Sunday, 10 March 2013

Tortoiseshell Bravura

I know it has been forever since I posted must have thought I had forgotten about you, but I hadn't. I am back and determined to post here more often as we have so many lovely things happening.
Here is a little job I did toward the end of last year that was just a sweet project and I have been meaning to write about it ever since.

It's a long time since I was asked to do a bravura finish. What is a bravura finish you ask, it is one of the rather over the top finishes popular in the 1980's tortoiseshell, malachite, lapis lazuli and other dramatic finishes. It was rather lovely to be invited to do a little tortoiseshell accent recently.
This little accent also had rather a lovely story behind it.

Faux Tortoishell, painted tortoiseshell, faux finish
Tortoiseshell accent
  The client is a theatre director in and had at one time worked at the Mermaid Theatre, sadly no longer here. He had been at that time writing for the theatre and was commissioned to co-write the story that became the musical "Cole" about Cole Porter first performed at the Mermaid. During his research he went to New York and had the opportunity to see Cole Porter's apartment at the Waldorf Astoria. which was designed by the wonderful and inimitable Billy Baldwin.

a momento of the theatre that is no longer there
Billy Baldwin designed a beautiful library for Cole Porter made from tubular brass floor-to-ceiling bookcase-étagères that were set against lacquered faux tortoiseshell walls and Alan adored it, always holding its memory as something he would like to pay tribute to in his own home.

Watercolor of the famous library with brass bookcases designed by Billy Baldwin for Cole Porter, painted by decorator Mark Hampton as seen in Hampton's 1992 book, Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century.

The return to Scotland and a new home to decorate gave him the perfect opportunity and so we set about adding a decorative accent, just to 2 small areas of the drawing room....just enough to give Billy his tribute.

The first stage of the process applied over an alarming yellow

Since the time of the Roman Empire Tortoiseshell has been considered a beautiful luxurious material and well into the 20th Century tortoiseshell was used to make elegant combs and brushes, jewellery boxes, and ornaments but tragically it was made from the Hawksbill Turtle shell and the exploitation of the turtle  for its shell decimated populations and this turtle is now an endangered species. Thankfully, in 1977 the tortoiseshell trade was finally prohibited and the production of new material is banned, although I believe that there is still an illegal trade in the material. So save turtles have painted tortoiseshell!!!

The natural material would normally be made up as a series of small pieces, and on certain projects I would consider painting it as if it was small pieces but decided in this instance that the flow would be spoiled.

A Burst of Baldwin
I think that bravura is back....I hope so!



  1. I had no idea what a Bravura finish is!! It looks beautiful!! Thank you for showing us!!

  2. good to know the technical term! this is beautiful!