It’s an art that was invented by the ancient Egyptians, perfected during the Renaissance, and is now being mastered by Archana Pai, from Bangalore in India.

Gilding is the specialist subject that our students have been learning over the past two weeks, under the expert tutelage of Richard Walker, one of Europe’s foremost experts in all aspects of gilding.

Richard runs his own gilding business, Watergild Studios, and also teaches both in the UK and USA.

The large, intricate mirror that Archana – pictured above with Richard – is creating has already been fashioned and carved. The frame was then covered in ten layers of gesso, a mixture of refined chalk and animal glue.

Once dried, the next step required some ten hours of sanding to bring the surface to perfection.

But the preparation didn’t stop there, with the application of a further four layers of clay – a refined clay called bole.

That done, the frame will then will gilded with 24 carat gold, using a water technique that will fuse the gold to the clay. It will then be burnished using an agate stone.

Archana’s skills don’t just end with the frame. She is also hand-gilding the mirror itself with 12 carat white gold, using a technique known as verre eglomisé, the art of gilding onto glass.

Archana will be returning to Bangalore after graduation and opening Archana Pai Fine Woodwork, making her – she believes – one of the first female fine woodworkers in India.

“Archana’s work is sublime and her mirror will be a work of art that she should be very proud of. Her design skills and hard work are coming together in a mirror of the finest gilded quality,” said Richard Walker.

“Most gilded mirrors use silver, so I am especially pleased that she has chosen to break with convention and use white gold. A great choice for a fantastic project,” he said.