Picture framing, gilding, decorative finishes and upholstery

Creative gilding using traditional techniques with Judy Wetherall

Ref: S4D09530


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1 place available

About this course

Practise water gilding, suitable for wooden objects, as you gild a small frame, decorated with gold leaf, burnishing and pattern tooling. Then try oil gilding, suitable for a wider range of applications, again with gold leaf.

Course Description

Learn the historic and traditional techniques for two loose leaf gilding methods, water and oil gilding, as used on furniture, frames, metal, glass, stone, wood, cut lettering, architecture and in fine art, as well as numerous other decorative applications. You are introduced to these two traditional methods as applied to new surfaces. For those wanting to further the techniques in creative art practice, innovative gesso applications and gilding types can be experimented with, to further your practice in a new way.

The use of gold leaf as a decorative surface is as old as the Pharaohs, and the methods and materials have changed very little, although gilding's scope and application is now very broad. The course is designed with the beginner or improver in mind, and although gilding is a slow process, the basic skills should be grasped within the course.

Water gilding is used for finely toned and burnished surfaces, including new picture/mirror frames and MDF panels as used during the course, but the techniques may be applied to furniture, architectural ornamentation, wooden sculpture, lettering, icons, painting panels and decorative art objects, amongst many other applications. Using traditional materials and methods, you will be guided through all stages of preparation including the making and application of gesso, coloured bole and the laying, burnishing and tooling of loose leaf gold (and other precious metal leaf) using the water gilding technique. You will prepare and water gild one frame supplied by the College and some MDF sample panels. You are welcome to bring your own new frame and new wooden piece if you wish to work on this as well, but it may not be completed within the course time.

Oil gilding is the less labour intensive technique, and lends itself to a myriad of applications. It is used where burnished and subtle distressing of the bright gilding is not required. It is commonly, though not exclusively, also found on exterior work, and on any material. You may gild any small objects you bring, including small boxes or small decorative objects, panels, mouldings, shells, painted or japanned (western lacquer) surfaces, leather, metal, plastics, dried leaves, textiles, stone and wood: a wide range of materials can be oil-gilded. Experience the cutting and laying of loose leaf gold, and learn how to incorporate the traditional oil gilding techniques into decorative objects you will bring. We can assess objects for suitability on the first evening. You may also want to incorporate both types of gilding on your new frame, or make a series of test panels to illustrate the possibilities.

The course is delivered with practical application at the bench following demonstrations and short talks, and group and individual tuition allows for all levels of interest. There may also be a tour of the gilding in the historic rooms at West Dean (if accessible during the course) to illustrate our subject. You will leave with a water gilded frame and test samples and several oil gilded pieces.

It is important to note that the course is designed as a practical introduction to water and oil gilding for new surfaces, and that restoration and conservation of gilded surfaces cannot be undertaken as part of this course, although the tutor is willing to discuss potential projects outside the course.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • The cost of one wooden frame for water gilding, small MDF sample boards, some gilding materials and gilding tools (excluding gold leaf) used by the group as a whole.

What students need to bring

  • Please email the following information to the tutor, via the bookingsoffice@westdean.ac.uk - it is essential that you do this at least 10 days prior to the course. Please give information of what has inspired your interest in gilding, if you have any experience of gilding and details of any objects you intend to bring to the course for gilding to check for suitability.
  • You are encouraged to bring objects to gild including wood, metal, plaster, glass, plastic, ceramics, textiles, leather - even leaves are possible. Surfaces must be clean, stable and wax-free - be adventurous in your choice.
  • It is also essential to bring the following:
  • Small objects to oil gild, made of a range of materials (see text above)
  • 1 or 2 lidded glass jars (baby food size or similar)
  • 1 paper plate/2 old mugs
  • Kitchen towel
  • Stick of lip salve or small pot of Vaseline
  • Flat stick (or small wooden spoon)
  • Cotton wool
  • Scissors
  • Overall/apron
  • Packing materials for your sensitive objects

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Books of loose leaf gold, around £28 per 25-leaf book (prices vary - one book may suffice, depending on the size of objects brought)
  • Books of silver/white gold leaf (prices vary - should cost less than gold)
  • Available to buy, but please bring any you already happen to have - they are not all essential:
  • Further MDF sample boards and a limited selection of small bare wood frames
  • A limited selection of gilding tools and equipment
  • 'Tiranti' filling spatula No. 46
  • Abrasive papers: silicone carbide 180, 320 (one sheet of each)
  • Pencil
  • Brushes: No 1 sable round; No 4 nylon round; No 8 pony or squirrel round; ½" flat nylon brush.
  • Tubes of acrylic paint in yellow ochre, raw umber, burnt umber, black, possibly a red, possibly Prussian blue or dark green.
  • Available from tutor:
  • The tutor has a book of gilding notes written specifically for short courses. If you choose to have a copy the cost of £15 is payable directly to her by cash or cheque during the course.

Please note: the following are supplied for use during the course: Gesso made by the tutor prior to the course Round ox hair brush or nylon No. 8 or 6, ½" Flat nylon or ox hair brush, Flat hog hair brush S40 ½" No 1 or 2 round sable brush, Round pony hair or squirrel No 8 'Tiranti' filling spatula No. 46

"The course was held in an amazing setting, with the gardens and open landscapes around the college. The studio we worked in was a great space, with a small class which meant you could ask the tutor questions about your work individually. The tutor was extremely experienced and knowledgeable in her field."

Lisa, 2019


Judy Wetherall

Following graduation in Conservation from Brighton and the City and Guilds of London Art School, studying in Italy and Germany, Judy established her reputation working on gilding, japanning, polychrome and period paint. She is a Churchill Fellow, and 2015 winner of the Lord Balfour of Burleigh Award for Excellence in Craftsmanship. She is passionate about her work, and her infectious enthusiasm has led her to teach in many institutions. Her life's-work portfolio is impressive, and includes work for National Trust, English Heritage; Royal Collections; Globe theatre; Churches and Cathedrals; Guildhall Art Gallery and numerous private clients.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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