Guide to Gilding: Preparing the Surface

Lowy’s antique and reproduction frames represent various historical periods from the 15th through 20th centuries. The process of creating a gilded reproduction frame starts with the entire frame designed on paper, which is then carved in wood. Wood is one of the most common and useful substrates for gilding because it is stable over time and because it is true to traditional techniques. In accordance with fashion, culture and custom, frame makers have worked in a variety of woods such as pine, poplar, oak and limewood. In the 19th century, the newly developed material called composition, a thick moldable mix of rabbit skin glue, whiting, linseed oil and rosin, gained popularity for its ability to mass produce ornament. Composition made it possible to make complex frames with many different designs because the ornament could be cast into molds and applied to the frame, instead of being hand carved.

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Even when elegantly carved, bare wood is irregular and must be smoothed before applying gold. First, we apply a layer of rabbit skin glue to ensure that bonds will form properly. Then, we brush on 10-12 coats of warm liquid gesso, a protective covering typically made from calcium carbonate or calcium sulfate, water, rabbit-skin glue and sometimes linseed oil. After the gesso dries, it is sanded. Next, we apply layers of traditional bole, a fine particle clay also mixed with rabbit skin glue. The bole, which is usually yellow, red or grey, will over time start to show its color through the gilding due to abrasion of the finish. When applying these base layers, gilders must balance even coverage with maintaining detail, keeping the original design intact. Sometimes this requires that we recut the design by carving back into the gesso layer to redefine or augment the ornamentation.

In this 17th century Italian frame, red clay is visible through the finish.
In this 17th century Italian frame, red clay is visible through the finish.

Lowy has facilities for antique frame reproduction, carving and gilding. That’s one of the reasons why we have been sought out for frame fabrication and restoration projects for such a long list of venues, ranging from government buildings to private collections and public exhibitions. If you would like more information, please ask! And stay tuned for the rest of our series on gilding.

The next generation of Lowy: a framer is born.

Ben Shar, Brad’s son and Larry’s grandson, learns to burnish and gild at a demo by Wayne Reynolds.  His nursery school was here on a tour, and it was amazing how they responded!  Take a look through the photos and see for yourself.

The Lowy All Souls Tour

Architectural Digest Home Design Show

Ever wanted to feel a piece of gold leaf?  Or gild a frame?  Or watch as a conservator inpaints losses on a painting?  Stop by the Lowy booth at the 2011 Architectural Digest Home Design Show and these dreams, and many more, can come true!  This year’s show runs from March 17th through March 20th.  Lowy can be found at booth #436.  Learn more about the show here:

A Change of Taste Opening Night: a few select pictures

Continue reading A Change of Taste Opening Night: a few select pictures

A Change of Taste Makes the New York Times

Our exhibition made the Times!  Check out their article here:

But more importantly, make sure you stop by!  It’s not often that we have a frame exhibition, it’s a rare and wonderful show filled with some pretty gorgeous frames.

A Change of Taste: From the Gilded Age to the Craftsman Aesthetic

We’re having a frame exhibition!  I think we’ve had maybe only one of these before, so get on down to Lowy to check it out!

The details:  the exhibition will chronicle the momentous change of taste in American picture frames from the mass-produced ornamentation of the 19th Century to the elegant artistry of the Arts & Crafts movement.  Many of the frames on display are signed and dated by their makers.  The exhibit is made up of frames primarily from Lowy’s extensive collection, as well as extraordinary frames from the collections of Edgar Smith, The Gill & Lagodich Gallery, NY and Gold Leaf Studios, Washington, D.C.

The frames will be on display at Lowy, 223 E. 80th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, NYC from January 24 – April 14, 2011.  The exhibition is open to the public Monday – Friday, 10am – 4pm.