Ceremonial documents look much more ceremonial when they are dressed up with color, ornate flowered borders, even touches of gold leaf. If you know of a marriage contract, poem, testimonial or other text that deserves such treatment, get in touch with Barbara Baron. A calligrapher who specializes in illumination and gilding, Baron has immersed herself in medieval manuscripts. It shows in her work. "For the gilded portions, first I lay down a sticky gesso base, instead of the ear wax they used in medieval times," Baron explains. "Then I get the gold leaf to adhere. No one can breathe or open the door while that's going on. When it's dry, there's the laborious process of burnishing without raking all the gold off." Elegant results are still possible without using gold. "You can get very carried away just putting colored boxes around names," says Baron. She has even used her art to embellish such homely sentiments as "Never try to teach a pig to sing--it wastes your time and annoys the pig." No gold leaf for that one. Baron's documents start around $100 for something quite simple. The Hebrew marriage contract pictured above would cost about $650.

Write her at 7608 New Market Drive, Bethesda. Or call 229-8498.