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A DIY Project For Really Lazy People With A Sense Of Humor Who Like Beauty

It’s hard for me to finish projects that involve working with my hands. Because, impatient. Because, bad small motor skills. But perseverance, humor, and community work miracles. Anyone remember the “I want gold leaf for Christmas” idea? No reason you should. How about “I am dreaming of fuchsias?”

Oh how the stars align.

Here we have a garden variety clay pot. I almost said “terracotta,” but apparently it might be “earthenware.” So much terminology.


And here we have one “Speedball Mona Lisa Gold Leaf Kit.” It sat in my closet for 7 months, but never escaped the mental to-do list. Perseverance.


The gold leaf comes in several sheets, interleaved between orange pieces of tissue in a sort of pad. The kit itself comes with glue, sealant, but no brush. Since I now use this to apply tinted moisturizer, or foundation, I nonchalantly sacrificed the tool below to the cause. Would Coco approve? Let’s say yes.


I thought I’d need tweezers to hold the gold leaf, which, to cover an intricate trivet, I might. But I was just gilding one stripe, and I wanted an imperfect look.

Which I got. Here’s how it looked after the first go-round.


I brushed the glue on about 6 inches at a time, starting with a smaller stretch as a test. Turns out fingers make make a great tool for tearing off pieces of gold leaf, despite all breezy fluttering. Also for smudging said pieces onto the glue.

The whole process, gold leaf adhering to my fingers, foundation brush repurposed, my own ineptitude, made me laugh so hard I’m surprised I didn’t knock the pot over.


Turns out the materials are forgiving, you can keep smudging gold leaf until it looks OK.

The contrast of gilt and error.


One unforeseen result, a gold-flecked patio.


It swept up pretty easily. I kind of wanted to gold leaf something else immediately. I’m thinking lampshades.

But it’s fuchsia time!

And so to Annie’s Annuals, an East Bay tradition, about which I knew nothing until @ElizabethJSays (on Twitter) introduced me to @Fuchsiarius, and he in turn introduced me to Annie’s.



Oh this place! It’s huge. The planted displays!


It was difficult not to lose focus, not to start imagining multiple acres with multiple beds, a staff of gardeners and undergardeners. But I came home with, yes, a fuchsia.


Tiny aristocrats. This one is called Mrs. McDowell. Originally thought to be fuchsia gall mite resistant, in fact it is not fully so, but I risked all for the big blossoms. Reader, I planted it.


Along with three coleus, something called a Black-Eyed Susan but not the East Coast sort, and two heuchera with brownish-reddish-purplish foliage.

Although I imagine elegant hues of purple set off by impudent orange-yellow, the plantings don’t look like much at the moment. For now I’m hiding the gold stripe behind other pots, so as to keep it from overwhelming the companion vegetation.


And we wait. Gardening teaches patience, gold leaf forgives what it must. A small bit of fancy in my back yard.


By the way, for real fuchsia doings, take a look at @Fuchsiarius’s blog, Fuchsias In The City.

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36 Responses

  1. I’ll have to check out Annie’s Annuals next time I’m in that neck of the woods. Alden Lane Nursery in Livermore is also fun. Kind of like a plant Disneyland. They have fun workshops there — maybe you could pick up another tricky project.

    1. @Kristina, I guess the East Bay has all the good places because, cheaper land prices? I also want to visit Berkeley Horticulture. I wonder if I could bear to expose my lack of craft discipline to a wider group;).

  2. As you’d imagine I love the gold leaf. I can see another strip, more bold on the lower top lip. I can’t belive you used a Chanel brush for your gold leaf. Truly a less expensive artist’s brush would be fine. Go bold with that gold leaf it looks fab! Great idea you’ve got there. it’s so not Silicon Valley. Love it.

  3. If it makes you feel any better Lisa, I have an unused book of Mediterranean-ish stencils planned for terracotta walls or planters. They have made the nine-year journey from Hong Kong to Chicago to Dallas. I will continue opening the book wistfully and think of a good time to use them.

    The gold stripe is rakish. I like.

  4. Looks good to me. I’m impatient,too. So many good intentions in start.
    But if you got to be perfect in your “real”job,some imperfections may be welcome, it makes balance in life,don’t you think?

  5. Ah… impatience combined with perfectionism makes me a non-planter/weeder/grower. Flowers in our yard are courtesy of my live-in gardener. Love the gold leaf with your terracotta/earthenware.

  6. This post spoke to me; I loved it. I was reminded of the tube of gold-leaf that I bought in 1979 in the UK to repaint a picture frame. The gold-leaf is still OK and I’ll use it on earthenware flower pots as you have done in your lovely pics. Thanks, and good luck with the fuschia.

  7. Chanel and gold leaf…Ooh La La!
    An elegant combo that elevate a humble terra cotta pot.

    Gardening teaches us a LOT about ourselves…
    I’m still a novice green thumb at 60 but seriously it’s such a rewarding hobby.
    Happy to see that you are enjoying it too.

  8. Great results! Pot and fuchsia and accompanying planting season. I’m curious about what the Black-eyed Susan might be. Perhaps you’ll show us photos as the planting season grow into their new home.

    1. Ah, I just googled it, and I see it’s a vine. Haven’t seen it in nurseries here but then I haven’t looked for annuals much, and I guess that’s what it would have to be here….

      1. I am hoping it might twine up the fuchsia. Of course, the fuchsia will have to escape gall mite, and flourish, but I’m OK with risk and annuals in containers. Do you do any containers on the island?

  9. I’m still laughing over the Chanel brush being used to apply glue. As a makeup artist, I have seen women come up with of different ideas for how to use the wrong brush. But I’ve never witnessed a Chanel brush used in this way, Lisa! :-)

  10. My hubby gold leafs as part of his skills as a faux finish artist. He’s done it at The Breakers (hotel) and the Flagler Museum, both in Palm Beach. I asked him about application.

    He said while your choice of a natural bristle is a good one, I have heard that a foam craft brush may be fine. I shot off an email to a gold leaf master who hasn’t yet replied. Personally, I never would have sacrificed my sable Chanel brushes for a craft project but get that going out to buy another natural brush might’ve taken the wind out of your sails. Badger hair is a less expensive choice. They do not actually kill badgers to get the hair. They are caught, the tail hair is harvested and then they’re released to grow more. Badger hair cosmetic brushes can be found on ebay from China but they might take 3 weeks to reach your front door. Sephora may have them too but your best bet is an art supply store.

    The biggest reason the application on the pot may not last bc I didn’t read you state you sealed the porous pot. Not sealing completely is the number 1 reason gold leaf fails. One can also buy marker-sized adhesive pens which are easier to apply on smaller pieces and provide greater control than a brush.

    If my friend, the Gold Leaf master (now retired and in a second career as an interior designer) says anything different or has any shortcuts, I will let you know.

    1. @AJFlamingo, You are so right. I didn’t seal this, either before or after I applied the gold leaf. See, impatient and embracing imperfection. Nothing touches the pot, so I don’t have to worry about friction. That said, if the gold leaf comes off in the rain, I will learn my lesson.

    2. @AJFlamingo, I received an emailed reply from Scott Robertson, the best gold leaf Master in our area. If you wish, I can forward his step-by-step reply he sent me from his vacation. You may want it for a future project. Although you state, nothing will bump against the pot, you are counting on no one but you moving it; it may need to be moved to clean the flooring if you need pressure cleaning at some point in the future. An errant blast of water might ruin it.

  11. For months I’ve been putting off dipping the bottoms of my terracotta pots in paint, but now I may just have to put off gold leafing them instead!

  12. You are so funny! You also make me want to start a project. Or at least finish some I’ve already started. Years ago I thought it might be fun to make jewelry. Well, I bought lots of stuff and creatively made some necklaces, quite pretty. However, one needs to finish the little beasties,I don’t know how to do it. They sit in a closet where I can’t see them mocking me. So, you are not alone.

    1. @Mary anne, The key is to find a way to finish them in 30 minutes or less;). Also, order stuff from Amazon and keep it in a closet for 7 months…

  13. Beautiful! I love that discrete bit of gold-leaf and the marvelous description of your adventure. The corner, pot and plants, seems so full of promise now.

  14. Lisa, you gave me two trips back to my childhood and youth in this post! When I was a small child, we lived in L.A. for a few years, and our back garden included some flowering plants my Southern mother and grandmother called “Columbines.” They must have been fuchsias! I loved them because they looked like tiny dancers and I’m afraid I would often pluck them and play with them like dolls.

    Second memory: as a high school graduation present, my parents took me and a friend on a road trip from Dallas (TX) deep into Mexico. Of course we visited the basilica in Mexico City. Several workers were retouching sections of gold leaf within the cathedral – I imagine that’s an ongoing task. My mother was fascinated and watched the process for several minutes. I remember how the gold leaf seemed to leap from the brush to adhere to the wood. After a bit, one of the men asked my mother if she would like to attach a bit of gold leaf. Of course she accepted his offer, and was delighted to see her bit of foil jump over! They were working on large surfaces, so tiny imperfections were not an issue, but I still remember the look on her face and it still pleases me to think that bit of gold leaf may still be in place.

    1. @Barbara, I love that story about the gold leaf in the cathedral. Gold leaf does “leap” as it attaches. And I imagine they were using real gold leaf – the stuff I used I don’t believe has much actual gold in it.

      Columbines are a different plant than fuchsias – but yes, they also have the look of a dancer. They are some of my favorite flowers. I have one plant in my backyard but it hasn’t bloomed in years. You are reminding me that I ought to see if it needs splitting, or something. The biology name is “aquilegia,” if that makes it easy to google and relive that particular childhood memory.

  15. Went and looked up aquilegia, Lisa. Guess what — the plants in our back yard really weren’t columbines, they really truly were fuschias! (Either that, or we had both and my childhood mind couldn’t tell the difference and/or couldn’t wrap around the word “fuschia.”) But the flowers I remember were like the Mrs. McDowells.

    1. Then they were fuchsias, and someone else called them columbines:). Kind of makes the memory even more evocative…

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