No wall or ceiling in the world would ever remain unadorned in Kim Delaney’s skillful hands. The decorative artist has made a life infusing homes with beauty, embellishing bare surfaces with her epic murals, hand-painted wallpaper, Venetian plaster, gilding, bas-relief and trompe l’oeil effects that rival nature. Now, she brings her artful eye to verre églomisé— the technique of engraving reverse gilded glass to create elaborate motifs.
The form’s earliest iterations trace back to late antiquity, becoming a staple of European decorative arts from the Renaissance to the belle epoque. Delaney’s own luminous creations run the gamut, ranging from abstract and atmospheric to intricate and painterly. Think: doors dappled with a golden smoky haze in a contemporary Miami home; tropical banana leaves and butterflies contrasting frosty silver leaf with a 24-carat gold mirror finish for a Palm Beach abode. “It’s just like creating a painting,” the artist muses. “The ideas are endless.”
Though self-taught in églomisé, Delaney long mastered its foundations in oil painting and gilding, having studied both in Paris during her 20s. “With years of experience,” she says, “I’m able to put them together more naturally.”
Each églomisé piece begins by coating the rear façade of glass with metal leaf, juxtaposing white, rose and yellow gold with custom-tinted silver leaf specially ordered from Japan. After sketching the outlines onto the metal, Delaney gingerly etches her design with sharpened wooden skewers she sands down herself—all without scratching the glass. The negative spaces left behind either remain clear or are filled with more metal leaf in different hues. Various applications create diverse textures, from pristine mirror-like effects to burnished finishes using cotton or cotton wool. She also illustrates more detail using oil paint for complex compositions. Layer by layer, the full design emerges—requiring lengthy drying times in between. “It can take months to finally finish a piece,” the artist notes.
Delaney’s beloved pet parrots keep her company during this laborious process in her airy Miami studio, where flecks of silver and gold—the necessary fallout from the etching process—are ever-present. Indeed, everything she does entails a little proverbial fairy dust, turning ubiquitous surfaces into something truly sublime.