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gold leaf water gilding

What can I learn in these in-person workshops?

A Gold Leaf workshop will teach you the art of reverse signwriting, and are to my knowledge the only place where you can cover ALL of the required disciplines to execute an authentic “Victorian” reverse glass sign.

You will leave the studio with a full palette of almost magical glass recipes, fully equipped to continue and develop this wonderful art form. As well as a beautiful gilded glass sign that you will create on the course.

You can choose to attend as part of a small group of no more than 4 for a beginners (2 day), advanced (4 day) or bespoke 1 to 1 course.

An example of some of the students and their completed artworks who have been on the course.

These gold leaf workshops will include the following processes:

  • Decorative Paint Effects
  • Brilliant Cutting to add details to letter centres and corners of panels.
  • Abalone & Mother of Pearl application
  • Damar Varnish textures
  • Brush blended Shades
  • Gold Leaf blending in oil size and also water size gilding
  • Screen Printing
  • Pictorial painting
  • Glazes and Mica effects
  • Etching in various textures
  • Signwriting
  • Blended shadows both brush and finger blending
  • Stippling
  • Ashaltum Glazes
gold leaf gilding equipment
The skills and techniques that I've learned in Dave's gold leaf workshops have empowered me to go out confidently into the world and craft long lasting, high quality signs. Ever genorous with his time and knowledge, the experience is 100% invaluable!

- Jack Hollands, London, England

An example of some of the students and their completed artworks who have been on the course.

headland hotel

The Headland Hotel which also has Hydro Spa facility.

A true master of his craft! Dave has an incredible depth of knowledge and an amazing skill set. It's rare in this day and age to find someone with such a skill set that crosses multi design disciplines and who's down to earth and willing to share his secrets.It's inspiring to watch his passion for the craft and highly recommend the course! It's a once in a lifetime opportunity

- Will Lynes, Sydney, Australia

Accomodation & Refreshments

Accommodation is not included .

Torquay, like all holiday destinations has some great hotels and Guest houses to choose from, many of which are in walking distance of my studio.

The apartments at The Villa Capri are our neighbours next door to the studios along with a large hotel the other side called The Headland Hotel which also has Hydro Spa facility.

I can also send you a list of many other hotels and guest houses within walking distances.

Lunch will be provided (Please advise in advance of any food allergies) Vegetarian or Vegan option can also be offered. Teas, coffees, cold drinks (and plenty of biscuits!) are offered all day on the class. I will share a list with you of some great places to eat out in the evenings 😉

Support with funding

There is fantastic support from a number of amazing organisations. QEST and the Heritage Crafts supports the training and education of talented and aspiring craftspeople through traditional college courses, vocational training, apprenticeships and one-to-one training with a master craftsperson; helping to support Britain’s cultural heritage and sustain vital skills in traditional and contemporary crafts.

A bit about your tutor

I’m a Signwriter, glass gilder and designer based in Torquay, Devon. I began my Signwriting and lettering career at the age of 15, learning from 3 masters of their trade.

I completed a six year Apprenticeship, which led me to meet many talented people within the Letterhead movement in the USA and around the world.

In 1996 I decided to start teaching my gold leaf workshops to other like-minded artists this unique art form. Over the years and with the advance of the internet, my work was introduced to many people. I have created many gilded glass signs and ephemera vintage designs for high-end clients and my work has been showcased in many newspapers, international magazines and films.

My most recent large piece was the culmination of years of dedication, an ornate set of reverse glass signs and carved frames for the world famous barber shop Ludlow and Blunt based in Brooklyn, USA.

Many other clients large and small followed and to this day I still enjoy lettering onsite at shopfronts and pubs here in Torbay. It was a huge honour in 2019 to be awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth ll.

You can see a list of clients I have worked with and read the full story here.

I feel very privileged to have attended a Dave Smith workshop and learned from the master craftsman himself. An excellent teacher of glass work gilding with a fun sense of humour!

- Paul Walters

Beginners Gold leaf workshop

 3 Day Glass Gilding Workshop (27 hours long) 

During these three days, everything will be made by hand. You will learn the traditional hand brush skills of painting letters in reverse on gold leaf.

You will be making three 300 x 300 mm Victorian glass sign letters and learning many techniques throughout these 3 days.

This course is suitable for any level of artistic ability, from beginner to experienced artist. Class sizes will be small in number to ensure that full attention is given to each student.

We’ll be covering the following processes:

  • Water Gilding (traditional gilding tip and cushion method, other application techniques)
  • Oil Gilding
  • Sign writing in reverse
  • Glass edge scalloping
  • Brush control
  • Gold leaf blending ,water and oil (matt) finishes
  • Colour combinations
  • Mother of Pearl inlays
  • shading
  • blending
  • Screen Printing
  • and more…
  • Glass, mother-of-pearl, paint, gilding tools and brushes will be provided, but if you would prefer to bring your own brushes and gilding tools you are welcome to!

You will be taking home two 300 x 300 mm Victorian glass sign letters.

All Materials including Goldleaf and all gilding and signwriting tools are included on these courses.

Bespoke / 1 to 1 Workshop

Perfect for Corporate Groups

If you would like to do a 1 to 1 session then that can be arranged too, although it is more expensive, these sessions are often beneficial for those who need specific training or guidance.

I also do corporate days, and have created run sessions for various ability levels for likes of Disney & Facebook.

A corporate session I ran with Facebook

Can I do an online course?

Yes, I know how difficult (and expensive) it can be to find the time, travel and learn a new craft over several days so I have created an affordable online class. You can find out about those here.

It is similar to the introductory 2 day workshop, I will be right with you all the way, the videos are filmed in real-time, and include explanations and commentary throughout. In total, you will receive over 50 hours of online gilding tutorials you can come back to time and time again.

From time to time I will do discounts and competitions, if you want to hear about those the best way is to subscribe to my mailing list below.

number 2 two tone effect
High value insights gained that were so much more than expected and have had an immediate impact on my business.

- Scott Martin , Canada

An example of some of the students and their completed artworks who have been on the course.

finished letter H
You're a serious wealth of knowledge and it's amazing that your willing to share it so generously.

- Craig Brown

Help keep the craft alive

Passion. Excitement. Curiosity. Creative pursuits require fearless endeavours.

I am a student of the craft, helping others create new careers for themselves or pass nameless hours for their own joy. I can speak from both camps and continue to devote every waking second to the trade.

From conception to pencil drawing then the endless techniques of glass decoration that I have researched over the last 39 years, I love what I do with a passion.


Frequently Asked Questions

The course is currently competitively priced at £795, much cheaper than the investment to attend an in-person course.

The course is entirely at your own pace, once you have enrolled you can watch and rewatch, taking it a step at a time.

For as long as you want. This one-off payment means the course will be here whenever you need it.

This is an entry-level course that starts with advice on how to set up your workspace, buy the right kit and begin to learn your new trade. We have downloadable templates for designs along the way, you don’t need prior experience, just a willingness to learn and time to hone your skills.

Register your interest today

Upcoming Workshop dates will be published in June 2023

If you want to be among the first to hear about them then drop me a line below.

    By submitting your information you give me permission to hold your information in a secure third-party mailing list and get in touch from time to time regarding in-person workshops.

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