Chinatown Arch being foiled …

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The huge Chinatown Royal Arch on Somerset Street is being decorated with real gold foil by Chinese artisans. The finished results are stunning, and the process itself is well worth a look.

This is the same posting as on my site. I try not to crosspost much, but this story is so interesting, I wanted to make sure readers of WSA get to see the post. And yes, I was up on the top level of scaffolding, 33′ above street level, guest of the Chinatown BIA.  Over the next several days, the OttawaChinatownRoyalArch.blogspot site will have more postings of the decorating process. I took well over a hundred pictures, surely I got some usable ones out that!

Many of the elements of the Chinatown Royal Arch are decorated in real gold. The gold is applied in a foil format (not paint). The incredibly thin sheets of gold leaf come on carier sheets of heavier parchment. Each larger sheet is cut on site down to a smaller 1″ x 5″ size. The artisan uses wooden tweezers to pick up  5″ strips of gold :

Artisan holds the sheet over the area to be foiled. He then rubs the backing to transfer the gold foil to the arch:

The carrier sheet flutters away in the breeze. Notice how the gold leaf covers too much area and is not yet the final shape:

Applying the gold foil to the scroll work on a piece of (concrete) bamboo:

After pressing the foil into place, the excess bits are wiped off with a piece of cheesecloth. I caught some of the bits waffing in the air, and ate them. Gold leaf (presumably in small quantities) is supposedly good for you, I learned that from a Vegas chef at a cooking lesson where we applied bits of gold leaf to our Japanese icecream deserts:

The finished scroll work. It should stay bright for about 100 years. Rain will wash over it and keep it clean:

Gold leaf sheets are available at craft and art supply stores for those who want to try this at home.