He's got the Midas touch

Queen Anne resident enjoys 25 years of turning things to gold

After 25 years in the business, Charles Douglas described his life's work as something that followed him: "After a while I thought, 'well I think I'm supposed to do this, to keep it alive.'"
Douglas, a resident of Queen Anne, began his gilding studio over 15 years ago. Although gilding is a very complex and specialized craft he said the simplest definition is that it "is the application of a metal onto another surface."
Gilding has been around since 2500 B.C., however there is an ongoing debate among historians where it was originated. Douglas explained that historically it was practiced in many different countries at the same time, without them knowing the others were working with it.
Originally there were many spiritual reasons for it. "Even today it may not be so spiritual in all contexts," explained Douglas, "but there is a strong mystery to it."
"The interesting thing about this craft," he said, "is that for centuries it was always a very secretive arts and craft practice." Even for Douglas, when he first set out to practice gilding, he remembered it being difficult to find craftsmen to teach him.
However, he said, "I was fortunate to find someone who could start me on the path."
Juri Tassa, whom Douglas considers his mentor, was the first to introduce him to gilding when Douglas was in his early 20s.
He was working at Sacs Fifth Avenue, in New York City, as a corporate director in their merchandising department, when he began apprenticing with Tassa in the company's gilding program.
After moving to Seattle about five years later, he said he was very lucky to begin his own company and have Sacs become his client for the next 10 years.
He said it was also through the formation of the society of gilders, which was started by Bill Adair in Washington that he was able to find his career in gilding. "It tore down a lot of walls of resistance," Douglas said, "and it has encouraged a lot of people to share."
Douglas specializes in Water Gilding, but uses many different techniques for his replications and reproductions. "In order to restore antiques you need to know as much as you can about the various methods that may have been used," he explained.
His clients come to him through his Web site and by word of mouth. Some hope to purchase his products, which include anything from frames to furniture, while others want to refurbish family heirlooms with historic accuracy.
Besides his own gilding work, he has also done a lot of teaching. Douglas described one such demonstration he did in association with the Pacific Science Center's gold exhibit in 1989. "One of the things I like to do in groups of people is gild people's finger nails," Douglas recalls. "I thought it would be fun for the little kids. I was surprised to see that some of the people in line were these big burly men."[[In-content Ad]]