Once poetically described by the artist Charles Prendergast as being like …a half-solidified piece of sunlight, gold leaf is the alluring, elusive, consummate medium of the… Society of Gilders.
The Society of Gilders is a non-profit educational organization devoted to the art and craft of gilding. Our mission is to preserve traditional gilding skills and techniques, and to promote the highest standards in the practice of gilding.
The Society offers…
- A unique resource for technical help for gilders, restorers, conservators and all those interested in the gilding arts. You may search the Directory of Members, and you may also seek help in the “Society of Gilders” discussion group on LinkedIn
- The Gilders Tip, a bi-annual, full color journal, with articles on gilding and other subjects
- An opportunity to network with other gilders and clients through SOG events and the website.
- Pro bono community gilding projects that provide opportunities to practice and hone their gilding skills.
- Regional classes and workshops where participants learn more about the art of gilding, as well as a biennial conference which includes intensive level classes, social activities, and a community project.
- Access to The Museum of the Gilding Arts, in Pontiac, IL, created by the Society of Gilders with full, continuing support from the City of Pontiac, IL
Membership is open to any interested individual, institution or corporation.
A landmark event in the world of gilding took place at the Newark Museum in New Jersey during the winter of 1986. While attending a week-long gilding course hosted by the museum’s Arts Workshop, gilders met and exchanged gilding recipes, anecdotes, techniques and ethical concerns. The participants expressed a unanimous desire to extend this rewarding collaboration into an organization patterned after the ancient craftsmen’s guilds. Originally called the Guild of Gilders, the group changed their name to the Society of Gilders, welcoming fellow gilders and anyone interested in the art of gilding to join their ranks.
Today the Society of Gilders continues to grow, and the Regional Education Program continues to teach the art of gilding in many disciplines. Our conferences bring members together from around the world, and the hands-on classes, lectures, tours and community projects provide a memorable experience for all in attendance. To date, conferences have been held in Charleston, South Carolina (2000), Washington DC (2001, 2003, 2006 and 2008), New Orleans, LA (2007 to 2013), and Chicago, IL (2015), Arlington, TX (2017) and St. Paul, MN (2019).
President- Dr. Naomi Geller Lipsky, RI
Naomi Geller Lipsky received a PhD in Biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and enjoyed a satisfying career in research for many years. At the same time, she continued to develop her skills in the fine and decorative arts. When these latter interests finally became more compelling, she made the decision to retire from science and become a full-time decorative artist. She is best known for her work with quilling, an antique art in which paper strips are shaped and applied as ornaments, but she works in other media as well. Many of her pieces incorporate gold leaf. Her main body of work consists of Judaic ritual art and liturgical illustrations. She creates originals as well as limited edition lithographs, and she completes her artistic vision by doing all of her own matting and framing. Her award-winning work has been exhibited in museums and galleries, and featured in books and other publications.
Vice President – Gregory Dixon, CA
In the early 1980s I began my gilding career in conjunction with painting Victorian exteriors in San Francisco. Special details were highlighted with 23 karat gold leaf. In the mid 1990s I received some finer training from Stanley Robinson, a founding member of the SOG. I commenced and continued interior architectural gilding in the early 2000s, working with pure silver leaf on mouldings, niches, ceilings and furniture. I concurrently did and continue to do various decorative finishes, and restoration, repair and touch up of decorative finishes. I also work on restoring / repairing damaged gilded projects: for example, solder Art Deco gilded finishes, some more contemporary gilded finishes in compo, silver, and gold leaf. I continue to do interior projects primarily in pure silver leaf and composition silver leaf. Education: B. A. Hons. in English literature and Classical civilization from University College Dublin. Diploma in Art History, a joint program from University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin.
Education Chair- Peter Miller, VA
Peter came to gilding and frame making through early exposure to wood- working through his father, and later, through clients at his frame shop asking for samples. After meeting members of the Society of Gilders, Peter took on with full commitment the process of learning everything possible (which is impossible) about water gilding. Frame making and water gilding were parallel paths. After studying with several SOG gilders during the 90’s, Peter tailored his business to offer only frames of his own design, inspired by history, tradition, and fine craftsmanship. Peter has designed and made frames for private clients, antique dealers, interior designers and institutions. Publicly, Peter’s frames are in the collections of the Brandywine Museum, George W. Bush Presidential Library, Mattatuck Museum, Two Red Roses Foundation and, most recently, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Peter’s affiliation with the Society of Gilders includes serving on the Board of Trustees for 17 years and serving as the Society’s President for 7 years.
Secretary- Dr. Francis Lestingi, NY
Francis is a calligrapher, fontographer, sign artist, and professor emeritus of physics and history of science at the State University College at Buffalo, NY. Awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s and President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Founded Signs of Gold, Inc. in 1994 to create the finest, most elegant, unrivaled, entirely hand crafted, gold leafed, wood signage that are works of art, not just signs. He has won ten national first place awards from the United States Sign Council Design competition, as well as the International Sign Association contests. Author of 21 articles on gilding and hand carved sign artistry in SignCraft magazine, SignBusiness, Signs of the Times, and WoodCarvers Illustrated. Francis is the recipient of the “Innovators & Influencers Award” presented by Sign & Digital Graphics trade journal in recognition of those “who have changed for the better the way our industry conducts business. “Francis’s lifelong fascination with calligraphy and lettering as artform has led him to design five original digital typeface fonts which are commercially available on the Web.
Treasurer- Paulina Bendaña, WA
Paulina Bendaña embarked on her art journey concurrently with her corporate career in aerospace. She uses several types of media in her artwork: oil paints; pastels; acrylic paints; mosaic; and gold/metal leaf. Paulina finds inspiration in the landscapes from her travels across the US and 34 other countries, including her home country of Honduras. Paulina has a graduate (M.A.) degree in Economics from American University in Washington DC. She worked in strategic planning and business development in the aerospace industry for 30 years, with the last of those 17 of those years working at Boeing. She left that career to pursue art and work with nonprofit organizations, including serving on the boards of nonprofits. She is a member of The Society of Gilders, the Plein Air Washington Artists, and the Northport (Michigan) Arts Association, and has a Certificate in World Art History from The Smithsonian. Paulina is based in Seattle, and has a studio in both Seattle, WA and in Northport, MI.
Financial Secretary – Carol Lenington, MN
Carol Lenington is a Minneapolis based gilder, with a degree in Design/Art History. Her work is focused mainly on frame restoration and conservation of gilded surfaces. She also has experience with museum collection framing for exhibitions, architectural gilding and framing for institutions and individuals.
Kate Brown, CA
Kate Brown is an artist. She works professionally as a film editor, teacher, and gilder. As an artist, she makes films, drawings, and sculptural objects. For six years Kate worked at a conservation frame shop as the in-house gilder. Since 2016, she has offered her gilding services independently. Kate joined the Society of Gilders in 2010 and studied with many of its teachers. She values the transmission of this rare craft and works to support that in her role as Education Chair. In 2018, Kate completed a film on Marcel Breuer’s last building, the Atlanta Central Library. She is making a book to accompany that film, forthcoming in 2019. She received a BA in Landscape Studies from Harvard and an MFA in Film from the California Institute of the Arts. She lives in Los Angeles.
Micki Cavanah, TN
Micki Cavanah is the owner of Reed’s Gold Leaf Studios in Nashville, TN. The company was founded by her mother Lou Reed in 1972. She passed along her knowledge and expertise to many students along the way as well as Micki and her husband Mitchell who now continue to provide the gilding and restoration services to their clients. Their work can be seen all around the Southeastern United States in various galleries, museums, historic homes, commercial buildings and private collections. Included in their work are Athena Parthenos and The Schermerhorn Symphony Center both in Nashville, TN. Micki teaches one on one classes and selected group classes in restoration and gilding.
Colleen Donaldson, ACR, Scotland, UK
Edinburgh – Gilding Conservator – Accredited with ICON since 2004. Trained in furniture conservation initially, followed by Conservation Internships with National Galleries for Scotland and National Museums of Scotland for four years. Set up own practice in 1998. Clients have included and continue to include National Galleries, National Museums, Royal Collection,Museums and Galleries in the UK, members of the aristocracy, large private collections in France, Italy and Europe.
Amy Ouradnik, MN
Amy is a Minneapolis based gilder and decorative artist/designer. She has a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in Fine Art/Printmaking and an AAS in Interior Design from Century College. After extensive travel in Europe and Asia, she worked as an installation technician at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Weisman Art Museum, as well as other local galleries. In 2003, she founded Aurora Decorative Finishes LLC, a decorative painting company working both residential and commercial spaces around the US and Middle East. She studied decorative painting at the NA School of Decorative Art, Chicago, IDAL workshops and for the past 5 years, focused her skills on gilding and verre eglomise; training with instructors such as: Miriam Ellner, Lynne Rutter and Sandra Spannan and is a board member of the Society of Gilders. In 2016, She assisted Jensen Conservation re-gilding the Quadriga sculpture at the Minnesota State Capitol during a major restoration project. She continues to love to travel and can’t wait to gild the next available dome in Abu Dhabi…. or Kansas.
Sandra Spannan, NY
Sandra Spannan, a native of Germany who has lived in NewYork City since 1993, is a painter, gilder, and founder of the decorative painting company see. Painting, Inc. and gilding company see. Gold, Inc. As an artist special- izing in verre églomisé (glass gilding) as well as restoration and decorative finishes, Sandra has worked on private interiors, set designs, landmark restorations, and large-scale commercial projects throughout the world. She has won the Lucy G. Moses award for Excellence in Historic Preservation, the New York Preservation League’s Excellence in Preservation Award, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation Award for her gilding and restoration work at the historic Williamsburgh Savings Bank in Brooklyn, NY. She has done gilding work for Victoria’s Secret, Balthazar, Le Labo, Deciem, the Ace Hotel, and Tiffany & Co., to name a few. Sandra has given gilding workshops and tutorials at the Museum of Arts and Design in NYC, through the Society of Gilders in Chicago, Dallas, and NewYork City. She has been featured in a gilding documentary directed by the accomplished filmmaker Craig Teper, with music by Emmy award winning composer Blake Leyh. Recently, she was featured in the “Sunday Routine” series of the New York Times.
Chris Brooks, IL
Chris Brooks is a Conservation Technician for Frame Conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago. The most rewarding projects are the period frame treatments. This includes fabricating lost elements, structural modification and gilding repair. He is currently building the museum’s first searchable frame inventory for internal use; compiling descriptions, historical data, images, and measurements for over 500 objects. Chris has been a volunteer for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago for 5 years. He lives in the city with his wife Sarah and son Leland.
Leah Fishman, NY
Leah Beth Fishman is a Brooklyn-based artist specializing in all types of gilding from architectural gilding on interiors and exteriors, traditional water gilding, restorations, and a particular passion for sign gilding and verre eglomise- the art of reverse gilding and painting on glass. Trained by master gilders of world renown with over 10 years of experience, Leah Beth’s work can be seen on two covers of architectural digest, in the Oval Office, Rockefeller Plaza, Tiffany & Co stores, countless historic churches and landmarks, businesses and residences around the world.
Michael Gilbert, MD
Michael Gilbert is a gilder, carver, and frame maker with nearly forty years of experience. The American frame designs of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century are the inspiration for most of my work. I have been a teacher since the late 70’s, with sixteen years at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and with the Society of Gilders since 2001.
Brian Koelz, MO
Brian currently works at the St Louis Art Museum as a conservation technician, often tasked with stabilizing, repairing, and functionally improving damaged frames, particularly those being leant (with their paintings) by the museum. Brian studied painting (particularly historic techniques) and printmaking in school, terminating with an MFA from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. After school, he found himself studying artworks and teaching painting to life-long learners at the museum. 17 years later one can still find Brian in the same beautiful Forest Park setting. He remains very much at the early stages of an education, so glad to be a part of the Society of Gilders.