a peek into how our windows were created:
Gary Borremans, one of the two painters in Chicago still creating
hand gilded signs at work before the shop opening
the Union Handmade logotype was inspired by a rubber stamp used years ago
for Leigh's original store Made To Fit. the sign is gilded with platinum
the address on the front door is in keeping with the original painted numbers on the store front
thank you to Union Handmade member Nancy Melvin who graciously donated the painting of the windows. Nancy and her husband Tom own the Thomas Melvin Painting Studio responsible for many of the finer painted murals and signs in and around Chicago
one of Nancy's natural dye baths this one made from red cabbage
one of the simple cotton nightgowns Nancy makes for the store
Nancy and her daughter May at our grand opening
more about the gilding process and Gary Borremans :
The Union Handmade window is a classic hand lettered, gilded sign. Gary Borremans, our sign painter, has done many prominent signs around town; people will be familiar with the several stories tall vertical sign painted on the brick of Lill Street Arts Center, and the nearby cavorting pulcinella on the roof of Spacca Nappoli Pizzeria. 'Classier' businesses always had gilded signs. There is really only one other sign painter who is actively gilding signs in Chicago aside from Gary these days.
What is a hand lettered and gilded sign? First the position of the sign is marked on the glass. Ours has its height at exactly eye level for a pedestrian outside on the sidewalk. The outlines are laid upon the inside of the glass. To make such thin lines Gary combined sign painters Japan colors and silk screener's ink to create a stronger paint. A gelatin sizing consisting of melted gelatin in water solution is painted on the inside of the glass between the black outlines. The next part of the process is quite tricky. Each sheet of metal leaf comes from the manufacturer stacked in a small box and one can not touch the leaf with one's hand because of the oils on ones fingers. Using only static electricity generated by passing the hairs of his brush over the hairs of his own head, Gary would hold the brush just above the leaf and gently 'float' the leaf through the air to position it directly over where it is to sit. Deftly dropping the leaf in place, there is no moving it once it hits the gelatin size., always putting on more leaf than needed in order to cover it completely. Then it is backed with black paint which traps the leaf and creates the mirror effect from the front. The excess leaf is gently washed off. It is backed up one more time with a clear coat for strength which allows one to be able to wash the back side of the windows.
White gold, platinum, palladium and silver were all options for our leaf. Silver tarnishes. We wanted a bright image so we chose the most brightly reflective leaf, platinum. Gary was very excited to use Platinum because it evokes the classic Union Hall signs that are still shining brightly on Union buildings all over town.
Gary has painted with Thomas Melvin Painting Studio for many years. He is a master of the gilded sign. He is also internationally exhibited as a portrait artist specializing in Chicago's Jazz and Blues musicians with several record covers to his credit. People may also be familiar with his fish paintings which hang in Shaw's Crab House on Hubbard St. in Chicago. Tom and Gary gilded the doors at Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, the first commission of architect Louis Sullivan. The doors and the duel domes of that cathedral are gilded with gold.
link to Gary's bio on Thomas Melvin Painting Studio site:
link to Gary's fish paintings:
link to Gary's portraits of Jazz and Blues musicians on record covers: