Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Let me tell you about gold leafing..."

There is a joke amoung the gilders (a.k.a. the 21 year old boys working for Dave Horne Painting in Ukraine) in the crew that whenever someone asks us about our work experience, we begin our redirection of the conversation with, "Let me tell you a little bit about gold leafing..."

This tactic began after we were scrutinized and criticized by the church leaders here for "being too young to know anything about gold leaf"( I'm not quite sure however who I'm quoting here). Our boss counseled us to be as ambiguous as possible. When someone asks, "How long have you been working for Dave?", a common reply among us now is, "Oh, we generally work from about 8am-5pm before calling it a day." This reply is followed by a wave to someone across the room and a swift removal from the risky conversation. This is the world I live in. The ambiguity is relentless--someone asked me last Sunday how long we would be in Ukraine and I answered them with, "Soon, I'm sure..you do know that the dedication is in August. You should go see the temple sometime before then." If someone were to ask me when my birthday is, on my current trend I am likely to say, "once a year."

Rest assured--everyone on the team is adequately trained in the way of the gold leaf. We are uncertified, certifiable guilders. With that guarantee, we do still make mistakes. Let me tell you about the gold leaf process. Gold leafing, like painting (and anything quality), is 90% preparation. First, the wall must be painted in a high gloss finish, to bring the shine out in the gold. Second, the surface of the wall must be powdered to avoid sticking. Third, (when working with lines) measurements must be taken and point marked on the wall before taping down strips of lines. Fourth, finess tape is used in bordering a space on the wall where a gold line is desired. Fifth, the sizing ink used as 'glue' for the gold leaf to stick to is brushed on evenly evenly evenly between the lines. This one word, "evenly", has caused me more stress than almost anything in the past 2 months. Without evenness, the gold comes out looking like a wrinkled bed sheet. Sixth, once the sizing ink has dried to a perfect tackiness ('perfect tackiness' are also stress inducing words), gold leaf, which comes in small rolls, must be pressed directly onto the sizing ink without touching anything but the paper between you and gold leaf. When I first started gold leafing (and even now on days where confidence is low) I used to get the "gold sweats". Once everything was sized and dry, those picked to gold that day would start to panic and sweat once the gold came out, knowing that mistakes were inevitable. Lastly, burnish the applied gold with a special brush and remove all finess tape. Hope for minimal cleanup where you let the sizing ink go outside the lines.

Today, in full spite of my minimal experience, I disregared a key step in the gold leafing process. I started applying gold to a line that still needed an hour and a half of drying time. Not only did I apply it to one line:

I applied it to three.

This makes gold look bad. Gold is a very beautiful thing and gold leafing yeilds a wonderful product when proper processes are followed. I sat back in horror after burnishing the gold and watching everything turn black as gold mixed and mingled with wet sizing ink. The pit in one's stomach is quite large after such a mistake.

Fortunately, it is an easy fix--but not a cheap one. Once everything is dry again, the line can be resized with ink and gold can be reapplied, but this time once 'perfect tackiness' is reached.

If you want to ask me any further questions about this accident, be notified, I will be as vague and ambiguous as needs be.


  1. I was in the temple recently and paid special attention to the gold leafing. I'll be honest, in the past I thought it was gold paint. :S

    I watched Martha Stewart do gold leafing once. As with everything, she was pretty good at it. The part that I thought looked the most difficult was that it seems to fly around alot while you are trying to lay it!

    I still think it's pretty cool that you get to work in the TEMPLE, and in UKRAINE! Awesome...

  2. By the way, I really enjoyed this post. I just never got around to commenting on it.