"Daddy Fine Gold", as he was affectionaltely called, did his first paying gold leaf job for a Cadillac dealer in south Los Angeles. Many sign makers knew him through his participation in Letterheads, along with Esoteric Sign Supply—his unique version of a sign supply house. With aid and support of his best friend, Lola Grey, Rick established himself at the top of the craft.
Besides his direct involvement in the sign industry, Rick also established his name and shop as a premier restoration artist, specializing in reverse glass. The challenges involved in faithfully repairing and repainting the rare and non-replaceable glass pieces led him to rediscover long lost techniques and materials. Rick spent unprecedented hours researching the tools, tricks, and techniques of the trades. Many might think he had a degree from an engineering school, or even a degree as a chemist—but he was just Rick.
Rick was big in stature, and equally big in heart and personality. Over the past 18 years, Rick hosted the popular California Conclaves at his shop in Wilmington, CA. Most of his time was spent teaching people the techniques and new materials he had discovered.
Through Rick's unending gift of sharing his knowledge a small group of individuals is helping to keep the art of reverse painted glass signs alive.
After doing a web shearch i happened upon this great article about Rick. It was written by Francisco Vargas March 19,2001 and published in Sign Builder Illustrated June/July 2001 page 103
Francisco Vargas http://www.franciscovargas.com/
In 1848, news had spread like wildfire that GOLD was being found in the California hills! People flocked in from all around the world; most had no knowledge of panning for gold. They just knew that that little yellow colored rock was VALUABLE! They had heard people were becoming RICH just walking by streams, and picking up the shining objects in the riverbeds or by staking a claim! Now here it is February 10, 2001. Just like in the old days when people heard about a gold rush, they flocked in from around the world to be part of this California Conclave. The meet, named the “Sweet Sixteen.” For sixteen years, Rick Glawson and Lola Grey have been hosting this colloquium event. One thing for sure you did not need to bring maps, a mule, picks and shovels to find gold. It was all here. As you arrive to the front entrance to explore the one and only most extraordinary horizontal gold mine in Wilmington, a suburb at the south end of Los Angeles, California. A gold zone one will not forget. Not just a rare gold sign supply location but also a museum of “gold art” and a gallery of more gold displays then one can imagine, you would know you were at the right spot. For most of the invited folks here, I would say at least 87 per cent of the hundred or so people, had a good knowledge of the methods and applications used for gilding gold leaf. Yes, I am talking about masters of the trade. Ones who knows how to convey dynamic impact on a window, thru their process of using the mighty richness and highly shiny noblest metal of them all. For others, they just wanted to hang around the masters, to obtain all the knowledge they could absorb. There were no holdbacks on what could be done. The only limitation was your imagination! As I strolled from one section to another, people were doing lot of different projects. Some had a silk screen production line going. Others preparing for glue chipping, some nipping glass edges, others applying asphaltum, airbrushing, hand painting, engraving, smalting. Some had brought their pieces they started before the meet, and were gilding them with gold leaf. In one room, where all the decorated apothecary jars are lined up on the shelf. Special round wooden holders with grooves cut out, where glass can be mounted in a vertical position, Some of these guys and ladies had on special magnifying glasses mounted on their head, to see how tight they were lettering or painting. One I recall for was for a new sign museum. Rick had just purchased a new toy, she’s named “Big Bertha” it will now work in collaboration with his concepts for new but old time golf leaf processes. A small glass piece 6”x12” titled American Sign Museum. Behind the silk screened image on the glass, is a thin brass sheet that Big Bertha had embossed to give the effect of the glass being embossed. He was telling me restorations, and gold leafing was not exciting as it was years ago, but with Big Bertha in the house now, he was excited again! Big Bertha was already in action, he had made molds for her to press and stamp thin sheets of metals, from brass, copper, tin, aluminum, the list goes on. He has big plans for her, and after seeing the excitement from the men and women, who gave Big Bertha a spin, you know it will be producing some gorgeous pieces of art work.
Rick Glawson, a down to earth, and self taught man and a man of much wisdom had a crowd following him. I looked in the Esoteric supply section and saw Lola, hummmm, I know she’s an interesting lady I’ll ask her a few questions about the history of the Conclave, Esoteric, and Fine Gold Supply. Find out she will be 80, March 25 and she is still going on strong. She learned how to use a computer at the age of 70, which came in handy; especially since some of the sign orders now are done online. They met at a church where she was giving a speech. She became like his second mother. The word Conclave came from Rick, who like many men, who come to a turning point in their life. He felt God had did so much for him that, (around the mid 80’s) he heard the Pope used that name for good people to gather for religious reasons he said “California Conclave” had a good ring to it. She was telling me around the late 70’s. Rick, started as a cabinetmaker, turned sign and billboard painter. He was working out of his apartment living room and garage, ran out of space, so he rented a part of the shop, which is now where the Fine Gold Supply is. Later found out about the Denver Meet around 20 years ago. Came back more excited then a kid in a toy store. This was his first time he had the pleasure to meet Letterheads. Then he decided to make the big step and just do gold leaf. Slowly he started getting more involved into this new trade. Well some of the guys thought it would be nice to come and visit us; we thought it would only be a couple of guys. We hadn’t even planned the event, I didn’t even have the floors swept or anything! Thirty-six people showed up, that was our first Conclave Meet. Carl Rohrs did the first design for the T-Shirts. The next year we over doubled that number. Sad thing was Rick’s father had passed away during the first meet. He left to help his mother. I encouraged them to stay, the folks understood. We still had the meet. Rick was over the next day and we continued. As the meet was over and they were leaving, the folks said we’ll be back next year. From then to now, we have never solicited for anyone to come over; in fact, it’s by invitation only.
How did the sign supply get started? She said, Rick used to read and study everything he could find on gold leafing or things related to the trade. One of his first things he came up with was sliced Abalone and mother of Pearl, then an old trimmer no longer made by Grifhold, He redid one, and the fellows would come in and say I want one of those. Since then he has rediscovered the theory of Angel Gilding, a process which he can spray gold onto glass for reverse mirroring, leaves a seamless effect. He also received an “Acknowledgment of Gratitude” from the 1 Shot Corporation. For his assistance in the successful introduction of “1-Shot” Fast Dry Gold Size. (see photo) On display is the first “official” production can of the product.
Sitting around with the diehards, it is now around 1:30 am I start to ask Rick aka “Fine Daddy Gold” a couple of questions.
SBI What was your childhood like, far as art?
RG As a kid, maybe 10-11 years old, I was tweeked by a 1940’s “Speed Ball Pen” book. With the examples in the back of the book, I used to practiced and practiced then make posters like those that I saw in the book. I couldn’t stand the alphabet posted on the wall in school. So, I used to print, and if the teachers bothered me I would print backwards. I just knew that wasn’t the script I wanted to learn how to master.
SBI After your schooling, what did you do?
RG I did the “green machine” thing went to Korea from 67-69. Went “underground” for a while, then got into cabinetmaking, from that I learned a lot about wood. However, I felt this wasn’t what I really wanted to do.
SBI I can relate to that…I went underground a couple times myself, once in Seattle and in Port Angeles, WA (we both chuckled) Ok, then what happened?
RG Then I got into painting signs, walls, billboards, silk screening, sandblasting, cutting plastic letters, and installations. You name it. Then I saw GOLD LEAF! At night I would go check out the richness of the highly qualified window jobs and study the treatments of how it was done, I so was fascinated by it’s bold shiny luxurious appearance, that it made my hair stand up and it’s still starched!
SBI If you could go back in time, of all the gold leaf specialist you’ve researched, or heard of, who would you say had the biggest influence on you?
RG Actually…hummm, I would say three majors ones. In no order, Rawson and Evans Co. from Chicago, IL they were around early 1880’s-1920’s. Samuel Evans was the craftsman, he was the genius. He patented lot of ways to do glue chip processes and way to make stencils. The head artist there was George W. Bayless. Rawson we know very little of, I think he was the moneyman. Their bread and butter were glue chipping glass panels. Their sign division was comprised of gilders, pictorial artists, they did lot of ornamental, decorative signs and storefronts. Another one, Herrlein and Co. New York. Around 1890-1911. The owners and craftsmen were two guys who I would liked to have met were Emil and Adolph. They did lot of smaller type glass plaques, lot acid etching, gilding techniques, they were and still hands down, the finest creators of gold and silver factories made on glass panels. Other companies could not even come close. Third. John Dawes Manufacturing, Pittsburgh, PA. They did a majority of oval, round and bent glass pieces. Their glue chipping wasn’t so great, but they did lot of silk screening, acid etching, apothecary jars, their design work was impeccable, they had techniques that many could not match.
SBI Are these places still around?
RG No most of them died out in the 1920’s.
SBI When did you think lot of the finer gold signs started to dwindle?
RG I would say around the mid-late 1920’ when the cars started coming out. Before people would walk around or on horses, but when things started moving faster, signs had to be more legible. Prohibition, the Depression, Neon, World War 1 and 2 had lot to do with it too. So it kind of got left behind.
SBI What would you tell someone who is a newcomer and wants to learn this trade?
RG I would tell them, GO FOR IT! It is not a trade that can be learned overnight. It’s not a get rich quick thing. I would encourage people to follow their artistic passions. Have confidence and apply yourself. Right now is the best time to get started in it. Supplies and materials are even made better now then ever. Don’t let anyone misdirect your desires, even if it’s from your own family, or even friends. Lot of people think you only see gold leaf on bank windows, but in everyone one’s town, someone owns the bank, a department store, a big car dealership, Attorneys, Dentist, or a successful business, and they live in the nice side of town, those people love to decorate their homes with unique art work. It’s hard to sell a 4’x8’ plywood sign to them for their billiard room, but once you start into gold glass work, even with words, it now becomes ornamentation, which is part of our heritage. You can move on to glue chipping, sandblasting pieces, etched or divider panels. The list goes on. Those are the ones who will appreciate your work.
SBI So what your saying is now you have to go out and promote yourself .
RG Yes. Just like anything, No one will know what you can do, without seeing something that you have made, and the best way is to show people is to make pieces that can be seen. Either on your own windows or on pieces you have on your own walls. Making small pieces stashed in a box is nice but that leaves the customer to believe it is so valuable it must be hidden. Unless you use these pieces to take and show.
SBI I want to thank you for this interview, it has been a pleasure and was very interesting to speak with you.
RG You’re very welcome and thank you for coming by, next year we’d like to see you again.
I asked some of the folks their feelings of the Conclave. Some there was just no way to hold these gold miners from participating. In no particular order…
Scott Rowan, who had traveled alllllllllll the way from Tokyo, Japan. “It’s fantastic! A fantastic place to learn and be able to try all the wonderful tricks you only see in the magazines, then to see Rick or John Studden in action, it’s unbelievable!
Then there was Bill Sender a twenty year sign veteran, a conclave 10 timer, from San Francisco, CA who rode his Bianchi Road Bike in seven days. Averaging around 70 miles a days. His reply was,” so much talent here, you just learn a lot. I had the time to do it, so I did. No way would I miss it!”
Danny Busselle, Southern CA. even with small tanks strapped to his belt and breathing apparatus hoses coming from his nose, said they couldn’t keep him down and miss the conclave, NO WAY!
John Studden, from England, now living in Los Angeles, a 14 timer, 28 year sign veteran, “I love the old trade and how things are rediscovered, keeping the tradition alive, and sharing the knowledge with others is what this meet is all about.”
Rick Sacks, Mendocino, CA “I think it’s a very hot event! There are a lot of new projects I see going on and love to see his new toys (Big Bertha) to be able to reproduce things that used to be done years ago, combining the old with the new.”
Gary Jensen, of Salt Lake City, UT. “It was a wonderful meet, all my heroes are here, it’s heaven.
Kelli (aka: Marky Post) Miller “I thought it was really cool, wonderful airbrush work going on by Darren Stoltz. I love this meet, this is my fifth, Rick and Lola are wonderful all the people are full of energy! Not a place to miss.”
Harry Malicoat, Fresno, CA. a 10-11 timer. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything. More talent in the show than one can imagine.”
Lorna Ingram, Penryn, CA a six timer, “I love the camaraderie of the sign artist, I love the availability of the materials, and the encouragement of all the people who are doing so many different things.”
Jim Ingram, Penryn, CA. “It’s a battery charge of the year for me! The education you get from Rick Glawson is outstanding; I get to see old friends. It’s always GREAT!”
Cheryl Nordby, Seattle, WA “My thoughts on the conclave are always of anticipation. I can't wait to smell the smell of gold size and one shot. Meet new sign people, and visit with the ones I met the previous year. Rick and Lola always put on a great meet. You can kick back and relax and watch others work, or you can join in and make different projects. Each year there is something new and exciting to see. I am glad I am a part of it each year
Steve Shortreed, Fergus, Canada. Web master of Letterheads.com “I have been wanting to get here for the last 15 years. This is our first time in California. It’s everything I always dreamed of it would be. This shop of Rick’s is probably Letterhead Central if there is a place like that. I love all these antique gold and silver signs. I would say Rick is the foremost expert on gold leaf work.”
Ron Percell, Petaluma, CA “It the best and great educational place to learn new methods. A place where to meet all the superstars, you see in the magazines.
Gary Rhodes, Pollack Pines, Ca “It’s an honor to be here, to know about it. To see the changes, and changes in the shop. Styles change. It’s fabulous. I was here from the first one, and only missed a few.
Doug Bernhardt, Ottawa, Canada. “I wouldn’t miss it. This is my fifth time. I do lot of gold leaf work, for me this is the Ultimate Meet! Every time I come here I learn something new.
Si Allen, La Mirada, Ca “Greatest thing since instant grits! Lets face it Rick and Lola are two of the nicest people, and they put on one hell of a great show, if you want to learn something this is the place if it has to do with gold.
Sherri Kaopio, Orange, CA Precision Board Representative “I love the conclave, I think coming here, it gives Precision Board a very good opportunity to come face to face with the people and product users who we speak to over the phone. The people who don’t know of our product gives us a chance to explain how to use them in their particular applications.
Frank Mason, Jacksonville, OR a 16 timer, a 49 year old sign veteran, the are so many things to learn, it never ends.”
Mike Languein, San Gabriel, CA “I love it, this is my 4th time. I get to meet old friends and meet new ones. I get ideas for lot of my work.
Carol Chapel, Corvallis, OR “I think it a wonderful resource, lot of interaction people who are doing something pretty esoteric. It’s a great thing.
Tom Byrne, West Lake Village, CA “Excellent, it’s always a good show, plenty of technique, talent, well worth the trip.
Larry White, Sunnyvale, CA “The conclave is always a BLAST! I always look forward to come here. You get to stay up late, working on projects, sharing ideas, it’s the place for glass!”
Barbara Shortreed, Fergus Canada, “It was fantastic! Everywhere you look in this shop there is something to see, you find things of so much interest. The people are fantastic, you meet so many people you cannot meet somewhere else.”
Conclave Story written by FranCisco Vargas © March 19, 2001 the unedited version.
This article was published in Sign Builder Illustrated June/July 2001 page 103