London Glass gilder: Verre églomisé – making antiqued Italian glass gilding, Nick Garrett

Visit our dedicated area – Leading London Sign writer creates superb gilding and finishes in Italy

Glass gilded shell NGS

Seraina Baumgartner’s shell window in Margate

Gilded Sample making in Italy 

Tricky finding the right materials overseas… Going with what I have – not ideal but opens up new opportunities, sensations and textures… and guess what, just found the best white gold leaf in the world!!

PDF Verre Eglomise Samples – Campioni – Nick Garrett

Above:  Photoshop visual – Below: sample on the bench

See ...Samples on the bench

Last week (November 2011) I dropped by Handovers art and gilding suppliers in Finchley, London, and picked up some materials namely white gold and some nice writers’ brushes.

Antique Verre églomisé  Pre Burnished Nick Garrett

Above: Here the panel is wet pre burnishing – will update shortly.  Top Left corner has been burnished.

This sample was started a month ago and I have just had a play with it this evening.

Materials supply issues – matching up UK product

My my problem has been sourcing Gelatin capsules for the water size… so faced with delays and dilemmas I asked the local art supplier in Parma if he knew of any way around the problem.

“Aglio…Garlic. This is used for the glass…” He told me.

“What just rub it on?”

“Si… ”

“No water added?” I quizzed.

“No no no…!” he stated most emphatically. Come to think of it cut garlic does have a slight sharp tacky quality to the touch.

So I tried it… and it works quite well.  The glass sample panel combines garlic glue with water and egg-white… I jumped in purely because getting hold of gelatin has taken weeks and I just fancied making a start and finish! (Gelatin should be arriving in Berceto Pharmacy on Wednesday).

The design is fidget lined in (the enamel here is very translucent not opaque as I would have liked but darn it I want to get something done here!) and aged- the gold leaf is applied to the moist garlic surface and burnished back before white gold is laid backing up.

The final effect cannot quite replicate the mirror like quality of Gelatin but gets to about 75-80% of the desired depth and luster.

Aims & inspiration – 

Inspiration mum's dining room ceiling

To be honest I hate glass gilded panels that are left bare and un-aged.  I only really like it plain in the sign-writing context.  Until very recently… and now I intend to do something refreshing.

If you’re gonna make a finish you’ve gotta be moved by it… so where’s the inspiration other than a deep historical context?

Fresco on mum's wall Parma

Frescos are my constant inspiration.

On decorative panels I think glass gilding usually looks too laboured and heavy. However, when French or Italians handle this process it changes… the same too with their Stucco Veneziano – it just flies and sings… it’s spontaneous…

English, Australian and US finishers usually get too hung up about neatness and lose the life in the surfaces… they miss the point, tend to be tighter and insecure.

The Italian hand

I noticed this in 1991 while standing aghast in the Duomo in Florence … getting close up to the marbling on the facades and pillars and it was all brush strokes, slips and catches… stand back and it hung together like magic.  In UK the marbling would have been perfect close up and dead at a distance… Da Vinci and his buddies could do both of course!

The Italians have it! Simple as that!

I want it to ‘float’, look light, magical and natural in some way… you have to learn to let it go…

What I am really interested here is the combination of filtered gold duo tone and a really natural looking distress, so far that has come up really nicely here – the other stuff is incidental at this stage.

Most glass gilders get stuck on mechanics and never really loosen up allowing real aged richness to happen.  I always look for something unpredictable… a bit of magic. This is starting to get it.

The art of sample making

Now I know where I am going with this sample.  3 weeks ago I didn’t.

Most art/creative makers think making a sample is a bout following coordinates and attaining the level of finish.

That is part of it at times.  However, real sampling takes on new levels of finish… it steps into the desire zone… where dreams kid us on… we think they are real.

Sampling sets about making the dream real.  It is where we must be prepared to fail in order to stretch our comfort zones… or be left admiring others from down the field.

Below: Burnished and backed up with a tonal that remains a secret… 

Antiqued Florentine Fluer di Lys - Nick Garrett verre eglomise

These samples will become LED uplit decorative shelf luminair panels.

Tomorrow I hunt down a nice enamel and that darn Gelatin.


Sourced today some great enamel and beveled 8mm plate glass

… to be continued….

About – history

Verre églomisé, from the French term meaning glass gilded, is a process in which the back side of glass is gilded with gold or metal leaf.

In one method, the metal is adhered using a gelatin adhesive, which results in a mirror-like, reflective finish in which designs are then engraved. The metal leaf may be applied using oil-based adhesives (goldsize varnish) to achieve a matte finish. The gilding may also be combined with reverse painting on glass.

The technique dates back to the pre-Roman eras, but its name is derived from 18th century French decorator and art-dealer Jean-Baptise Glomy (1711–1786) who is responsible for its re-popularization.

One of the key historical periods of the art was in Italy during the 13th to 16th centuries. Small panels of glass with designs formed by engraved gilding were applied to reliquaries and portable altars. The method used is described by Cennino Cennini. It has also been used throughout Europe since the 15th century, appearing in paintings, furniture, drinking glasses and similar vessels and jewelry. It is also often seen in the form of decorative panels of mirrors, clock faces, and in more recent history, as window signs and advertising mirrors.

Well known practitioners include Hans Jakob Sprungli (1559-1637) and Jonas Zeuner (1727-1814).

2 Replies to “London Glass gilder: Verre églomisé – making antiqued Italian glass gilding, Nick Garrett”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s