One of the biggest challenges in conservation is when the artists were not thinking about their pieces being loved and collected, and eventually, cleaned and conserved,
and work in mediums that are experimental (as in the case of early acrylics).
Most artists are simply creating, and so in our studio and in modern art museums around the world, conservators are working on pieces that are fragile to treatment.
This is especially true of textile art, which is often exhibited unprotected from the elements — And part of the beauty is leaving it uncovered so that one can get close and see
and even feel (with clean hands) the lovely texture of the piece.
Revisiting our conservation of Ken Ellis’ the Shore Family.
When I saw the images emailed to me they were interesting;
when I saw them in person I was bowled over.
Ellis hand painted his canvases, then embroidered and embellished…
Details in expression were simply lovely, like the eyes on the man above.
Painted canvas and embroidery created subtle expressions and nuances.
I am a huge believer in having artwork where you can love it daily…
BUT do it in an area that is the safest!
My advice is to think about where you put your textile…
away from the kitchen steams and greases, away from wood smoke,
and out of direct light is a good idea, but not always practical.
Before see the dark brown line of the smoke along the top?
Wet cleaning the painted piece.
After cleaning, a good deal of the smoke was lifted!
Our treatment was to clean as best we could a combination of wood smoke,
airborne grease, and steam without damaging the textile.
The Shore family was next to the kitchen for many years,
being loved over meals and coffee and daily activity.
Unfortunately, the addition of grease and steam changed
our ability to completely clean the piece;
we tested each area prior to cleaning to see if the painted dyes moved in that area,
and were able to effect quite a lot of removal of embedded dirt.
Grease from the kitchen settled into edges.
After cleaning the backside.
On the backside, we trimmed the straggling greasy stuffing prior to cleaning,
making it easier, but also removing grease that
when wetted might seep back into the front of the textile.
Finally, we performed minor thread repairs… the easiest and least important part
of the treatment plan as the stitching was in excellent condition.
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