Surface Gilding Techniques Workshop with David Kynaston, Studio Elm Paint Jam & Wall Collaboration

Last month was my first Sign Painting trip of 2018, this time to Berlin, with my boys Jake Tyler and Chris of Toucan Signs. The main reason we made the journey was to take part in David Kynaston’s Surface Gilding Workshop, facilitated by Better Letters and taking place at Scriptorium tattoo studio, ran by Adam (aka Theosone). Most people I told this to seemed baffled at the idea of us travelling all the way to Germany to get taught gilding by a Welshman, but as it often is with the Letterheads and various events, it seems a very good excuse to pack some bags and explore a new city, and meet more of the overseas sign painting community. 

David’s workshop was three days of learning the basics of surface gilding. With an intimate group of 8 other painters, we listened for positive squeaks, and picked up all the golden tricks and tips from davids 30 years in the trade, putting these into practice and taking them to the next level with some simple and incredibly clever burnishing techniques. David also demonstrated some of his roman lettering and copperplate techniques. This was of a particular interest to me as I frequently use styles derived from Roman lettering in my work. David lent me a few of his his own roman and copperplate lettering brushes during the workshop, which was a total revelation, and I’m pleased to say I’ve used them on most jobs since purchasing a set of my own from him at the workshop (complete with custom sign written box, and sticking plaster in case I cut myself on my sharp serifs!) 

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It’s a delight to watch David work, and to hear him speak about his time in the trade. His work ethic and passion for what he does, as well as the value and care with which he treats his clients, and students, is pretty inspiring. 

On the Saturday evening we were lucky enough that our visit coincided with a Paint Jam at Studio Elm in Neukolln, hosted by Jan of Rocket Signs. We rolled down to the studio after packing up at Scriptorium, with David and coursemates Romana, Elena and Anja in tow. Welcomed by a room of friendly faces and white spirit fumes, we were handed a beer and an easel and set to work making friends, learning who was who on instagram (classic routine) and throwing some paint around. It was great to finally put some faces to names, and to have a play with some fun quick layouts and chat about the differences in our clients, jobs and directions on either side of the channel. Interesting stuff, and so great to meet all of the Berlin lot.

Studio Elm is ran by the lovely Juliane, who couldn’t attend the Saturday Paint Jam, but came to see us at David’s workshop on the Monday. We met with Juliane the following evening for some beers near their studio, and again shared stories of sign painting an our respective journeys into the industry. Interestingly Juliane comes from a background in restoration – never heard that one before! As a fellow female who spends a lot of her time working on building sites, we also had some good tales to share! With rain forecast on our last day in Berlin, and the Lettering Museum closed for refurbishment, we explained we were looking for activities for our final day in the city, and how we had hoped we might find a wall to paint together. Immediately Juliane offered us a wall in her studio, and within minutes she had re-arranged her job the next day to lend us a hand with the painting! 

Wednesday started with us helping out Jan with his job, while Juliane prepared the paint and kit for the wall. ‘Superman’ Jan is simultaneously moving house, moving studio and adjusting to being a new dad, so we felt the least we could do was add a few spare pairs of hands to the mammoth job he was working on. 

After this we set to work on the wall, deciding on the wording:

“Sisters, Brothers, Letter Lovers” 

With this as our base, we built up the mural in stages, letting little illustrative elements come out of the phrase, with lettering styles and colours worked out on the spot, all inspired by the kindness and support and generosity felt from our fellow letter lovers on the trip. It’s always such a pleasure to paint with Jake and Chris, after a few occasions working together you get to know each others strengths and temperaments. Fuelled by Clubmate and pizza with a soundtrack of Juliane’s 90’s garage and hip hop playlists, we had a great time rounding this off in time to fly out home that evening. 

Thanks to: David, for your knowledge and time and kindness; Adam at Scriptorium for your host and generosity; Jan & Juliane at Studio Elm for your walls & easels, enthusiasm, and open arms; and to all the fellow sign painters and workshop classmates for the good company – see most of you in London for Letterhead in August! But most of all thanks to Jake and Chris for being the best big brothers and travel companions a gal could wish for. 

Until next time Berlin, Auf Wiedersehen!