Helen White

Illuminated Rose Window - detail

Gold Leaf Illuminations

'Illumination' is the use of gold or other precious metals in leaf or powder form. The traditional techniques used in this work are those used in the wonderful medieval manuscripts created in western Europe.
Gold leaf is applied to gesso, gum ammoniac or other mordant. Gesso gives a slightly raised effect and the gold can be burnished to give a brilliant shine.
Gold powder, known as 'shell gold', is mixed with gum arabic and painted on with a brush; when dry it can be burnished. It is called 'shell gold' because traditionally it was mixed and sold in shells.

Helen often incorporates tiny jewels such as amethysts, sapphires, garnets and pearls into her work, adding to an impression of 'medieval richness'. She usually works on Kelmscott vellum (calfskin) which gives a beautiful luminosity to the paint. Her designs are frequently inspired by medieval sources such as tiles, architecture, carved stone or wood, metalwork etc.

Helen teaches Manuscript Illumination at The Prince's School of Traditional Arts, London.