A little girl cuts doll hair and many years later…

They were found in a child’s coffin in an antique store in New Orleans!
They traveled to Oregon; their new owner wanted them treated properly…

The dolls have porcelain heads, arms and legs;
Rhett had a broken leg that was also properly repaired.

Both doll’s clothes needed cleaning, and small rips and
previous poorly executed repairs that needed to be properly sewn.

The dolls were undressed…

Cleaning first.
We were happy when the dark dirt stains lifted from Scarlett’s dress,
particularly, as it was all down her front.

Lace rips, proper closures, hems on pants — all was properly repaired.

We were also particularly happy when her hoop skirt which was twisted into an eight, came back into hoop shape with a bit of TLC… and magic fluids.

We were a bit intimidated by the hair cut on Rhett Butler.
Styling hair is one thing, cleaning hair is one thing, but Rhett had had a baaaaad haircut, and the hair was further filled with an odd hard gloop (highly technical term),
and so we turned to a hair expert, Howard Sutcliffe,
Principal Conservator at River Region Costume and Textile Conservation.
We had heard Howard had a way with puppets and dolls, and sent both dolls off to Howard.  He plied his trade and after explaining that Rhett’s hair was
cut badly on three sides, even a near razor cut up the back (see below),
gave Rhett a not-Rhett cut that looks much better than he started.

Notice Scarlett’s has bangs?  That too, was the child who played with her many years ago.
He removed what appeared to be bird feces from her hair!

On the back of Rhett’s neck is the following notation:
“Rhett Butler
Clark Gable
by Mary Collier

We could find no Mary Collier that was involved with dolls, but did find a Kitty Collier who was involved with dolls — so until further notice that is who we think created these dolls.

In the lobby, waiting to go home….

©MPF Conservation.
Blog posts may be reposted; please link back to mpfconservation.me.

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Washington State Flag, 6, Testing and Our Finalist!

In our last post, I told a story about determining our reproduction protocol.
Now, on to testing products!

Never underestimate the benefits of testing materials.
I am by nature an impatient artist and tend to dive into art materials
and experiment when it is my own art processes, however,
with clients, I read, I test products, and it serves me well.

After we narrowed our silks to proper colors,
we tested Gamblin’s PVA Size on the silk samples stretched
(as the silk will be stretched when Washington is painted) on embroidery hoops.

A word about the search for color, and why we expanded the search to include silk blends.  The silks we found available in the colors needed were often a very light weight,
measured in mommes.**   (See definition below, pronounced moe-me,
though it often sounds like mommy in the USA,
which frankly had me cracking up every time it was said to me.)
We reached out for blends in other natural materials, such as cotton and rayon.
Some of these blends were more expensive than the lovely silk!
By expanding out materials to include blends,
we found sturdy fabrics that suited our requirements.

All of the materials in the running were tested: eight samples.
(Shown above, one of the likely candidates after testing was completed.)
The reasons for the odd pattern to the testing is that I wanted to see how
the PVA buildup effected the fabric, and so noted the manner in which I built up the size:
One coat on half the back, and several coats on the front,
beginning with a full coat covering the entire circle, then half,
then a quarter (three front coats), with dry time in between.

The PVA tests seriously narrowed the field.  Example: the Sunsilk silk sample above
was a candidate, despite the slight texture, but after testing and seeing how the PVA changed the texture dramatically, Sunsilk’s two colors were dropped.

Our final choice for the fabric was a lovely cotton/silk blend from Osbourne & Little.
Two colors work well in both bright light and soft light, shown above and below,
and the fabric has the right sheen for the reproduction to come close to the original flag.

These samples are on their way to our DAR partners,
so they can choose the final color.

Meanwhile, cuts from the dye lots are on their way from England
for our approval to match against the samples in our possession.
Dye lots can vary, and in recent years some have varied quite a lot.
We have both colors on hold for us, pending approval.
MOST companies do not take this long for dye lot samples
but O&L has their own unique way of doing business!

Next, what we are doing while
waiting for fabric to arrive!

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.

**From Wikipedia, the definition of mommes: “…traditionally used to measure silk fabrics, the weight in pounds of a piece of fabric if it were sized 45 inches by 100 yards (1.2 m by 90 m). One momme = 4.340 g/m²; 8 mommes is approximately 1 ounce per square yard or 35 g/m².  The momme is based on the standard width of silk of 45 inches (1.2 m) wide.  The higher the weight in mommes, the more durable the weave, and the more suitable it is for heavy-duty use, and, the heavier the silk, the more opaque it becomes. This can vary even between the same kind of silk. For example, lightweight charmeuse is translucent when used in clothing, but 30-momme charmeuse is opaque.”

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Washington State Flag, 5, Determining How-to

I am adept at painting, and adept at finishes on furniture:
shellac, oil finishes, painted finishes, etc.
As an artist my chosen medium are acrylics and watercolors,
oil on shellacked paper, mixed media, on canvas and paper.
I’ve never painted on a fine fabric such as silk,
and the introduction of a lightweight support is a new experience.

Yet I said, “Why sure I can do that!,” when it came to reproducing the flag
because it is actually easier to reproduce another artist’s work than to
create an original if it is a medium you are unfamiliar with,
and because in our business half our projects every year introduce
us to something we’ve not done before —
Remember the Circus Ball?  How does one paint a round object?!

In an effort to save myself time and materials (or so I thought),
I asked a conservator who paints oils on silks for advice on the best sizing for silk.
I was shocked.  X totally discouraged me from the entire project!
I am not easily discouraged, and WOW, this person was adamant!
I persisted in being heard about my question,
and frankly reiterated to X that a painter painted this flag on silk a century ago…
The more I tried to explain it was a piece that needed to “exactly”
reproduce the historic flag (as much as possible, a note about this later),
and that I wasn’t asking for advice on changing the parameters of the project,
the more I was certain that X was beyond listening.  S/he had an agenda:
“Save time and money, and get it printed by scanning and printing on polyester or silk!
Then they can parade it through the streets, and you can make several, and it will be an actual reproduction of the original, cracks and all — or you can Photoshop it!”
Thanking X for the time taken, I moved on, certain we were on different wavelengths.

In the course of carefully examining the original flag,
I noticed that the silk was not pliable as it should be, but was stiff in peaks and creases.
It is true that when silk degrades it can become hard and brittle,
but this is not brittle as much as it is stiff.
See the ridge above?  The whole flag actually feels stiff to the touch.
I surmise the original painter may have sized the entire flag face!

Everything historically was pointing to using a fish glue or rabbit hide glue as sizing.
I am fine with both glues, but a nagging voice wondered about an easier, modern product.

Which brings us to historical reproductions.
It is often impossible to reproduce a piece accurately.
For instance, furnishings that are new or to be used in public buildings cannot
be painted using prohibited ingredients such as lead based paints.
If you are reproducing a white lead oil paint, you have to move to a different acceptable
white oil paint (which is not necessarily so when restoring a master painting.)

So technique is what I am reproducing, not every material…
Oil paint on silk, possibly a silk blend, and I wondered about modern primers.

Dave Bernard from Gamblin Artist Colors (also a conservation company)
came by to view the flag and to discuss various issues.
We talked about how artists have historically painted on silk,
and he told me of two local artists who paint with oils on silk regularly.
Dave suggested I try Gamblin’s PVA size, a modern product that will work
better than trying to have a consistent thin viscosity in a fish or rabbit skin glue.
We talked about the differences between painting a painting and painting a piece
to be sewn into a flag, and brainstormed about the issues and possible solutions.

Assured with my modified plan, we move into testing!

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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Washington State Flag, 4, “So you say you have contenders…”

A caveat in posting a rant, however humorous.
There are some excellent showrooms,
and we are grateful and support them whenever we can. 
The rant below is a glimpse into what can happen and does happen when two seasoned professionals have to get an exact color fabric, as we are doing on the DAR project,
and have to go beyond our favorite showrooms and work with places near and far. 

There are also amazing fabric companies that have weathered the great recession.
However, the point to this (and there is a point) is if you have
a designer or upholsterer or conservator who tells you that
the fabric sample they showed you a week before which you fell in love with is discontinued or out of stock,
this offers you a glimpse into what can happen in between.

This follows on the post regarding the contenders.

I am going to honestly give you a glimpse of the next steps in the
vetting of green silks with names removed to protect the innocent…
*i could not make this up and be believable*
All I wanted was the wholesale price and in stock quantities on ten samples of silks
that we vetted only two weeks ago…  from a few showrooms!

*it took 3 hours to call the showrooms… truth!*

Mitchell called the X company and gave him the two silk product numbers.
“No such number in our computer.”
Mitchell reiterated that he got it off the Z home site in a color search less than a week ago and to look again… for goodness sake, the two color samples came from their showroom!
*seriously, the showroom stamp is right on the sample*
“No, no such fabric in our showroom, and it is not on my computer.”
Meanwhile I am pulling it up online and there it is, but X said it doesn’t exist.
So I call back and this time I get a different person at company X.
*this man is snotty… he is always snotty!
i really don’t like to order much from them because
i’ve never gotten the memo that to be ultra cool you have to be snotty*
However, I give him the URL I am looking at and explain the situation above.
Again, he can’t see it.
I repeat the URL again.
I then say, “Google Z silk then click green then you will see it.”


*now i really don’t get why he can’t see it if i give him the URL
but can if he googles it so there you are, another cyberspace mystery*

X says he can’t order this fabric and I ask why, explaining I don’t want to spend another hour + the time ordering samples on another fabric sometime for fabric I can’t buy.
*there must be some logic, right?*
X says perhaps we can only get Z fabric in Europe?
*makes no sense to me…*
Why did you have the sample sent from your showroom?

*they hate my logic.*
He will call me back.

*while i am waiting and waiting and getting ready for my next call
  mitchell and i talk about how the USA is a pretty big place with lots of fabric customers.
why is it that
the huge famous fabric company can’t sell all their silk colors in the USA?*
X company calls back and says he does have one of the colors, and gives me
the wholesale price and yardage available, but the other is discontinued.
Oh, and, he may not have 4×4-inch samples of the color for me.
*we need more than one so that other members in the DAR can approve the material.
i unabashedly begin to beg.  i don’t want 45 minutes of my life wasted due to him hoarding memo samples on a viable color after so much looking
(greens are not in style) as we have given many orders over the years
and i am not putting up with this….

pride is pride and i need samples.*

Finally.  Three samples on their way from company X, special order.

Now to the next company for another set of samples.

Next post, testing on the samples we have!

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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Washington State Flag, 3 NEVER Say “No Problem”

A whopping four decades I’ve been in the business
— even though I am ONLY going on fifty 🙂 —
and gads if this hasn’t taught me a huge lesson.

Never, ever, ever tell a client something is going to be easy.

In replicating the flag, we need to obtain two items:
a good replacement for the gold passementerie, and
the green silk for the flag.
I told our clients, the DAR, in passing that the passementerie might be difficult,
but to find the green silk would be easy-peasy.


Mind you, I said this knowing that we have all of Sunsilks many colors
including several gorgeous greens in that range, a foresty-grass-green.  Viridian.
Plus we have a basket of greens from many other houses, because we match solid colors all the time, and saw at least another dozen of THESE EXACT green silks.

Discontinued or only in nubby dupioni!

We had one good choice but after ordering a test sample found it was out of stock and
not discontinued, per se, but just not going to be reordered.

The fabric industry transformed in the last decade into a fairly unpredictable industry.
We no longer ask clients to choose one fabric, but one-two-three,
because even if we just ordered samples,
the fabric might be gone within a short period of time!
Companies do not have lines that are crayola box colorful; they rely on color trends.
*I’m sick of turquoise and brown, and will be just as sick of the next “it” color trend.
Sick of pastels too!*

So the hunt for the right green silk began.  We started again with our top showrooms,
but instead of asking for a particular sample we asked for a range of solid green silks.
We began working our way into smaller and smaller showrooms and fabric companies.
I sent out the image of the five silks above for the color, and we also described the silks:
Not nubby, not too shiny, not a shot silk, preferably 100% silk, substantial,
a shantung or taffeta, and would look at a dupioni if not too textural.

Some of the choices sent I simply don’t understand —
perhaps they went by the name of a fabric, like Dublin?

So here we are, in the midst of SO many greens, and not one that fit.
I have to admit I was giving up and getting discouraged and tearing hair…
then Mitchell said ONE MORE TIME, and a month later…
We also opened the search up to silk + cotton, or silk + linen.

Three inches of stacked rejects… seven dozen green silks…
Three months of calling and visiting showrooms and
sorting and online looking and begging for one last lookaround…

And finally, we have contenders.
We will run our tests, evaluate (and honestly we have three stragglers coming),
order the rest of the duplicates, and then off to the DAR for final review.

Moral of the story, never say it will be easy!

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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Washington State Flag, 2

The historic flag, above hanging on the wall of the Reception Room, a grand ballroom,
is not the flag in its original form, but seen with modifications.
How does that impact the replication process?  The decision has to be made to be authentic or to align with what visitors have seen daily.
We vote for authenticity when possible, and the DAR is in agreement.

Let’s look at examples of what we mean.

Note: Color differences due to varying lighting.

The original flag in its incarnation has been cared for with additions meant to assist in its preservation.  For instance, the loops (original, right), and above, were probably not quite sturdy enough for the amount of use the grand flag was given.  A velvet header was applied across the top later in it’s life; the loops were sewn onto the top of the velvet header.  The header supporting the loops is quite large and not in keeping with the original proportions, but saved the loops.  As we cannot open the original flag to see inside, we do not know how the interfacing attached; it may have pulled on the painted silk and contributed to its cracking over time.

We are recommending the flag be returned to its original design,
above, with reinforced loops which will go unnoticed.

What may be most shocking for most people is discovering the flag was originally a deep green, not the khaki color that everyone is used to seeing!  The color we are looking to as original is only seen in small bits under lose trims, above left.
Although it will be a surprise, we believe it should go back to the original green,
especially because that aligns with the information in the
State Flag Senate Resolution (April 1963) and the DAR NSDAR History.
Washington State, like most states, also outlines the proper parameters for flag replication, and these deeper colors are called for in reproductions.

As we make our final decisions there will be more updates —
I leave you with a bit of history in pictures, below, courtesy of the DAR and the Washington State Archives.  (Note the second image is the back of the first.)

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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Washington State Flag, 1

W16 1 3 WA DAR FLAG 023My rendering of the Historic Flag, above.
Below, the Historic Flag in the State Reception Room.

w14-9-28-wa-des-historic-flag-00013 We begin the process of replicating the Washington State Flag originally
made by the Washington State chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution (hereafter known as the DAR). The flag needs replication so the
original historic flag can be sent into archival storage for preservation and possibly conservation.   DAR members from across the State of Washington raised monies for this and in an age-old tradition, will be gifting the reproduction to their State.

w17-1-wash-dar-orig-flag-17Several parts of replication are in the works.

The silk for the new flag
must be matched from the smallest area of lifted trim, shown right — we cannot simply remove the trim and find a large patch of historic silk which has not faded to the khaki green that many
are used to seeing in the
State Reception Room.

w17-1-wash-dar-orig-flag-34Three types of gold passementerie must be found, shown above:
a looped picot trim;
a woven braid gimp; and,
a knotted tasselled chainette fringe.
It is possible but extremely costly to have them reproduced in small quantities,
however, we will come close.  Searches have begun in upholstery and dress couturier
shops  in the USA and in England, and among military reenactors.

w17-1-wash-dar-orig-flag-28Finally there is the painting of the medallion.

And accurate sketch must be made to scale of the original image.

Panels of silk will be stretched and primed to accept thin layers
of oil paint under the medallion location.

The sketch is transferred onto the silk;
the medallion will be hand-painted in oil by Kate Powell.

After the silk panel is completed, the reproduction banner will be sewn.

Below, the historic flag in our treatment rooms.

w17-1-wash-dar-orig-flag-27MPFC will be posting from time to time as we make interesting progress that can be shared; sign-up for posts if you are interesting in following the progress.

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

Posted in history, Interim Report, musings, News, painted objects, reproduction, textiles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment