The Gilded Age

Have you ever contemplated adding a gilded touch to a piece of furniture, a painting or just a fixture in your home?  A metallic touch can emphasize a detail or create a point of interest on an otherwise plain piece.

There are many things to consider when deciding how to best enhance artwork or an object with gilding. I favor the elegance of leafing to enhance much of my painted work as well as various aspects of my home. I encourage you to explore leafing to find what inspires you.

Plain alabaster globe accented with gilded stenciling.
When searching for new lights for our hallway I wanted something simple yet elegant, without excessive brass and not terribly expensive because I had three to replace.  When I came across this light I liked the subtle swirls of the simple alabaster dome and the absence of any excess ornamentation because this allowed me to add my own twist with just a hint of glitz.  To do this, I began with my RB Simply Elegant™ Classic Curves stencil (ST-107) because it has a series of arcs designed to create full circles.  I knew one was sure to fit.  The circumference of the light needed two repeats with only minor adjustments for the curve.  To avoid leafing sticking where it is not wanted you'll want to dust the surface with talcum powder to neutralize any fingerprints.  Be sure and sweep away the excess.  After securing the stencil in place with low-tack tape I proceeded to apply the gilded stenciling adhesive.  This is accomplished in the same manner as stenciling paint.  You begin by picking up a small amount of RB Gilded Stenciling Adhesive* on a stencil brush.  Wipe the brush on a paper towel to remove excess liquid adhesive.  The brush should be almost completely dry.  Then pounce over the stencil to deposit a light film of adhesive through the openings.  When viewed at an angle you should see a sheen change. The adhesive will give the surface a satin look.  It is okay to go over the stencil more than once to make sure you have crisp edges and even coverage.  Do not use more adhesive than recommended or it will seep under the stencil causing a sticky mess.  Once you have finished stenciling the adhesive, drop the stencil in water and clean the brush.  This will give the adhesive time to dry completely so it is ready for the leafing.  Apply the chosen RB metal leafing to the dry adhesive and press firmly in place with a semi-stiff brush.  Use the same brush to tear away the surplus leafing.  You can collect these for reuse.  To remove the pesky loose remnants, buff the leafing with a dry swiffer dusting cloth.  I did not apply any protective coating over the leafing because I wanted it to naturally darken with age.  To preserve the brilliance of the leafing apply a clear gloss finish over the gilded areas.

While it is important to know and adhere to traditional methods when working on something of historical significance, beautiful effects can be created when you work outside the boundaries of traditional rules.  When working with leafing, allow yourself to be imaginative.  Express your own artistic style when choosing colors or methods of application.

When selecting leafing the first consideration on the list is color harmony.  Yes, leafing is a color.  It has hue, value, intensity and temperature. Gold does not coordinate with every color scheme nor does silver, copper or any other variety.  There are some beautiful color combos among the variegated leafing. Use a color wheel to classify leafing with a color family to help you determine whether or not it is compatible with your selected color scheme. 

Once you’ve narrowed your options to a select few, try them first on a sample board.  Apply leafing to the sample using the same background color as on the original surface.  Create a large enough sample to provide ample room to experiment. Consider trying antiquing colors that are atypical over a particular leafing, i.e., warm over silver or cool over gold or copper and the perfect match may appear.

*Important note: If you would like to try this technique be sure to avoid any substitute for the adhesive.  The RB Gilded Stenciling Adhesive was specifically formulated for this technique.  Other brands of gilding adhesive are either not sticky enough when the brush is wiped of the excess or are too thin to work properly.

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