by Christina Janoszka


I don’t think many of us knew what to expect when we signed up for a workshop with Klaus-Peter Schäffel.  The workshop was an addition to our usual workshop programme and sounded intriguing — something about making paints from natural products and using gesso and gold.  I, like 13 other inquisitive members, decided to go along.  We were in for a day of absolute delight!  It was magic and alchemy and I don’t think anyone in the room expected to produce as much work as they did that day.  I can’t begin to cover even a fraction of all the things we learned and heard and saw that day.  What really stood out for me was the quality of the detailed, scientific explanations that Klaus-Peter gave us on the structure of gesso and paints, using minerals and rocks and plants, and how these all interacted with the vellum (and ponce and sandarac) to produce the beautiful effects we desire.

We started off by considering light and shadow by sketching some simple pieces.  We rapidly moved onto preparing a piece of vellum using ‘wet and dry’ sand paper and talking about the uses of ponce and sandarac on vellum and paper.  We were given wonderful handouts to help us prepare an outline for an illuminated letter to draw onto the vellum.  During the course of the day we made our own gesso, applied it to the vellum and gilded the gesso.  We then made our own azurite and malachite colours from natural minerals, applied these to the vellum letter we made earlier and then made sap green from buckthorn berries and carried on painting our illuminated letter.

The only disappointing thing about the day was that we could not carry on tomorrow!!!  Klaus-Peter brought a lot of his own products for us to play and experiment with. His gentle, funny and encouraging method of teaching gave everyone confidence to progress with the making of their own illuminated letter using completely natural products just like they did hundreds of years ago.  I had been to see the excellent ‘Colour – The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts’ exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge only a few days earlier (its on until the end of the year and a must see!!) and this wonderful workshop bought the whole fabulous experience to life for me.  Just brilliant!!

You still have the chance to hear Klaus-Peter talk at the Letter Exchange on Wed 16 November 2016.

Pigment mixing workshop with Klaus-Peter Schäffel
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One thought on “Pigment mixing workshop with Klaus-Peter Schäffel

  • November 15, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Wow Christina this sounds like a fantastic workshop, the colours are amazing.


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