Washington State Flag 8, Mixing Paint

I created test sheets for oil versions of George.
Two coats of shellac seals the paper for the oil paint.
It is nice to use up old shellac which can no longer be used on furniture!

Phthalo Green and Chromium Oxide Green mixed match the green silk.
I want to paint the paper I am doing trials on green, because paints will change considerably when painted on bright white, cream, or the lovely green of the silk.

I also painted a sheet to go behind my mixing tray.  I tore the rectangular sheets so
they created the square on which I would paint George’s face, leaving me test papers.

I am mixing the paints today, and they will completely dry before I venture close
to the historic flag with the sample sheets.  NO chances are taken, ever!
It appears the darker colors will be the ones I want to double-check
against the historic flag, because the darker blues and greens and browns
tend to change radically when a flash hits them, shown above,
and I am mixing against images, not the historic.

A side note: I had a color blind friend who decided that he wanted to please himself in his apartment, instead of having someone else pick paint colors for his friends to see.
I won a bet against my whole tribe of architectural buddies that I could match exactly the hideous salmon pink paint color he painted his kitchen!  This is to say I am fairly confident I will come close in these colors, to blending the right mixes for George.

I have a few zones of color to explore in matching and blending:
coat (collar and body, buttons and epaulets); hair; skin; background, which is a green
that changes over the body of the medallion from a greyed-green to a blue-green.

The collar is a blend of Naples Yellow, moving to a creamier version with the Titanium-Zinc White, and going darker with Raw Sienna, Asphaltum, or Burnt Umber.  I will want to hold up the darker mixtures to double check them against the original flag.
The buttons and epaulets demand brilliance with added Gold Ochre.
(Gold Ochre is the second from the bottom; Yellow Ochre below is too dull.)

The blues were hard to see when looking at the images.
I see the body of the uniform as an Indanthrone or Prussian base,
with Cobalt Blue added to either to mix.  The blue is not one color,
but changes across the uniform as the light and shadow play.

I was prepared to mix George’s skin tones, but Gamblin’s Caucasian Flesh was a
such a good base match from which to mix.  George’s face is a challenge to reproduce, because I am not adept at portraits, and his is full of color!  I am looking it not as if it is a face, but a landscape to reproduce.  For the slight blush or ruddy skin tone it will be Cadmium Red Light or Medium.  Gold Ochre plays into areas around the eyes
and just above the eyebrow.  I played with the d=shadow, adding Asphaltum,
Burnt Umber, and Raw Sienna… none were quite right.  I remembered Robert Gamblin talking about Torrit Grey, and squished all my palette paint leftovers together,
and mixed them into a grey — THAT GREY looks like the right shadow color!

The green background moves from a darkened Phthalo Green (slightly blue)
to Chromium Oxide Green highlighting his face, lifting your eyes up.
The greens chosen to mix (bottom of the blues) are the second, fourth, and fifth —
with a little Naples Yellow thrown in!

George’s hair is not pure white, though he has a good deal of white in it.
I see touches of grey, and Gamblin’s Warm Grey or a blend of Naples Yellow and Titanium-Zinc White.  In shadow at the bottom of the curls is Paynes Grey.

I cannot hope to create an exact replica, but I am attempting to recreate
the painted medallion with the types of strokes and colors and looseness
the original artist used when s/he painted George.

Note: 2 test sheets were created
so the DAR can have one copy.

To begin at the beginning, visit Washington State Flag, 1.

MPFC will be posting from time to time as we make interesting progress to share;
sign-up for posts if you are interesting in following the progress.

Visit our next post, Washington State Flag 9, when published!

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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Washington State Flag 7, Tracings

The Flag Room is staged for the duration of the project.

Black foam-core lines the walls waiting for the silk to be stretched upon.
The silk will be attached to the foam-core for stability.

The center table, currently used to lay the historic flag upon while the tracings
are created, below, will eventually be a work table, and the historic flag, for the time
we are allowed to keep it, will rest on the far table, covered and wrapped as it was delivered to us, with one exception.   The historic flag came to us folded in two places, leaving pressure marks on the face of the flag, a pitfall of not having a
conservator properly pack the flag.  Fortunately, as it was not stored folded for a long time, these were temporary marks and released over a few weeks and with gentle pressure placed across the surface.  We advise against folding in any case, as every time
the historic flag is folded it wears on the old silk and passementerie.
Textiles become brittle as they age even in the best circumstances, and the tiny breaks from folding are often not noticed until they grow to a noticeable tear.

The fold marks brought to our attention the stiffness of the silk, and we wondered if the entire flag was sized, not just the painted medallion. However, without testing that will remain conjecture.  Note the line made, right.  We assume it is a guide line.  Note the color of the silk, imperceptible unless one is searching, on both sides of the line. If only the medallion was sized, the silk would change color in this area.

Before tracing, Mitchell and I made the final decisions on the particulars
of the reproduction, and these, two, are to be laid into the tracings.

1/16-inch clear rigid acrylic is laid upon the historic flag for protection.
(Two persons centered and laid it gently to ensure the safety of the flag.)
This allows us to take overall patterns of the painting and the details,
without risking marking or tearing the flag.

On heavy vellum, the entire tracing is created.
Every detail of the flag was all measured and another set of details photographed.
Along the way, notes are taken of the oddities of the passementerie and the painting.

The first oddity is that the flag itself is not symmetrical.
It ranges from 34.5″ to 35.5 inches wide, and the length slightly droops
(or so it appears, as we are not hanging the flag nor pulling on it.)

The hand-painted letters are all a bit different, one from the next,
which leads us to surmise that a template was not used.
Three different “S” letters: the angled beginnings and ends of the letter are different,
and as most “S” letters will be symmetrical in their circular form, or bottom heavy,
it appears that the “S”in “STATE” (above)
is upside down from a lettering perspective, as it is top heavy!
Four different “E” letters (above): top heavy, bottom heavy, or perfectly even.
I wonder if the same person worked on the flag from start to finish!
The “A” letters are the most alike, above and below.
My inclination is to try to reproduce the anomalies…
It is harder to reproduce anomalies than to simply pick one of each letter to replicate.

The seal and drawing of George, as I am beginning to call him,
on the large tracing is for placement only.

As we are not to have the historic flag in our studio for the duration of the project (WA DES requested it back for storage), every aspect of the passementerie must be noted.  The twisted braid (with eyelets) which was positioned by hand into the floral motif, is not evenly spaced, also evidence that the braid was not created before application, ready to place onto the silk, but hand applied by the seamstress or tailor. I note the center line and spacing of the braid, and in doing so note that the dimensions are variable, and sometimes it is not perpendicular.  While taking these patterns we are creating a final count of yardage for the various types of passementerie.

We also have worked out our various design issues, such as creating a silk loop which the gimp trim applies to, which will make the loops stronger than the historic flag loops.

Our largest pattern, above, outlines the most general items.
Notes cover our sizes.

Finally, there are the tracings for George’s reproduction.
(Sorry for the images; hard to photograph pencil!).
I have several as we are creating studies, then more than one silk set…
I want to make sure we have a good image, and this is the first time I’ve painted on silk.

To begin at the beginning, visit Washington State Flag, 1.

MPFC will be posting from time to time as we make interesting progress to share;
sign-up for posts if you are interesting in following the progress.

Visit our next post, Washington State Flag 8.

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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Washington State Flag: Gamblin Paints

Mary Weisenburger and Dave Bernard in front of the color squares at the new factory.

I might’ve struggled through trail and error and testing
on many phases, but thankfully, we are fortunate to share Portland
as our home base with Gamblin Artist Colors,
home to both the best oil paints and also, home to Gamblin Conservation Colors.

As with the NPS Mason Monterey project, Gamblin saved me money and time
on trial and error, this time offering me advice toward painting on silk.
Dave Bernard helped me choose or validated my choices on several paint colors,
especially as it came to the way the colors are produced,
and how the various ingredients will present on silk over time.
And also, those times when conservators I spoke with discouraged me from the project,
he became my cheering section, saying, “Of course this can be done!”
(He is shown above with Mary Weisenburger, who,  along with Dave,
answered questions on the Silver Circus Ball.  I never work with metallic paints!)

I drove out to pick up our order to their new location.
The new place is giving them a lot more space, and is ordered properly for a
company that knows what it needs to operate!  I went on a tour of the new digs…
which is why you are being given a behind-the-scenes at Gamblin tour.

Lauren and Kaitlin say hey from their new desks!

When I walked in I was so sad that the color swatch wall was gone!
My first visit to Gamblin to discuss the Monterey project, I’d run my hands over the squares, and said,
“This color!  And this color!”
Being able to see the paints large made my initial choices so easy!  Thankfully, they are not gone, but now brighten the wall next to the warehouse entry and the door to Pete Cole’s office (CEO.)  Looking through his door, see that art on the wall?  You will recognize it from the
various swatches on their site.

We started in the farthest corner, which is where boxes and containers  of raw ingredients come into the facility and stored.  The flow chart of the layout makes sense from the raw ingredients entering (farthest) to the shipping area (nearest the offices.)

Mark and Phil are closest to the raw ingredients because they work with them…
Pulling them and measuring the formulas for the paint into the buckets for mixing.

I just missed a batch being mixed by Matt — which I’ve seen before and it is so cool.
(Image right, shamelessly stolen off the Gamblin site.)  Green was the color of the day, appropriate for a day I was picking up the Washington Flag paints.  The raw ingredients are ground over and over on the machine until silky smooth, then loaded into the 5 gallon bucket, center.

When the machine is cleaned between colors,
the white goop on the table, above right, is used, which draws pigment to itself.

Once the paint is mixed, it looks like smooth plastic (phthalo green I believe.)
Tom is lining the tub of green paint up on the tubing machine (my name),
which was bought used from a toothpaste company and modified for paints.
Each 5 gallon tub will make approximately 500 37ml and 125 of the larger 150ml tubes.
Gamblin could do this faster using a mechanized option,
but the downside is that more air is trapped in the tubes during a mechanized fill.
I’ve received tubes of acrylics or watercolors when the air made the contents harden.

Tubes are boxed, and then go into wholesale boxes, ready for shipping.
A look back at the large warehouse with the big fans (we were about to go into a heat wave) and said goodbye to my favorite wall!

To begin at the beginning, visit Washington State Flag, 1.

©MPF Conservation.  May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.

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Labor Day in the Finish Studio

A post from dkatiepowellart… also Kate from MPF Conservation!

Labor Day weekend and we are laborers so we are working…
We have new A/C and I have a new lease on life
in my newly cleaned and reorganized studio!
I sat close to the door and tried to draw the entire room on a break.


I use pencil to lay out perspective but that thing is, something went wrong.
When a drawing is wrong there is little color will do to fix it… but I persevered.
Damn I am a master at perspective but this is not wonky, it is just wrong!

Cropping helped…  On this page it just looks wonky.
The Del Rey table is starting to walk out the door!

I have lots of Mason Monterey and Del Rey Monterey-style in my studio right now.
I took liberties as the desk in red is going to BE Spanish Red,
but now it is an extremely damaged Desert Dust.

Oh gads here is where the rails came off.
Everything is levitating…
Thank goddess this is not so or I’d have broken lovely California tiles….

To hear about classes, follow me on Facebook or
check out my new and improved dkatiepowellart.com and sign up for my newsletter!

“Memory is more indelible than ink.” Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
“I think not….”  Me.

   w16-9-24-pens-color-3-sq    w14-2-sick-buddha-faces-0-sq 

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Mason Monterey Smokey Maple Floral Bedroom Set

We are breaking up the Mason Monterey Smokey Maple Floral Bedroom Set circa 1932 and selling it by the piece.  Mason Monterey highly decorated and desirable floral pattern had one owner.  The set is in good condition, with little damage as described below.
(We are quite picky.)   All are in excellent condition structurally.  The original finish is lovely, as it should be, distressed but good. MPF Conservation performed slight touchup on knobs, center of the bed back where the owner laid against it.
Monterey name brand and horseshoe are on back.

We are breaking apart the set which means you can fill out your collection
as you need.  IF you are interested or want to make an offer on the entire set
(if still intact) contact Kate dbdcat @ aol.com (remove spaces).

Other pieces as we have them can be found here.

Wall Mounted Mirror

Mirror is in good condition with the original mirror intact.
Original paint, no touchup.  Can ship.

$1450.00 plus shipping.

4-drawer Highboy Dresser

Dresser is in excellent structural condition;
original paint in nearly flawless Smokey Maple.
Knobs are original paint color, one touched up.
Drawer skids are in good condition.
37 x 18-inches.

$1995 plus shipping.

Desk with Drawer

Desk with Drawer Desk is in excellent structural condition,
with original paint in nearly flawless Smokey Maple.
Knobs are original paint color, one touched up.
Drawer skids are in good condition.
37 x 18-inches.

$1350 plus shipping

Twin Bed

Sturdy, all parts original.  Side support needs to be attached and we can do this for you ($50) or you can do it yourself.  Original paint in nearly flawless Smokey Maple.  Some touchup on the inside back where the head rested and one of the flowers on the stile.

$400.00 plus shipping.

We accept cash, check, money order or PayPal;
PayPal is charged an additional 2.9% processing fee
(what they charge us) which is $29 per $1000.
Local delivery negotiated or you can pick it up;
Delivery out of the Portland area to be determined.
Contact us for further information or to place order: dbdcat @ aol.com (remove spaces).

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How to Talk to an Artisan or Contractor

*this teaching moment applies to many types of situations…
nothing here intened to be derogatory — just silly sweeping generalizations and fiction!*

You have a lovely valuable antique (above) worth $5000 that needs work.
Here are several scenarios and what it may get you, especially with people who are not seasoned in the business and know to qualify whether you know what you are asking for:

To an ingénu who does not know to qualify:
“Hello, I have a cabinet that needs refinishing.”
“I’m sorry, we don’t refinish furniture.
I recommend you call Joe’s Strip-N-Dip Studio.”

*now you will be taking your lovely antique to someone who may strip and dip it and ruin the finish, patina, ruin the veneers or permanently alter/ruin the structure*

To Joe’s Strip-N-Dip Studio refinisher:
“Hello, I have a cabinet that needs refinishing.”
“How long will it take?  Can I drop it by today?”
“Anytime.  It will take about two weeks.”
*now you will be taking your lovely antique to someone who will strip-and-dip it
and devalue the historical and monetary value and possibly ruins the veneer or structure… understand not all refinishers are cavalier and many do not dip-and-strip (pan stripping) and many understand the value of an original finish… we know such refinishers, they know when not to touch an antique, and are very good…
and you don’t just drop it off and have it in two weeks.
they are busy because they are GOOD.*

To a seasoned conservator who knows you may not know what you need:
“Hello, I have a cabinet that needs refinishing.”
“I’m Mitchell; may I have your name?”
“Joe Bloe.”
“Can I ask you a bit about the piece?”
*mitchell and j.bloe proceed to have a conversation that talks about the cabinet above and mitchell explains that refinishing will ruin the veneer and is unnecessary
and how a conservator like ourselves might handle the situation and now, we’ll ask you to send us an image to begin the process of working together….*

*now you will be taking your lovely antique to someone who knows what it needs*


Think about it.  When you call your doctor you don’t tell them that you need a by-pass.  You tell them you are having chest pains.  You talk about symptoms.

And yet, more often than not, people who call artisans and contractors,
refinishers and conservators will say what their furniture piece needs to have done.
I learned this early on in my time designing for contractors, when a very good cabinetmaker told me that I should draw the elevations and visual details of how I wanted a cabinet to look, and they would provide the working drawings for me if I wanted the best price.  Sometimes architects spend a good amount of time drawing mundane details when in fact the way they tell the cabinetmaker to build the cabinets will double the price and may not even be as well-built as if the cabinetmaker offers their expertise.

So next time, try this:
“Hello, my name is Josephine Iwannadothisright.
I have a valuable heirloom veneered French cabinet that has some issues
(tell them as much as you know about the history/type of object).
I found you in Google under conservators (or however you found them).
Do you do this type of work?”
“Hi Josephine.  Mitchell here.  What issues can you see?
What made you think your cabinet needs treatment?”

“Some wood is lifting on the face.  It also looks like it is bleached or has lost color.
This cabinet has been in my family for a long time and I know it is at least 100 years old.”
“Is it possible for you to take an overall image of the cabinet and also a detail of the issues and send it to us so we can see what we are discussing?”
“Yes.” or “No, I’m bad with a camera.”
*either one of these will result in the next level, a first pass via photo
or a on-site assessment.  from there mitchell will be offering an estimate,
making suggestions for the overall health of the cabinet as mitchell will possibly see issues that j.bloe didn’t see (a door hinge is failing), and our new client will decide what choices s/he wants to make, fully understanding the choices they are making.

Other tips:

  • The specialist you like working with may be the best resource
    in future for recommendations on other items.  Ask them.
  • Don’t assume that a site of artisans or restorers or even museums has vetted their list;
    ask to see examples and check out their resume; ask questions!
  • Good artisans usually are a bit busy, be prepared to wait or make a
    compelling argument/request as to why you need to come first!
  • When it comes to a valuable antique, will often want to come and
    pick it up / deliver it themselves unless it is quite small.

©MPF Conservation
You may republish on a blog if you link back to this post.

Posted in antiques, CAUTIONS, conservation techniques, preservation, reparation, restoration techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

V&A: Moulding a Marcel Breuer Chair Seat

This is fun!  I want to know how they made the mould!

“Standard flat plywood boards cannot be moulded into curved shapes. To form curved plywood, glue is spread over layers of thin, cross-grained veneers which are placed in a mould. Pressure is then applied to hold the veneers together in the desired shape while the glue sets. Depending on the type of glue used, the mould may need to be heated. Once the glue has set and the cross grained veneers have been joined as a single shape, the material becomes plywood.

This film shows a contemporary version of Marcel Breuer’s Short Chair being made at the Isokon Plus workshop, London. A two part (concave and convex) mould is used to form the chair’s seat. Glued, cross-grained veneers are laid between the two parts which are then held together under pressure in a press. Once the glue has set, the seat is removed from the mould, ready for trimming and finishing.”

More on molded plywood on the V&A site!


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