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Designers learn a golden lesson with Alexa Hampton at Lowy
Mar 6, 2015

Members of the design community learned all about the fine art of gilding from master gilder Wayne Reynolds and interior designer Alexa Hampton on Tuesday, March 3. While enjoying wine, hors d’oeuvres and, of course, cocktails made with edible gold at NYC’s Lowy Framing and Restoration, attendees found out more about the intricate craftsmanship associated with gilding, as well as opportunities to modernize the craft.

Larry Shar and Alexa Hampton
  
Master gilder Wayne Reynolds, left. Lowy's signature cocktail, "The Gilded Goddess," right.
Hampton played the willing student as Reynolds walked her and the other attendees through how to prepare and gild a frame, using tools and techniques largely identical to those used 500 years ago.

Attendees watch the demonstration.

Hampton, a long-time customer of Lowy’s, first met Reynolds when working on a restoration of an antique room in what Hampton referred to as “a storied New York City building.” The room, which was moved from France in the ’20s or ’30s, had fallen into a state of disrepair. That’s when Reynolds stepped in.

Alexa Hampton burnishes a section of the frame as Wayne Reynolds looks on.

Tools and materials used by Wayne Reynolds are consistent with a 500 year old tradition.
One of the many takeaways from the event was that designers interested in using gilding or gilded objects should enlist a master. Otherwise, the many subtle differences could result in a project looking quite different than expected. For example, if the leaf used is not 22 or 23 carat gold, and a metal leaf is used instead, designers will find their project beginning to tarnish and turn orange.

Lisa Wyer and Jonathan Kutzin.
Reynolds also explained that, though traditional and antique gilded works use yellow gold, one way in which the craft has been modernized is that it is more common to use white gold when gilding ceilings.

Tamara Stephenson, Lisa McMahon, Michael Tavano, Pierre Lenis, Lori Sheldon and Brett Williams.
“Gold was big in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and then there was a turn to the silver colored finishes,” said Hampton, speaking about the place of gilding in interior design today. “Now, gold is coming back; a big part of its zeitgeist is that it is an artisanal craft, and people are looking for that now. And it’s almost avant-garde to have gilding.”
Reflecting on the demonstration and the discussion, and the place of artisanal crafts in the industry, interior designer Michael Tavano insisted that good designers “rely on craftsmen; that’s what defines us.” Luckily, designers “understand that craft is an asset. Design is craft, and a designer is only as good as his or her craft.”

Michael Tramis, Michael Tavano, Larry Shar.

Photos by Andrea Fischman.

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