Gold leaf grows on kowhai flower

Last updated 12:00 16/04/2014

GILDED KOWHAI: Angela Kells has taken on the big job of gilding Paul Dibble’s kowhai flower sculpture.

GETTING THERE: The full piece.

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When sculptor Paul Dibble wanted to make a Kiwi icon, he decided to go large - really large and gold.

Dibble's giant kowhai flower is almost 4 metres high and began through a fascination with the flower. "There was something by a New Zealand poet about the gold of the kowhai and it got me thinking that there is not much colour in the New Zealand bush, so gold it was," said Dibble.

Dibble has enlisted the help of gilder Angela Kells from Van Uffelen picture framing, in what is proving to be a huge job.

"I have never done anything this big before and it is a great opportunity - it's definitely different, doing something of this scale" said Kells. "It will take me at least another two days to gild the whole flower."

The process has taken patience and skill. "I learnt in Wellington from a girl who learnt in London. I have been through a set of exams and use it in framing," Kells said.

"When the Dibbles came in and asked the question, I thought it was a great opportunity, an unknown. It's a collective experiment, with a certain amount of knowledge," said Kells.

The gold leaf is 24 carat and at more than $100 for a book of 25 sheets it is not a cheap exercise. Dibble has used the technique before on smaller pieces and said: "It's always an experiment, you wait and see and hope to hell that some of them work out.

"The jury is still out, it looks a bit like a huge Easter egg at the moment. We can dull it down with coloured wax and it will be lacquered to protect it."

The sculpture is to be part of an exhibition at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland along with six other pieces.

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- Manawatu Standard

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