A Modern “Book of Hours” on Calfskin with 23k Gold Leaf

Have you ever lettered and painted on genuine calfskin? Laid 23k gold leaf on a handmade gesso base? (Italian recipe). For over 5 years, I’ve been working on a very detailed, modern day Book of Hours – 144 pages in all.  Creating miniature designs with these materials, the best of the best for a calligrapher, has been a delight!

BookOfHoursOne Christmas, when I was wondering how I was going to manage financially, a new client took an interest in my work. He is a lover of handmade books and asked me to make his third. It’s a book of quotes that speak to Ron’s heart and soul…that celebrate Time, Seasons of the Year, Season’s of Life and Eternity. This unique, one-of-a-kind little book is about 6.5″x 9″ in size and only the facing pages completely harmonize with each other. A high end ‘picture book’ of sorts. “Make each page as ornate as you can conceive,” he said. “This project is a gift,” I said, “I’m grateful.” The pages are ornate, but I think if I went as far as my mind could truly conceive, I would never finish. Applying the tiny little strokes with my Winsor Newton Miniature brushes takes hours and hours. A labor of love, for sure!

One of my specialties is Flourishing. I just love working the lines/shapes until the design says ‘extra special.’  Below, see the first page of my client’s
personally authored quote about TIME, enhanced with modernized italic flourishes. (There are 3 additional pages to his thoughts.) He is quite the Renaissance man.

TimeIsLifesVitalCoinThe roundel design below is at the end of the first chapter, pondering Time. Recently, calligraphy guilds have asked me to teach workshops focused on ‘flourishing in the round.’  Come join me sometime!

GodShakesHisFistThere are about 30 more pages or so between the little roundel and the title page to the Seasons chapter that you see below. This is one of my more lively pages–it was lots of fun to think up all of the little seasonal details. (The horizontal gold bars on a page indicate the beginning of a chapter.)

ThereIsNoSeason2A previous article in my Blog shares a bit more about the Book of Hours. Also,
The Greater Cincinnati Calligrapher’s Guild met in my studio to check out my initial progress on the book and to discuss gold, vellum and design. Thanks for taking a look! I’ll post more designs in the future….

 

 

All that Glitters is Gold (Part 1) Shell Gold & Gold Powder

Last month, when I lettered on the church soffits, I laid genuine 23k gold on the walls. (Scroll down to the capital “O” in my last post). So I thought it a perfect segue into an explanation of some of the gold methods that I use.

One of the easiest methods I use to add gold to a project is the application of shell gold or gold powder. Mixed with distilled water and a touch of a binder, I typically paint it on fine art/hand made paper or calfskin with a miniature brush, burnish with an agate stone and voila! Instant impact!  This kind of gold is excellent for achieving tiny details. You can even tool tiny designs into a field of the gold with a very pointed burnisher.

Powdered gold lies behind the clover

 

There are many imitation golds, but the brilliance of the real thing drives me to be a purest. I use this method when a client wants gold, but doesn’t want the cost of the raised gesso with gold leaf, when I want to contrast the raised gold with the flat powder on the same design or when one of my prints needs a touch of elegance.

I will be teaching weekend retreats from my studio. Lodging available.  If you are interested, let me know!

 

Gold Leaf Event

This past Saturday I had the privilege of hosting the Cincinnati Book Arts Society (CBAS) and the Greater Cincinnati Calligrapher’s Guild in my studio for a show and tell!  I demonstrated a gold leaf technique and showcased two of the handmade books I’ve been creating.   The Book of Hours –as mentioned in an earlier post and a Baby Book (that I’ll feature in a later post).

 

Pictured below is my dining room table – where I displayed some of the vellum off cuts  I’ve been using to work out color and painting techniques for the book.

 

Book of Hours -Hour Glass Border in progress. See Portfolio > Books for finished work

Below I am laying gold leaf. (My glasses broke the day before–looks almost like a monocle.) I lay my homemade gesso on fine art paper or calfskin, let it dry and then blow on it to humidify. Then the gold is quickly laid on the gesso, touched up and burnished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a few of the guild members that came to see my studio!   I would love to have you too…..come and visit sometime!