A successful BAFRA gilding day with Rod Titian 14th November 2015

We are pleased to be able to publish a report by Helen Osborne.

BAFRA Gilding day, Titian Studios by Helen Osborne


I have always been a bit of a magpie and love all that sparkles and shines, so I jumped at the chance when my brother, accredited BAFRA member Jim Broughton (Broughton Restorations) asked if I would like to join him and his daughter, Sophie on a gilding workshop hosted by Rodrigo Titian of Titian Studios in London.


We left home early doors, arriving at Titian Studios in plenty of time for the 9.45am start where we received a very warm welcome from Rod.  The 11 delegates, were a mixture of BAFRA Associates; friends of BAFRA and ‘public,’ like myself.  Introductions and health and safety formalities over, Rod gave a brief overview of the history of gilding and demonstrated the methodology of making rabbit skin glue and gesso solution which is the foundation for water guiding.


Each delegate was provided with a small picture frame to work on, which had already been pre coated with 5 layers of gesso. It was time to get our hands dirty and have a go ourselves. A further application of gesso enabled us to get a feel of the desired consistency and how the gesso flows over the frame.  Once dried, the gesso was wet/dried with a rag then carefully sanded to ensure as many of the bubbles/imperfections as possible were removed.  Rod explained the smoother the surface the better the end product would be as the gold leaf is visually unforgiving on imperfections.


Once happy with our sanding, Rod went on to explain the difference between the yellow and red clay and its purpose in gilding.  Again, Rod demonstrated the process of making up the mixtures and there was just time to apply two coats of each colour before breaking for a well-earned lunch break.


Lunch over, it was back to careful sanding (taking care not to break through to the gesso) to ensure a glass like finish.  Once completed, it was time to break out the gold.


Rod demonstrated how to hold the tools of the trade; palate, knife and stipple in one and how to remove the gold leaf from the book onto the palate.  He then picked up the leaf with his stipple and placed it perfectly onto the frame.  This didn’t appear to be too complicated; little did I know!!!!!! Two hours were allocated to complete the application of gold, which initially sounded quite a long time for small frame.   My first attempt did not go at all well.  I used my knife to flatten the gold and it crumpled into a tiny heap on the palate and was scrap.  Rod came to the rescue, showing me a simpler technique and I managed to apply my first piece of gold.  In the blink of an eye, two hours were up and although my frame was complete I think there was more gold on my arm than on the frame.


The next step was to burnish the gold with an agate and I was fascinated to learn that the original craftsmen used dog’s teeth to achieve the high shine.  These days an agate does the same job.


The group was left with varying degrees of success but all agreed that the day was brilliant! Rod was a perfect host and teacher.

Sophie Broughton, Jim’s fourteen year old daughter thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. I can see another member joining “Broughton restorations” in the not too distant future.


Many thanks Rod for a superb day. Helen Osborne.