Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ora et Labora (continued)

Today and yesterday were all about gilding and prayer. Yesterday I applied gold leaf to the haloes of the icon of the Mother of God and Jesus which I am working on.
The red bole on the halo is a mixture of clay and glue. First, I breathe on the bole. The warmth and moisture of my breath makes the bole become sticky for just a few moments (perhaps 10-15 seconds).

Then I quickly press the gold leaf onto the bole and gently rub on the back of the paper that the gold is attached to.
It's a time consuming process, because in order to be able to burnish (or polish) the gold leaf, I have to gild the halo not once but twice.
It took me most of yesterday to gild the haloes and then to begin burnishing them.

Burnishing the gold also takes time - there is no rushing the process. If everything goes right, burnishing is simplicity itself. Using an agate burnisher (a completely smooth agate set in a wooden handle), you rub the gilded surface with the agate until it begins to shine. Piece of cake! Unless something goes wrong. Which always seems to happen. There may be tiny holes in the gilding or the burnisher lifts up some of the gold or there is one spot that just doesn't want to shine, no matter how much you burnish it. Which usually means making corrections (faulting) to the gilding. but in the end it is worth it.

These last few days have also been a time of prayer. I'm grateful that my studio is also my oratory.

My urgent prayer of supplication has been for Egyptian Muslims and Christians in the aftermath of the coup that toppled the government of Muhammed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was elected President of the country a year ago. This has led to demonstrations against the new government by Morsi supporters, demonstrations that that army and security forces have fired upon, killing hundreds of protesters in at least four separate incidents that can only be charactorized as massacres.

In addition to violence between pro and anti-Morsi rioters in various Egyptian cities and towns, extremist elements in the Muslim community appear to be scape-goating the Christian minority around the country and mobs have looted and burned over 60 churches and church related buildings in the past week.
Praying evening prayer tonight was for the feast of St.Bernard of Clairvaux, the great eleventh century reformer and Doctor of the Church (called the Doctor mellifluus, the Honey-sweet Doctor for his love of the word of God and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary) yet preached the catastrophic Second Crusade.
The reading, from the Letter of St. James, gives me much to ponder.
"Wisdom from above is first of all innocent. It is also peaceable, lenient, docile, rich in sympathy and the kindly deeds that are its fruits, impartial and sincere. The harvest of justice is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace."
May it be so, in our hearts and in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in Egypt.


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for taking the time to share this. I see the white cords in the one picture of you burnishing the gold- assuming those are earbud chords. What are you listening to while you are working?

    1. Although I do own a set of earphones,what is around my neck is a cord attached to my scissors, so I won't mislay them while I'm gilding the icon.

  2. This blog may yet be your best teaching tool for the making of icons!
    And yes, the situation in Egypt weighs heavily on my heart, too. The Christians are suffering so much, although the whole country is in turmoil. We also stand before God in prayer for them all...

  3. Brother in Christ. Your site is wonderful about teaching the art of Icons. Is there by any chance that you may have a linedrawing of " The transfiguration" to share?