How to make GLAIR for Calligraphers, Illuminators, Artists

Until the 14th century, manuscript miniatures were painted mainly using glair, made from egg white. It was used as a glossing or waterproofing agent in the paints. In my calligraphy studio, I use glair to reconstitute Cennini Gesso, to dilute Liquid Gesso (J. Tresser’s), and as a binder for gouache or powdered pigment.

RECIPE: 

  1. Crack eggs (4), strain off white by toggling yoke between shell halves leaving whites in mixing bowl
  2. Put yolks in a separate bowl, set aside for some other use. 
  3. Beat egg whites to stiff peaks – like a merengue. 
  4. Tip mixing bowl on its side and let drip into another bowl overnight – (or let it settle in original bowl).
  5. Pitch foam and reserve liquid. 
  6. After about 12 hours, strain (get rid of unwanted stringiness.)
  7. It can be used 2 ways. Try both!
    1. Full Strength
    2. Dilute with glair/water > 50/50 

8.    Save capped for 1-2+ yrs (stays clear). Date the container. Restrain after it sits for awhile

     TIPS:   • Stinky if stored room temperature. That’s okay. Traditionally called ‘la putrido’.

    • Preserve in refrigerator or out. (lasts longer in the frig).

    • For certain gilding purposes, glair must be aged. As glair ages, it becomes an adhesive.

    • Glair becomes waterproof in 24 hours

Beat eggs whites to stiff peaks
Stiff enough that it holds it’s shape
I get an 8 cup Pyrex measuring container and tilt my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl on it’s side. Allow it to sit there overnight. It will ‘weep’ into the glass bowl. That is your glair.

ADD GLAIR TO:

Titanium Dioxide Liquid Gesso – 1-2 drops should do it, but you can thin liquid gesso with glair to the consistency needed. Fresh glair is fine.

Cennini Gesso – Holly’s measurement to reconstitute powder > 1/8 tsp powdered gesso to 15 drops glair.  6-9 month (aged) glair is best for this recipe.

Dried Pigment or Gouache– Add 1-2 drops full strength or diluted to dry pigment or gouache. Clove oil or honey can be added to make colors richer/shinier.

**Glair, a natural product can be added to a variety of art mediums

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!