Wednesday: Textile Group Meeting Update–An Afternoon of New Materials, Practice, and Place

Wednesday’s afternoon talks began with Gretchen Guidess who lectured on Finding Support: Reassessing & Developing a New Support System for Original Upholstery. The talk focused on a recent conservation treatment of a slip seat with surviving original under upholstery. Gretchen conserved the slip seat during her second year at the Winterthur/University of Delware Program in Art Conservation. The upholstery dates between 1780-1789, and resided in the Gardiner Mansion on Gardiner’s Island. Due to the original stitching along the under upholstery, the show cover and under layers were conserved for future study. Damages from the removal of previous repairs caused deformation of the under upholstery and tears along the back rail that needed support. Gretchen decided she needed a supportive, transparent material in order to show the under upholstery layers of the seat. She chose Vivak, a co-polyester sheeting, that is cold/heat formable, comes in a variety of thicknesses, can be cut with scissors/saw, and can be shaped with a hair dryer. Please see the following link for more details: null. A user guide can be found in pdf form at Vivak could be shaped using heat to form to all the concave areas of the under upholstery, and the edges of the material were turned down to prevent tearing. The needlework was supported using dyed bobbinet. The support was held in place using c-clips attached to fabric covered Vivak supports. Vivak has also been used to produce clear costume mannequins in Santa Fe. Any further questions about Vivak and the product can be directed to

Ann Frisina, Textile Conservator at the Mennesota Historical Society, gave the second lecture entitled: Not Much Left: Digitally Printing Replacement Upholstery as a Group Effort. Ann focused on the intricacies related to interpreting and representing a piece of upholstery from the James J. Hill House in St. Paul Minnesota. Two wingback chairs were sent to the conservation lab with several layers of secondary upholstery. There was little physical evidence of the original upholstery remaining. The tracking edge of the first chair was analyzed to reveal a late 19th century Jacquard woven cotton warp and wool weft. The second chair had no visible repeat, and was only depicted in an old photograph of the room that was hard to decipher. Consultations with upholstery designers specializing in historical furniture came up with a line rendering of the design that could be repeated in Adobe Photoshop. The image was first depicted in gray scale, and then a limited color palate was added to represent the original upholstery. In order to represent the original upholstery, a digitally printed fabric was produced as a replica fabric for the two wingback chairs. The replica upholstery was printed at L.T.S. in New York on various smooth to textured cotton samples at 7-8 yrd. legnths. In order for the colors to be manipulated for printing, they must be indexed in Adobe Photoshop. Therefore, each color can be manipulated separately. Identification, analysis, and replica reproduction for the original upholstery of these wingback chairs involved a collaboration between many artisans.

The third lecture of the afternoon was given by Catalina Hernandez, Private Practice Conservator in Bogata Columbia, entitled: The Uses of Nonwoven Fabrics in Conservation. Catalina began her investigations of nonwoven materials as part of her dissertation at The Textile Conservation Center in the UK. During an archaeological materials conservation project at the Gold Museum in Bogata, Columia, she continued to investigate alternatives to Tyvek and Acid Free tissue, due to such a limited budget for the project. While Tyvek and Acid Free tissue are commonly used in the U.S. and Europe, they are very expensive and hard to order in Columbia and other Latin American Countries. Catalina compared four readily available, cost-effective, nonwoven fabrics available in Bogata. Two nonwoven fabrics, generally used as car covers, were Kimberly-Clark Block-It 380 and Dustop Soft as Flannel car Cover. The other two nonwoven fabrics were Bonlam 90B4 all purpose fabric and Bonlam all purpose fabric available from Polymer Group International. All fabrics were very light, but the Bonlam nonwovens were breathable with a high tensile stragnth. Bonlam 90B4 proved to be the best alternative to Gore-Tex. It could be used in humdification, solvent, and adhesive application treatments. During the chemical resistance testing, the pH of the fibers in Bonlam 90B4 is not affected by exposure to chemicals. The car cover fabrics were too light, let liquid water in, grabby, and shrank during the lint production test. While all the fabrics were too light for some conservation treatments, Bonlam 90B4 all purpose fabric proved to be a successful alternative to Tyvek and Gore-Tex as a breathable nonwoven material.

After the afternoon coffee break, Allison McCloskey, Assistant Conservator at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, gave a lecture entitled: Revisiting Treatment of 12th Century Mongolian Deels. Allison assessed the conservation treatment of three 12th c. deels (traditional Mongolian cloaks) that were unearthed in an archaeological dig by the Center for Cultural Heritage of Mongolia. Allison, and fellow conservator Cynthia Luk traveled to the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar as part of a bilateral exchange funded by a Trust for Mutual Understanding. The Deels were originally treated an isopropyl alcohol bath of 70% ethanol and 30% distilled water to address the soling and microbial activity. After the initial immersion, an aqueous cleaning was carried out with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo to separate the Deels. They were dried under glass weights to prevent distortion and creasing. Once dry, the Deels were stitched to a padded board support. Narrow fabric wrapped piping was inserted between any areas of folded edge to prevent creasing. Nylon net was stitched over the surface for additional support. The conservators analyzed the deterioration of the sericin coating on the Talas hair silk fibers by using SEM and FTIR on the Deels. Mass Spectrometry and Gas Chromatography were used to detect detergent residue remaining after the previous wet cleaning treatment. After analysis, it was decided thatno harmful residue remained after wet cleaning that would require further cleaning treatments on the Mongolian Deels.

The final talk of the afternoon was given by Patricia Ewer entitled: Cultural Exchange Programs: Sharing Conservation Information in Azerbaijan. Patricia, a Textile Objects Conservator in Mound, Minnesota, discussed the details of her trip to Azerbaijan to visit their museum and conservation department. The trip was funded by the Fund for Arts & Culture, with an emphasis to share ideas and practices. An initial objective for her trip was to meet find an individual to offer an museum conservation internship in the U.S. While preparing for her trip she researched travel to Azerbaijan, and was presented with very limited literature. Patricia also reviewed literature and communicated with other conservators such as Mika Takami, Julia Brennan, and Frances Lennard, who have all traveled to foreign countries to carry out conservation lectures. Once arriving in Azerbaijan, and meeting the individual museum workers, she realized the intense desire, craftsmanship, and interest among the community to preserve their cultural history. They had a team for textile analysis and fabric re-weavers carrying out treatments on a variety of carpets. After her visit, Patricia proposed an alternative to picking one individual from Azerbaijan returning for an internship in the U.S. She suggested a team of conservators for the U.S. travel back to Azerbaijan and collaborate with the museum workers for a longer period of time.

This concluded the textile group lectures on Wednesday afternoon. The textile group business meeting was carried out after the talks.