"I've always loved the forgotten crafts," Nathalie Sann says as she puts the finishing touches on a mother-of-pearl pendant she has recently gilded, "the things people don't do anymore because they're time-consuminglike embroidery, gold leaf and pen work."
In her quest to revive traditional decorating techniques, Paris-born Sann, 39, teaches cross-stitching, monogramming and needlepoint in New York City. And she has recently written, with coauthors Véronique Agon and Isabelle Marot-Achillas, La Feuille d'Or: Trésors à faire soi-même (Gold Leaf: Treasures You Can Make Yourself). This glossy coffee-table book provides instructions on how to embellish plates, vases, frames, tablecloths, food, even stiletto heels with gold leaf. The publisher, Minerva, released the book in France in October; an English-language version is in the works.
"Everybody thinks gold leaf is so hard to do," says Sann, who has spent the last few years at the Isabel O'Neil Studio Workshop in Manhattan mastering gilding techniques that date back to Ancient Egypt (roughly 2300 b.c.). "We want to show that it can also be fun, easy and modern." While many of the existing books on gold leaf focus on its role in restoring antiques, La Feuille d'Or suggests original ways to apply the art. In their experiments, for instance, the trio of authors successfully devised a gold-leaf tattoo using gelatin and a touch of food coloring.