About Michou Bowls

I am frequently asked how or why I had the idea to water-gild African wood carvings.

By lucky chance I learned the art of water-gilding from one of my best friends by ‘quasi remote control’. Pudi (Andrea Crasemann of Hamburg, currently Guildmaster of Hamburg’s Gilder & Restorers Guild) would come to Cape Town every year to visit her parents. And, I would travel to Hamburg every year to visit my husband’s family. Pudi taught me the rudiments of the craft step-by-step during these visits, via many telephone calls and digital communication.

In between the physical lessons, I would practice on the classical motifs and objects: mirror frames, turned lamp bases, console tables and other items that have historically been gilded.

Over more than fifteen years we worked thus. Being a born and bred South African, with the very earth of Africa in the blood of my identity, I wanted to do something in our context…

I struck upon the idea to gild the African bowls sold on roadsides to tourists that visit southern Africa. I was curious to see how I could make it work… The result is the ever transforming art pieces I have developed.

Story Of Michou Bowls

As gold and silver are precious and the process of water-gilding is so precise and complex, gilding has historically been reserved for formal or grand contexts (as in churches, frames for valuable paintings, palaces etc).

I have broken away from this precept by adorning very simply carved, raw wooden objects with the same elaborate gilding. The wooden bowls in themselves are precious. They are part of African history.

The gilded bowls bring Northern Africa and Southern Africa together in the juxtaposition of constructed formality against relatively spontaneous carving work.

Michou Bowls Details

My bowls are hand carved by men from various parts of southern Africa. Jacaranda, Wild Olive and Zimbabwean Teak are used.

I have included Indonesian Teak bowls and large Indian Vessels into my collections to compliment our African bowls. I introduced my reclaimed scaffolding sculptures: collection of boxy open frames.

I use various precious metals: 23,75 carat gold leaf, red gold, platinum-gold, genuine silver leaf or green golds made up of special alloys. I employ the ancient Egyptian water-gilding method: gesso base, bole underground, shot with precious leaf and either burnished to a high polish or treated to remain matt.

At whim I decide which part of a bowl I want to gold- or silver-leaf. Some I additionally paint with casein paint. On some pieces I leave the case in paint dead matt, on some I burnish the paint. Some bowls are oiled or waxed and some are left as raw as the original carver made them.

Each bowl is unique. Each piece requires many hours of labour. There are no shortcuts in water-gilding.

The gold and silver I use is molten, milled, beaten and hand-lifted into booklets, leaf for leaf at 0.000125mm thinness, just as it has been done for thousands of years. I procure all the different golds and the silver I use plus my tools from J G Eytzinger in Schwabach, Southern Germany.

My bowls have no function other than to please the eye. In their imperfection lies their beauty.