The thing I love most about our business is that you never know
what is going to roll into our studio for treatment!
Earlier this year, a new client sent the images below,
along with the image of his aunt above,
asking us if we could help him with the family circus ball.
Yes, that’s right, a circus ball!
His family has many circus performers (the family business)
and this is one of the surviving
circus balls. This ball, shown top (the smaller ball in a photo still of his aunt with her props) was used as a balancing ball in circus acts.
The problem was another family member had the ball in her possession temporarily and decided to strip in order to paint it,
with the idea of letting her
children learn to use it.
She used chemical strippers, a huge problem with antique wood.
The damage done to the ball with strippers has ensured that
this antique now needs to be retired from future performances.
(This is where many readers will start crying, knowing what stripping does to old wood.)
The stripping chemicals had indeed done their work on the old wood, opening the old grain and lifted and separated the wood, which prior to this chemical strip was appears to have been in good condition. Had it been brought to us we would not have stripped it!
IF we had to strip it then we would have either done it through gentle sanding
(no electric sanders) or through a different kind of gentle chemical strip.
NEVER ever ever use what you find at the hardware store to strip an antique!
Our job is to repair the lifting wood as much as possible
(thankfully our client no longer intends the ball be used)
and then paint it in its original colors, which are silver and brilliant blue.
We will repair using a combination of possibilities,
including hide glue and possibly museum approved compounds.
I am sorry the family member stripped it, and I am happy to be repairing and restoring it. The ball is an engineering feat — blocks layered and connected with metal fasteners.
So this is the next project that we will blog about —
stay tuned for more images of the engineering of this wonderful object and our process!
(Special thanks to our client who allowed us to document his family circus ball!
Maybe we can coax him to share his family story with us!)
For our next installment, click here.
©MPF Conservation. May be printed for your own use.
May be reposted if our url + copyright is used as reference.
My Great Grandfather owned and operated a small circus by the name of The Great Southern Shows. My Great Grandmother was a part of the acts also. They in turn handed the business over to my Grandfather who performed (with many of his children) in many small circus companies around the United States. I have many pictures with the acts that they performed. At a young age my Father taught me how to walk on the ball, but age and a lack of practice has now taken that away from me.
Jim I am so happy you decided to write. As we get going on this images will be posted here!