We know our rural forebears participated in quilting bees, but have you ever heard of a gilding bee? Artist Laura Sue King invented the term to describe gatherings she has organized at The Painters Gallery, 1109 Main Street, Fleischmanns, where she will teach people to apply gold leaf to small items they bring along, or to objects King has found in the woods.
“It’s not really a workshop,” said King, who sees the events as a way to bring people together through the transformation of ordinary objects into extraordinary artifacts. She will provide the gold leaf and offer one-on-one instruction for the simple gilding process. Participants may drop in at any point on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, 1 p.m.–5 p.m., July 17-27. An exhibition and reception will follow on Sunday, July 30, 3 p.m.–5 p.m.
As a painter and printmaker, King has had a few occasions to work with gold, first when she was a lithographer’s apprentice in Seattle in 1985, adding gold leaf to artists’ prints, and later while working for designers in Manhattan. “At Tiffany’s,” she recalled, “we were gilding little birds and branches for holiday windows.”
King has exhibited nationally and internationally, and she commutes weekly to New York City to teach at Hunter College. Most of her work is abstract and two-dimensional, using bold colors and geometric shapes. Her inspiration for the project in Fleischmanns came from hikes in the woods behind her house, where grand homes once graced the mountain, and crumbling bungalows still remain. She has painted some of the bungalow walls with bright geometric shapes. “I’ve been engaging the outdoor space since I moved here five years ago,” she explained. “The artist side of me doesn’t disappear when I go for a walk.”
On those walks, she has also found numerous small objects left over from the grand houses of the past: pottery shards and bowls, ceramic figures, keys, bottles for hand cream and Listerine, even, miraculously, an intact light bulb. When she heard the Roxbury Arts Group was offering community arts grants through the New York State Council on the Arts, she considered how she could make use of the objects she had collected. Gilding was the answer.
“It’s pretty easy to do,” said King. “You coat the object with sizing, a substance that becomes tacky, and then you’re ready to apply gold leaf within 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the heat and humidity. It sticks to wood, glass, metal, ceramics. I ordered 22-carat gold leaf with the grant money.”
Fleischmanns has a substantial Hispanic population, and historically the town’s tolerant outlook has attracted Orthodox Jews who were banned from vacationing in Saratoga or the Adirondacks. King has an interest in bringing the different groups in town together, so she had her flyer translated into Spanish and Yiddish. When she was posting flyers at the library, a Jewish woman approached her to point out that the Yiddish version was not quite standard. “She said, ‘I understand it, but that’s not the language we speak,’” King said. “And then we talked for 20 minutes. She was comparing what I was doing, finding things, to objects found in Germany and Poland after World War II.” Despite the difference between the European victims of the Holocaust and the New Yorkers — many of them Jews of the same time period — vacationing in the Catskills, the woman acknowledged the meaning found in both sets of objects. “She was making this historical human connection,” mused King. “I was surprised and grateful she was thinking along those lines. And she’s going to come to the gilding bee.”
King likes the idea of taking ordinary, abandoned objects and giving them value. “It’s not because the amount of gold on them will give them monetary value,” she said, “but it gives them art object value. They’re special. There’s just something about how gold reflects light —it has a different presence.”
Artist Laura Sue King will lead the Gilding Bee, a community arts gathering, at The Painters Gallery, 1109 Main Street, Fleischmanns, in eastern Delaware County, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, July 17-27. Participants will learn to apply gold leaf to an assortment of vintage objects collected nearby. You are welcome to gild your own object if it’s small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. The artist will supply 22-carat gold leaf and other needed supplies. No registration is required. A $5 fee for participation is waived for those who cannot pay. An exhibition and reception will be held at the gallery on Sunday, July 30, 3-5 p.m. For information on the artist, visit her website, http://likingcolor.com.