In 1730, Edward Allgood invented a varnish that would adhere to metal. After applying the varnish, layers of paint and gilt trim transformed the object into decorative pieces. The varnish, made of coal tar, was brushed on, baked, decorated with colors and sealed to imitate lacquer. The technique, known as japanning, gives tole a special look and place in the history of decorative art. Every country created versions of tole ware. Elaborate cachepots, candelabras urns and occasional tables, trimmed with lion masks and paw feet, became part of well appointed homes on both sides of the Atlantic. Popular background colors, black, red, yellow, green and white were painted with motifs of flowers, birds and gilt trims often derived from fashionable china patterns.

Tole became very popular in 19th century America, when tin sheets were imported from England. Tinsmiths began making accessories that were decorated by professional as well as talented amateur artists. Trays, urns and a variety of objects were adorned with gilt and botanical ornament. American tole also provided an inexpensive source for kitchen utensils and storage cans. Painted in bright colors and gilt lettering, these tins are very collectable. Occasionally, tole painting can also refer to decorating objects other than tin with color and design. Wooden ware often received the same paint process. Today tole provides attractive containers for floral design, interior accents and can be mounted into lamps.

Tole done at the studio seeks to provide a source of decorative tole containers to designers and clients. Using tin forms, wooden bases and a variety of old and new pieces, the studio reproduces the look of American and Continental tole. The distinguishing look is the attention placed in aging the containers. The tole from the past does not have a new appearance. As time passed, surfaces acquired a patina of use. Gilt wore down, exposing the undercoat material. Colors mellowed, interiors darkened and surfaces developed texture and crackled finishes. The tole is designed to reproduce an accessible collection of objects, due to the rarity and cost of the originals. The finishes are done to be compliments to the antiques and other period objects they will be used with. As the tole is a studio product, custom designs are also an option in addition to the traditional colors available.

` Jan K. Wolf