An exchange with a gilder at the age of 16 made Barbara Oberlerchner-Nemec fall for 'her' profession. She created her own recipe for success by looking for apprenticeships and moving to the baroque capital of Vienna to seek the advice of masters. She quickly abandoned art history courses in favour of working for several gilding companies, all the while experimenting with colours and ornamentation techniques in a small workshop with colleagues. Assignments for castles and palaces allowed her to launch her own company in 2006. She collaborates with the Imperial Furniture Collection, dating back to the Empress Maria Theresa, documenting each step, from the chalk base and the mix of pigments to the final polish.Read the full interview
It was a sweltering hot summer day and the gold liquid I had prepared evaporated in the heat halfway through. I had to start all over. It taught me to be persistent.What keeps you motivated?
Each object has a unique story, from restoring a great-grandmother’s trinkets to a monument. In each case, I have to figure out the methods created by masters long before me. Sometimes, like on the foot of a dwarf in the castle of Belvedere, I even find messages they inscribed in their work hundreds of years ago.
Yes, one was a luxury yacht. It was the closest equivalent to embellishing an entire castle back in the old days. We used seven kilos of gold, that is about 80,000 to 90,000 leaves each. We were a team of 15 gilders working on the furnishings, first at the workshop, then spending a month on the boat for the finishing touches.Did you have to develop new techniques for the project?
I worked with a laboratory to develop special varnishes, because of the use and wear on a boat in different weather conditions and the salty air. The most difficult part was creating shiny, rather than matt, finishings on innovative boat materials.