pounding gold into leaf in Vietnam


pounding gold
It is important in the Vietnamese culture to have access to gold leaf especially during the new year celebrations when all the alters need new gold and new decorations.  I was able to visit a family who  processes the gold into leaf and watch it happen step by step.  They mine gold in the rivers and I saw that on a river cruise.  At this house they first have to make the lacquer covered paper that is put between each "dot" of gold.  They create a stack and wrap it with another special paper before starting to pound, turn, pound, turn.  There is a photo showing the gold "dot" between layers of lacquer paper.  They continue to pound until the gold is flattened to reach the edges of the paper.  The heat created by the pounding and the force of the mallet work together to get these very thin gold leaves. These two young men work together creating leaf and a pounding rhythm.  You can hear them from blocks away.  When they have it to the edges it is taken into the women who carefully take it from the lacquer sheets and stack them together.  No open windows even in the extreme heat of the summer.  They can use the lacquer sheets up to 10 times before they have to make new ones.

Making silver leaf is the same process.  I bought a little packet of each and am planning now on how I plan to use them in my new paintings.


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Lacquer process in Vietnam


Before heading north to Hanoi and the traditional craft villages of the north we stopped in to the lacquer ware workshop in Ho Chi Minh City.  Here we were given the tour of the process board in action. I was very impressed.  They are using the resin from what he called the lacquer tree which is a relative of the rubber tree. Watch the movie Indochine, you can see how this is harvested.  They start with a hardwood base, rosewood. Seal it with the first coat of resin which turns black due to oxidation and then put on a layer of cloth which allows the design "to float" on surface when the wood  contracts or expands.  The design is then added using mother of pearl or duck egg shell followed by 17 layers of resin that are dried, sanded, and then the next applied. The process takes 3 to 4 weeks.  The final polishing is done with ground up cocnut shell.
Their show room was wowsie...just sorry I could not bring more home. Will add photo  later.


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Laser transfers...yea!


Printmakers use all kinds of transfers in their work.  I was introduced to these techniques while taking a printmaking class at the college.  I just haven't use what I learned until taking the class in Coupeville last October and being reminded just how cool they can be. 
I started playing on a 12" by 9" panel using a photo I had taken several years ago while camping at Klaloch Beach on the Washington coast. We spent the day building rock cairns and taking photos of them. These have been used in the past as references for paintings and printmaking.  Now...I have two pieces going using them as a laser transfer.  You apply the laser photo print ..print down on soft gel medium and allow to dry.  Then you have to wet and rub off the paper leaving just the ink that has soaked into the gel.  This is a delicate and labor intensive job.
You might ask why don't you just collage the photo on?  The answer..if you use the transfer the white of the rock becomes clear and the background then shows through giving you transparent rock!!!  Yes, it is very cool and love it!!
 You will be seeing several of these new works during the Art Tour in May...mark your calendars1


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Helen's Originals showcases abstract acrylic mixed media, printmaking with monotypes, dry point and gyotaku, figurative collage, and informative blog entries. 

 Helen SaundersCamano Island, WA360-320-0136