had a different radius than the right
arch). Also, all of the pieces would be
removed and re-installed after our
Spanish friends completed their install.
This, too, added complexity. Tip: Take a
complete set of in-place measurements
(a laser is a must), record each element
and location, photographing each piece
as a reference for reinstallation.
I tried to remove the first plaster
capital and it disintegrated. So did the
next one, and the next, and I had only
one more to go. I didn’t dare touch
it. Instead, I relied on my sculpture
background and took a silicone mold
directly off the column onsite, using
my experience, Smooth-On (a mold
and casting supplier), their technical
support, and online videos.
While casting, I discovered yet another major issue: The capital was asymmetrical! By the time I decided to cast
the piece, we had only one left-sided
capital left for our mold. I had to cut
the casting apart, flip it, and re-mold
the corner. The new side didn’t line
up either: It was off by an inch. During
installation, I had to re-carve and mold
corners in place for visual alignment.
You’ve got a friend
With these hiccups and the looming
deadline, I knew I would need help. I
called upon a network of fine woodworkers and artisans to step in and
keep the project on track. Finding the
right craftsmen can be a challenge:
Some work perfectly and too slow, others slam it together in a day with little
understanding of tolerances. Tip: Un-
The author applies gold leaf to one of the ceiling finials using a process that is basically the
same as it was 100 years ago.
It was important to make brand new gold leaf elements appear antique and historic, so after
applying the leaf, a patina and glaze was added to make the bright gold look burnished and aged.