free wedding.

  20. What's wrong with the shiny new penny look? I like shiny. Ooooh pretty.

    We have here a man of many, many talents...evidently.

    You know what Mr. C says about Velveeta....