This morning I finished preparing the bole. That means sanding it down to get every tiny scratch and dent out, then giving a final coat of thin bole which is applied hot, and which I then polished with a piece of kitchen towel. This took an age, but by mid morning I was ready to start applying the gold leaf.
Gold in an icon speaks of the Being of God, its qualities of 'bright darkness' speaking of God being known and yet unknown. It is the background in all icons (or a heavenly substitute colour such as red, being bright like gold, or blue, a heavenly colour). Here all of Creation is shot through with gold, just as all of Creation is shot through with the glory of God, enveloped in the Divine which creates, sustains and redeems it.
I use triple thickness 23.5ct gold loose leaf, which I have applied with a double layer and burnished to give a deep radiance. In these photos you can see the bole being heated gently before application, and then being applied deftly with a brush so as to create as smooth a surface as possible.
The gold leaf is applied using a gilder's tip, with a solution of alcohol and water being floated on the bole which 'sucks' the leaf onto the board. This is a very tricky process, and it is easy to tear or crease the leaf.
Once the leaf was applied and dried, but not too try, I used a burnisher made of agate stone to polish the gold leaf. Applying even pressure the stone pushes the gold and the bole flat, which means the gold gives a reflection like a mirror.
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