Melt by Claire Kelsey is out now! Hurray for Gingers Comfort Emporium

She’s in the news with the launch of her much anticipated and amazing ice cream recipe book ‘Melt by Claire Kelsey’, so I thought I’d revisit the decoration of Ginger's Comfort Emporium and show you how I went about it. Happy days…..

Claire and her van offered me a bit of creative comfort and distraction in those first few anxious making months of moving back north, leaving behind old friends and 19 years of living and working in London.

I’d gilded onto furniture and archiectural details but never combined gilding with, or even done any proper sign writing before. I’ve always been a big fan of type, fonts, letterpress printing, signs and the skill of traditional sign writers and I wanted a go. Sign writers are a dying breed, the trade over taken by vinyl signage and digital printed material nowadays. There are a few still around and they should be treasured because once those skills are gone, they’re gone.


I hunted out a chap in Stockport who very kindly let me spend the day with him watching him work in his studio and later in the afternoon actually let me help paint scrolls on a typically ornate traveller’s caravan tucked away in a barn somewhere in the back of beyond in the Lancashire hills.

As you know when learning any technique, practice makes perfect and the more you do the easier and more natural your brush skills and flow become. I was looking forward to getting back to my studio and settling in for a bit.....Hmm, shame that, as all of a sudden Ginger came along! Not to worry, it was my chance to try these things out and a massive thanks to Claire for giving me the opportunity to have a go on a live, fun and proper project..... Brilliant!

Seeing as I was learning on the job everything was probably done the extremely long way round!…..(I'm just saying that in case any pro sign writers are watching…!!) The point I’m making is, you learn and get to use short cuts when you’ve been doing it for years!

However, I knew enough about gilding and gold to know that real 24crt extra thick gold leaf would give a lasting and beautiful shine to the vans logo rather than using metallic paint. Even if it did sound a bit ambitious and a little more expensive doing it this way it would be worth it. Always go for quality that’s what I say!

I drew out the designs and logo, scaled them up on tracing paper and made a cartoon by pricking out holes along the line of the drawing. Using a pounce bag dabbed chalk through the tiny holes to create a accurate tracing of the designs onto the van. Then carefully painted in with the gold size used to stick the gold leaf to the surface. Too much chalk and it pulls a wobbly line when you paint on the gold size…just saying! 'Tis a delicate operation!

Below you can see a slideshow showing the process and stages of how the design goes onto the van and also a few images of initial sketches and colour combinations before starting the real thing.

Not all of Ginger's designs were so painstaking and done in real gold leaf. We used some Ardenbrite in the end for the oversized dots along the top of the van and sign writers enamels were used to paint the other details and drop shadows. 

It was fun and a pleasure! and I wish Claire and Ginger many more miles and scoops of good stuff in the future.