If you’ve ever visited our hat shops, you know that each one
features an elegantly gilded window.
Did you know that the gilded lettering and art on every one of these windows
has been carefully hand-done? By one person?
Bob Gamache (AKA Bob The Gilder) is one of only several dozen artists
in the world who are skilled in the centuries-old technique of water gilding –
which is the art of applying genuine 23k gold leaf to surfaces such as wood, stone, metal or glass.
Bob’s story is a good one. It starts the way all good artist stories do:
“I was born with a brush in my hand.”
Even as a child, Bob loved to draw precise lettering and lines.
By the time he was a teenager, he had a small business
painting pinstripes on motorcycles, hand lettering on boats, and
signage on shop windows.
One day, on his way to a job, Bob noticed that one of the silver letters
on the window of the local barbershop was peeling off. The barber agreed
to let him touch up the sign, so Bob took out his paint kit right there on the spot.
He finished quickly, then walked outside to inspect his work.
To his surprise, the letter he had painted was gray, while the letters
surrounding it were silver. He was stumped.
He became a man on a mission,
determined to discover the secret of the silver window paint.
His quest led him to several very experienced local gilders.
These guys were “old” (in their 50’s and 60’s).
They didn’t talk to each other about their craft, and they certainly didn’t talk to young Bob.
“I would bother them every day,” Bob laughs,
“but they would never answer my questions. Ever.”
The gilders would paint in secret, covering up windows as they worked.
They would only pass down the details of their craft to family –
back then, the process of gilding was closely guarded.
But Bob was determined. He followed the gilders around,
waiting for scraps of information or clues so he could learn and practice.
Little by little he started to figure it out.
“It’s been a long yet rewarding journey.”
You have to learn by doing.
Nowadays, Bob admits, there are workshops and classes
and people aren’t as secretive anymore.
But it still takes many years to master the skills required to water gild glass.
Some consider this a dying art.
Bob has gilded almost every one of the windows at our 36 shops across the US and Canada.
We’re not sure who is more proud.
“I’ve always been a hat person.”
A good hat is a work of art.
Bob is a true artist, and over the years he has become part of the Goorin Bros. family.
Around here, when you’re family, you get a hat.
We’re glad to introduce The Gilder.