Flag conservation

Flag conservation
Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spicer Art Conservation has gone solar!!

It is true. Spicer Art Conservation is now running on solar power! We are just so excited about this new event. It has been something that we have been working on for several years. There was the perfect southern exposure slop that was calling out for panels; and now it has them.

Solar powered conservation studio, green company, art conservation studio, upstate new york, spicer art conservation
The solar panel installers working hard to place the framework.

At Spicer Art Conservation we have always been energy conscious. In the studio we use many energy saving techniques; using compact fluorescent, and now the newer LED light bulbs, extra thick insulation for the walls, and shades for windows, as well as maintaining the studio environment for the collections in our care to ensure good relative humidity and proper temperatures.

Solar panels provide power to Spicer Art Conservation, an art conservation studio located in upstate New York specializing in textile, objects, paper and upholstery conservation, green company, solar power
The panels are ready to start generating our power.

Spicer Art Conservation has gone green and is now running on solar power, turning on the panels was exciting, we began producing our own power almost immediately.
The moment of turning the panels on.

Now that the solar panels are working, we are able to monitor the amount of energy that is being produced. Spring turns out to be a great time for solar power. The chart below shows several days of sunny exposure. Where there is a dip, it is cloudy, or clouds have moved by.

Solar production chart gives a daily output of power produced.

Gwen Spicer is a conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper.  To contact Gwen, please visit her website or send an email.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Textile mounts of unusual sizes

Cultural heritage just does not come in regular sizes.

This fact can be both frustrating and interesting, especially when it comes to the mounting and display of artifacts, particularly textiles. In our modern mechanical world our lives are filled with things in pre-determined sizes and shapes; clothing comes in systematic sizes, small, medium and large, etc. Our houses are typically built in Colonial, Cape Cod, ranch (traditional, raised or split) or other blueprint with specified characteristics. But this not so for the artifacts that tell our stories. And so, mounts and storage spaces are all dictated by the unique and often non-conforming sizes of our collections.

A recent project at SAC is such an example. It is a most unusually embroidered artifact. I am not even sure if it should be singularly characterized as a sampler, or better described as a trade-persons portfolio providing examples of their handwork. Regardless of it's original purpose, it is clearly representative of a skilled needle person. We do not know if the creator is a man or woman as the artifact is signed at one end with an initial and last name and a date of 1857.

Textile conservation of Berlin work sampler featuring Bargello needlework. Conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation custom mounted the unusually sized textile sampler
Here the sampler of Berlin wool work is seen after treatment. It has been mounted and framed using archival materials. The sampler's extra long size can be appreciated, stretching 12 feet, it beautifully showcases each of the 36 unique design panels and the 35 border designs between each panel.

Similar artifacts like the one above exist is several collections, it is likely that these artifacts were produced as a demonstration piece to show skill, and therefore secure work for the embroiderer. To this endeavor, this particular artifact is reinforced and protected for travel. The entire embroidery is backed with a glazed cotton that covers the reverse side, also hiding the reverse or "business side" of the stitches. The glazed cotton backing also protects it, especially while it is rolled during transport. The outer rough edges are covered with green silk ribbon and at each corner is a small bow. The green silk ribbon also provides a nice finishing touch to any presentation.

BEFORE TREATMENT: A close-up of the end of the sampler. Here, the fraying corner can be seen, along with the silk ribbon that covers the edge and creates the corner bows. This particular panel is lovely in that it captures both the needlework as well as the beadwork. 

This artifact is also unusually sized, measuring 146 inches (or just over 12 feet long), yet it is a mere 8 inches wide. It features 36 different and unique embroidery samples. No two pattern designs are alike. And while the outer black wool floral border is consistent around the entire perimeter, each pattern sample is separated by a unique dividing border of a repetitive design stitched in (see image below). While the sample designs include those worked with both glass and metal beads, the style of the vibrant wool colors is unmistakeable, referred to as "Berlin wool work", or just simply, "Berlin work". The panels feature much more than "standard" Berlin work, it also includes a mixture of cross stitches, Blackwork insets, and several Bargello needlework panels (see image below), some panels are embellished with glass and metal steel beads. As well as a mixture of both wool and silk threads. Such an artwork! It begs the question, who was the owner? Who did they present it to? Were they successful at their trade?

One of the several Bargello panels featuring the beautiful
brightly colored wool yarns. Here, two of the dividing
border patterns can be seen as well. 

After it was done being used as a demonstration piece for earning a living, no doubt someone saw the beauty in the piece and it became decoration. Following examination, we learned that it had been mounted previously. Signs of thumb tacks and nails were present along the twelve foot long sides of the embroidery.

The prepared mount was unusual, 150" long and only 9" wide. The owner wanted to have it span the entire upper wall "frieze" area of a room with a high ceiling.  

We are often asked what goes in to creating a mount that is both constructed of materials that are archival, and preferred among conservators, as well as museum professionals to ensure that the mount materials are safe and will not harm the artifacts they hold.

The structure of the mount is multi-layered. At its base is a support which is created from an aluminum honeycomb panel which will not release harmful pollutants, is buffered against acid migration, is not prone to warping, and is light weight (which is a wonderful characteristic when you are creating a large mount that could be tremendously heavy!). Over it is a layer of soft material, typically polyester batting. Then, over that is a mounting fabric, chosen to blend best with the artifact, composed of plain weave long-fibered cotton. The textile is then carefully attached to the mount using fine thread and stitches that follow former or existing stitching so as to not create additional holes (see illustration above). At the perimeter of the mount is the fillet, which creates the space (between the mount and the UV filtering Plexiglas) for the textile to rest. The frame of the mount is constructed of aluminum and is powder coated in any color, but typically black is the color of choice. Smaller mounted items can have a decorative frame placed over the top of the aluminum frame of the mount. The mount is completed with UV filtering Plexiglas. Plexiglas is much lighter than glass and it does not shatter like glass. Depending on the mount, the hanging mechanism is often incorporated into the back (see image below).

The reverse of the mount, with hanging mechanism.

Here at Spicer Art Conservation, we mount a lot of flags and other items that all tend to be closer to being square or a "reasonable rectangle". But to have a mount with this odd proportion is not just unusual, but also fun. The studio's work tables get moved around to accommodate the extra long size and then we begin to think about methods that might be slightly out of the standard. This is all great fun; we welcome and embrace the challenging mount and unusual textiles at SAC.

Textile Conservator, Gwen spicer works to prepare
the mount for the long needlework sampler.
Gwen Spicer is a conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper. To contact Gwen, please visit her website or send an email.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How do I camouflage my magnets?

There is an increasing interest in the use of magnets, both in museums and among the general public. In many museum exhibits it is desirable to make the magnet blend with the artifact being mounted. Conservators and mount makers have used many methods of disguise to achieve this. A magnet or ferromagnetic material can be used and disguised quite easily (For more on what a magnetic system is, read our other posts: http://insidetheconservatorsstudio.blogspot.com/2013/05/ferrous-attraction-and-science-behind.html and http://insidetheconservatorsstudio.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-magnet-is-only-as-strong-as.html). 

The camouflaging method selected is often based on available supplies, expertise, and the experience of the practitioner. Other aspects depend on selecting a substrate similar to the artifact's texture, color, pattern and design. Concern for the durability and the magnet placement depends on the situation. In particular, the magnet's tolerance for being handled multiple times. Also, concern for its proximity to the visitor, especially in the case of patrons who might be susceptible to a magnet's effect (pacemaker wearers, for example).

Useful Tools:
If you must trim any material after it has been attached to the magnet, the use of metal tools like standard metal scissors can be frustrating because your tool and magnet are attracted to each other. Luckily tools made of zirconia (Zr, atomic number 40), like knives, are perfect and will not be attracted to a magnet. These knifes are very sharp and brittle, so great care is needed to prevent them from breaking.

ferromagnetic knives are not a good choice when working with magnets. Choose one of these non-metallic tools instead. Magnet mounts in art conservation with Spicer Art Conservation, Upstate New York
Useful non-metallic tools that won't be attracted to a magnet

Below is a list of various options for camouflaging a magnet:

A layer of paint can be a quick camouflaging method, but it also brings challenges. One, is creation of an uneven application (it can be difficult to apply an even coat on the plated surface of a magnet). Another, is protecting the applied surface. An added protective coating is useful to aid in reducing the potential of chipping. Another option is to "rough" the surface slightly, allowing for a better grip of the paint to the magnet surface.

The painted surface on a magnet will become chipped or marred when opposing sides are quickly snapped together. This often occurs when magnets are removed and stored, or are placed near one another during preparation when ferromagnetic materials are not present. To minimize this problem, ensure that all of the magnets for one project are stored with the poles in the same direction, so that the fragile painted layers repel each other.

This might not be a choice for magnets that are used regularly. However, it can be an easy and quick method for short term needs. To do this, place them on inexpensive plumber’s tape behind silicone Mylar, scrap steel, or a metal filling-system. (see the image below).

Using a layer of adhered paper or Japanese tissue below the paint layer can improve the cohesion. For more about painting magnets go to: http://denverartmuseum.org/article/how-dam-prepared-rare-earth-magnets-installation-oceanic-textiles

storing magnets for use in conservation mounting and museum display. this quick snapping together can damage the magnet and hurt your fingers too. At Spicer Art Conservation we work extensively with magnets to create innovative treatments.
These block magnets are spaced far
enough apart to discourage them from
snapping together quickly.  

An excellent camouflage technique is to use a digital image to duplicate the surface that the magnet covers. Larger flexible magnets are ideal for securing thin artifacts. Several conservators have published the technique, but on-line you can go to the Asian Art Museum's blog (http://www.asianart.org/exhibitions_index/batik-mounts) to read about it. 

A digital print can also be added to the outer surface of any rare-earth magnet (see photo below). 

Camouflaging is created using a long flexible magnet that
is covered with a 1:1 image of the artifact it will secure.

Another approach to disguise the magnet is to apply materials that are the same, or with similar texture, as the artifact that is being supported . The materials are disguised by the color, texture or images in the local area that is being covered, or even the actual embellishment itself (see the decorative element section below). Examples of materials that have been used include Japanese paper, mat board (http://www.conservation-wiki.com/w/index.php?title=Magnet_Mounts), Nomex, fabric (http://spicerart.com/2014/12/17/hunzinger-chair-re-tufted-with-magnets), Tyvek, felt, leather, artificial rawhide, and ultra suede.

When fabric is used, using a sufficiently tight weave-structure to withstand the strength of the magnet is recommended. If the weave-structure is too loose, then the fabric weakens prematurely.  

Gwen Spicer, Textile Conservator and expert in the care of historic flags, furnishings, objects and artifacts. Art restoration and preservation services in New York, the United States, and world-wide.
Creating tufting on a chair seat using magnets. These magnets 
will be covered with the same red show-cover fabric, creating a 
camouflaging of the magnets.
Conservators have cited the magnet itself as the decorative element and hence requires placement above the artifact. The decorative element in this case aids in determining the size and strength of the magnet. If the magnet is replacing a missing element, then the size is predetermined. But the grade can be adjusted to better match the magnetic system.

When a magnet is securing the element to the artifact the magnet needs to have the strength for support. The element can be a range of sizes and shapes, large; and flat or small footprint and tall. A magnet must be selected that will secure the element, while also not damaging the artifact below. 

Read more about disguising magnets as decorative elements at the Asian Art Museums website: http://www.asianart.org/collections/magnet-mounts 

Decorative element secured to a costume using a magnet.
E. Embedding
A successful method of placing rare earth magnets within materials is embedding them properly. Keeping the magnets surrounded by materials aids in their longevity, by lessening the risk of demagnetization from both shock and heat. These embedded magnets or ferromagnetic materials can be placed on top or within an artifact, as well as used as a point fastener, or as continuous pressure on the artifact. 

Any three-dimensional artifact can be easily mounted and supported. The magnet or ferromagnetic material can be embedded and hidden inside. In addition, many of these systems can be reused. The wide selection of materials used are Ethafoam, pillows with batting and a baseboard, materials that are easily carved, and rigid or simple acid-free board.  Read more about creating mounts here:

Magnetic exhibit and display is possible with a variety of applications of a magnetic system. Here, the magnetic system is used within the artifact. The application is fully reversible, will not harm the artifact, and is reusable.
Ferromagnetic material attached 
to an acid-free board inserted 
into the base of a wooden box.

Magnetic systems for mounting and conserving artifacts can be complicated, but with some knowledge, any conservator or mount maker can create a great magnetic system.

The shape of the magnet, whether using a disc or a block, does not affect many of the methods described above. The only exception is cutting a hole into mat board. Here having a block-shaped magnet could be simpler than cutting a round hole, but a drill bit can be used.

At Spicer Art Conservation we are always interested to hear of magnet use success stories. In fact, Gwen Spicer, owner and principal conservator of SAC is busy writing a book about the use of magnets in conservation. The book features examples of successful magnet use by conservators. If you have a story or project you are particularly proud of, and would like to possibly be included with other successful magnet using conservators in the book, please share your own experience of covering and camouflaging magnets. We want to hear!

Gwen Spicer is a conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in the conservation of textiles, objects, and works of art on paper. Ms. Spicer is known for her innovative treatments and mounts using magnets. 

To contact Gwen, visit her website: www.spicerart.com or send her an email: gwen@spicerart.com.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Mold on Pastel Portraits, why it grows and how it can be prevented

by Gwen Spicer and Barbara Owens
At Spicer Art Conservation, we treat many pastel works of art. Commonly they are portraits, but sometimes the occasional landscape or still life appears.

Spicer Art Conservation after treatment photo of pastel portrait painting with mold on surface, mould removal from pastel art work, Spicer Art Conservation, paper conservatorbefore treatment of pastel with mold, mould outbreak on pastel painting, Spicer Art Conservation, paper conservation framing , removal of mold from art

With few exceptions, the treatment of pastels is focused on the removal of surface mold (Above: before treatment close-up of mold damage on left, at right, overall after treatment photo). For many clients the mold present on their artwork is disfiguring and distracts from the enjoyment of the viewer, but it also serves as a "canary in a coal mine" because mold often grows in a perfect environment where temperature, and relative humidity, along with surface debris or dust has formed the perfect habitat for mold to flourish. If mold has bloomed, the environment has supported it, and if mold has bloomed on one artifact it may happen on others. For museum collections this can be of particular concern as collection are housed together, in one room or space. (Keep in mind that mold loves organic materials and we often see it on artifacts composed of wood, leather, feather, etc.)

Edna Millay pastel portrait before treatment and framing, mold on pastel, mould outbreak and removal from surface of pastel art, Spicer Art Conservation, paper conservator
A pastel portrait after it has been removed from its frame.
Here you can see at the lower border edge that the blue pastel
particles had fallen behind the mat.  

Before treatment of pastel portrait with mold outbreak, mould on pastels is very common, removal and treatment by professional art conservator, paper conservation
Closeup image of the mold that has bloomed. 

Spicer Art Conservation, removal treatment of mold on pastel, edna millay, mould on paper
After treatment, the mold has been neutralized and is not
disfiguring. Can it come back? Yes, given the right conditions
of temperature, relative humidity, and light, it could grow again.

removal of mold from pastel by professional art conservator, Spicer Art Conservation, mould on pastel, Edna Millay portrait
After treatment and reframing. Pastels are always framed with
glass because the static charge present on plexiglas will have
an effect on the small loose particles of pastel dust.

The number of pastels with mold present far outnumbers any other works of art on paper with mold present. Why is this? The answer lays much in the inherent nature of pastels. Other colored works of art (whether they are paintings or watercolors) all have some portion of binding material that protect the colored pigment. The more binder, the more protection and the more "stable" the pigment vehicle. The more binder also means the more ability for an art conservator to clean the surface. If a large amount of binder is present, the pigment vehicle (oil paint for instance) is more solid. For more information on pigments and their binders see the information below about paint.

pastel pigment, mold on pastel portraits, paintings drawings, art work
The above is a slide from a lecture given by Carl Plansky of Williamsburg Paint.

Unlike other pigment applications, pastels have almost completely unbounded pigment with the tiniest amount of binder. Mostly the pigment particles simply rest on the surface of the paper. The selection of the paper that some artists use also assists with the adherence of the pastel to the paper, as that there are special rough surfaced papers designed especially for pastels that help to "grab" the pastel particles. But these papers are not always what the artist has used.

George L. Stout of "Monuments Men" fame produced the most effective schematic of illustrating the various types of surfaces and the "tooth" of the media. His illustration, "Classes of Simple Paint Structure" was first produced in Technical Studies Volume VI, 1938, page 231 (Technical Studies later became Studies in Conservation). See below.

George Stout, Simple Paint Structure, Gwen Spicer, Spicer Art Conservation, conservation of paper, textiles and objects, mold on pastel paintings portraits and art

From the illustration above, pastel is classified along with chalk and charcoal as granular and loose. What might be harder to read is the arrows near the center of the page which show that as you move from left to right, the absorption and transmission of light is increasing. If you think of looking at a pastel it appears flat, whereas if you look at an oil painting, or even at acrylic paints with a glazed surface, it has reflective properties and might even be described as shiny.

The presence of binders around pigment particles creates different optical effects, and more or less saturation of color. One of the beauties of pastels is the full situation of the pigment, that it is only the pigment that one sees. It is these exposed pigment particles that become the surface from which the mold grows. According to Kit Gentry, "Mold loves pastel. Dense, fluffy, mineral-rich layers of pastel are basically like potting soil for mold". Well said.

Pastels cannot be easily cleaned for a number of reasons, but especially important to the growth of mold is that dirt is attracted to the rough surface (even when protected by a frame with glass or plexiglas). The dirt then becomes a food source for the mold. The challenge then becomes removing the mold without removing the small particles of pigment which are loosely held to the surface and can easily be dislodged from the surface.

Mold removal from paper, pastel art, mould on art work, conservation of paper, Spicer Art Conservation
Gwen Spicer, principal conservator at Spicer Art Conservation cleaning
mold from the surface of paper. Here the mold is being vacuumed using a
method to capture the mold in a water chamber. Gwen wears gloves, mask
and eye protection. This mold cleaning is a bit different in that the mold
here is growing on the paper board, no pastel is present in this particular
 area of the artwork.

Often mold follows a particular path on the pastel, or is isolated to one pastel color, or one particular area. This odd behavior can probably be explained in that mold follows the source of food, so while you may not be able to see it, the "food" is there. Mold can be fluffy, flat, green, white, blue, etc. the variety of colors shapes and configurations tells us that many species are present, and they are opportunistic.

before treatment of pastel portrait with mold mould growth, paper conservation, professional art conservator
The mold covering this pastel covered the entire
surface, it is more noticeable on the dress of
the subject because of the dark color.

The question of why some older pastels do not have the same number of mold outbreaks has been discussed. Some experts believe that the copper, lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals and elements used in the early production of pastels are what keeps mold at bay on these very old drawing and paintings. Apparently these elements are naturally mold resistant, but of course poisonous to humans, and so are not used in the formulation of pastels the way they were in centuries past (that is not to say that pastels no longer contain hazardous materials).

There are important things to know about mold. There are 1,000's of known mold species. Mold is often dormant, not dead. Mold is omnipresent, therefore you will never be without; mold spores are airborne and therefore are in the air we breathe. Mold species have diverse lifestyles and can vary significantly in their tolerance to temperature and humidity.

We have heard from clients with mold affected pastels who say, "but my house is dry, there is no way mold should grow there". Remember, mold can certainly be kept in check, but it can generally bloom (or re-bloom) if relative humidity increases to 50% or higher, and if temperatures increase above 70   degrees F (this environment most certainly describes anyones home). However, we know that mold grows above 39 degrees F (hence is why food is refrigerated below this temperature) AND we know that mold also grows in our refrigerator which is often below 39 degrees F. The point is that mold is opportunistic and some form of it can grow nearly anywhere under any conditions.

optimal mold growth chart, mould growth on pastels, collections, organics, artwork, professional conservation, conservator Gwen Spicer
The chart above shows the zone for "optimal mold growth" in blue. Also shown is the ideal conditions
for artifacts as well as human comfort zone.

The lesson here for keeping mold away is that pastels must be kept as clean as possible. This might mean reframing a pastel before dirt enters an unsealed frame and therefore before mold even gets the chance to grow. Any torn or broken dust paper at the back of an old frame is an entry point for dirt and debris to find its way into the frame package. Conservators have in the last few years made tremendous progress on methods of framing, creating a sealed archival package around the matted artifact, and then sealing the frame as well. This is really now made possible with truly archival materials. Once created, the sealed package is then secured into the frame (either a new frame or into the original frame). With this method, it is no longer necessary to secure dust papers to the back of the frame (see image below).

conservation framing methods, mold on pastel, mould, sealing of framed package, professional conservation, conservator, art on paper
The sealing of a package of archival mounting materials with conservation
approved sealing tape. This sealed inner package will be placed into a frame
with archival materials, the frame will then be sealed (see image below).

Pastel portrait, painting, drawing, mold on pastel, mould, framing with archival materials, treatment of mold on artwork by conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation
The reverse side of a framed pastel, the pastel is framed with archival materials,
including acid free board and framers tape to seal the edges to prevent debris, dust,
or insects from entering the frame. Inside of the frame is the sealed package of
glazing and the art work (see image above).

Be warned. There are some amazingly frightening suggestions to be found online to offer assistance with getting rid of mold. Including baking your pastel in an oven along with a potato, or spraying it with liquid moth balls, YIKES. A professional art conservator is once again the way to go. Seriously, don't mess around with crazy methods or those which use toxins. Seriously. Lastly, placing a pastel with mold on it in direct sunlight as a method to deter or disable any mold is not a good idea. While it might disable the mold that is susceptible to light, the light damage to the pigment of the pastel are both cumulative and permanent.

For further reading, The Pastel Society of America has an informative website about everything you want to know about pastels. If you own a pre-1800's pastel, Neil Jeffares book, Dictionary of Pastellists Before 1800, talks about everything pastel before the 19th century, including conservation. You can also check out our "Inside the Conservator's Studio" blog posts about Mold in Collections, also our post on Environmental Conditions. Both are informative, but if you have concerns about a pastel and need a conservator to help, please contact us.

Gwen Spicer is a conservator in private practice.  Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper.   To contact Gwen, please visit her website or send an email.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Oriental Print Works" Patriotic Santa, a textile used as a banner and a doll.

We often speak about how artifacts that come into the Spicer Art Conservation studio are completely unique or rare. Additionally we've also commented about how one artifact that has come in for treatment has a relationship to another artifact that we have treated. This happened just a few weeks ago when we treated a pillow case from the Mexican Boarder Service from 1916. We later found out that General George Patton's early military career took place at the Mexican Border. Having recently treated some of General Patton's artifacts, it was interesting connection. (It also seems that "all roads lead to Patton" as this was not the first time we have had a connection to him. Weird.).

We certainly never thought that an 1868 print made by Oriental Print Works of Warwick, Rhode Island would have any relation to George S. Patton. We had treated a printed textile "Patriotic Santa Claus" earlier in 2016. The printed textile was brought to us by a private owner who had this piece in her family for over 100 years. Her textile was heavily stained with liquid tidelines, was heavily creased from being folded while stored and had small holes requiring stabilization. Additionally, the red dye was found to be water soluble, which explained the bleeding of the red edges that was present at the top and bottom. The owner reported that this piece was used as a Christmas decoration and was hung. The textile is listed on other websites as a banner, handkerchief (oversized), scarf, or table cover. The Oriental Print Works produced handkerchiefs and perhaps that is why this textile was classified as such. For our purposes we will refer to it as a textile hanging as that is what our client used it as.

Preservation of textiles, Patriotic Santa Claus from Oriental Print Works, 1868 textile, antique, conservation, textile expert, repair, cleaning, framing, mounting, preservation, stabilization, of historic fabric
Before treatment photo of "Patriotic Santa". The textile had been
exposed to liquid staining and was creased from being folded.

Spicer Art Conservation. The fabric is an antique textile created for the holiday season of 1868. textile conservation, historic antique fabric. Professional textile restoration, preservation, framing and mounting.
After Treatment photo of "Patriotic Santa" textile. The
hanging was brought to Spicer Art Conservation for cleaning,
repair, mounting and framing with archival supplies. 

The textile was designed by Edward Peck, who later used the print for a cut-out "make your own doll" which was printed on a full fabric sheet as craft piece. Patton had this doll among his playthings, and it is included in an exhibit of "Georgie's Dolls" at the Patton Museum of Leadership in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. This type of textile seems to have been a niche manufacturing item for Oriental Print Works; among their other unique textiles are whole cloth quilts, and textiles that featured playing cards.

professional conservation of museum textiles
From the exhibit at the George S. Patton Museum of Leadership in Ft. Knox Kentucky,
"Patriotic Santa" is among the General's favorite childhood toys.

Oriental Print Works only made these items for a short time as the company fell on hard times during the Panic of 1873; the company was sold and changed names several times over the years (as well as its focus on textiles - at some points it specialized in fine fabrics, other times bleaching and dying, and later finishing of fabrics). It finally closed in 1958.

From the Library Company of Philadelphia's digital
collection, a label from the Oriental Print Works.

The "Patriotic Santa" by Oriental Print Works is unique in that Santa is portrayed with an American flag under his arm, a red, white, and blue fan in his hat, and in his hands are toys including a red, white, and blue pinwheel. A "Patriotic Santa" banner is in the collection of the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt Museum and a full uncut santa doll is in the collection of the New York Historical Society and Museum.  Additional items are found in other museum collections.

From the Collection of the Cooper Hewitt, this photo from their
webpage shows the "banner" version of  the Patriotic Santa textile.

From the Collection of the New York Historical Society and Museum,
this photo from their webpage shows the uncut doll textile complete with the
instructions. This is the doll that was made for little George Patton.

We had wondered why a Santa would be portrayed as patriotic at this time. A look at that year in history shows that following the Civil War, 1868 was a year when many of the southern states were being re-admitted to the Union, the 14th amendment was ratified, the first Memorial Day is celebrated (called Decoration Day), Wyoming becomes a US territory, the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson occurs, and Ulysses S. Grant is elected as president.

An illustrated souvenir from Decoration Day, which was first celebrated in 1868.  This day of
remembering and honoring those lost in battle was latter re-named Memorial Day. In post
Civil War America, this was very important as 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died
during the War that was very fresh in the memories of every American.
This image from the United States Library of Congress.

This Patriotic Santa is a lovely representation of 19th century Christmas decorations and how Santa was being portrayed. His image clearly draws on the Clement C. Moore poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas", and several of the illustrations on the banner feature wording that mirrors Moore's words. These textiles are often featured on antique collector websites, in fact, if you would like to read more about this textile, visit the recent editorial written about it on Busy Bee Traders.

We at Spicer Art Conservation wish everyone a peaceful Holiday season and a prosperous 2017!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Printed Pillow Sham and the Mexican Border Service of 1916

by Gwen Spicer, Barbara Owens, and David Fitzjarrald

A client recently brought in a unique heirloom; a printed satin pillow sham with a portrait of a beautiful young woman wearing a sombrero and smoking a cigarette. Colored highlights of red, blue and yellow were painted into the design. Attached to the perimeter was an intricate and wide cotton fringe. Located on the lower proper right corner is "Mexican Border Service, 1916" painted in red. The construction of the pillow sham was quite simple, with one row of machine-stitching that secured all of the layers and the fringe together.

The silk satin had been folded while it was stored and this long-term folding had resulted in several vertical tears that were present across the woman's face.

Before conservation treatment, textile conservation, art conservator, family heirloom repair, cleaning, restoration, preservation, storage and exhibit, Spicer Art Conservation
The 100 year old pillow sham as it arrived at Spicer Art Conservation for stabilization and archival mounting and framing. 

As work began, we began to wonder about the message. What was going on at the Mexican border in 1916? With a bit of investigation, it became apparent that a hundred years ago, there was conflict at the border that included a dictator, southern migration for cheap labor, a revolution, an invasion of the United States by Pancho Villa, and the first taste of combat for a young U.S. Army lieutenant named George S. Patton.

After conservation treatment, textile conservation, art conservator, museum collections and family heirloom repair, cleaning, restoration, preservation, storage and exhibit, Spicer Art Conservation
The pillow sham after treatment. The tears are stabilized, the creases are removed, fringe cleaned and straightened,
and the pillow case is mounted with archival materials and placed in a sealed frame with UV filtering Plexiglas.

This pillow sham was a souvenir for soldiers involved in the Mexican Expedition. In fact, pillow shams have been a popular item for soldier to send home during war or service. This is a more personal type of souvenir, one that was different from embroidered commemorative "trapunto" textiles brought back from the voyage of the "Great White Fleet" in World War I.  

Pancho Villa (1878-1923) was a famed Mexican revolutionary and guerilla leader. 

So why was there a conflict at the Mexican Border in 1916?  Several things were happening; and it starts with the Mexican Revolution.

Pancho Villa may be a familiar name if you know about the Mexican Revolution. Villa joined Francisco Madero's uprising against Mexican President Porfirio Diaz in 1909, and he later became leader of the Division del Norte cavalry, then governor of Chihuahua. According to Wikipedia, trouble between the United States and Pancho Villa had been growing since October of 1915, when the US government officially recognized Villa's rival and former ally Venustiano Carranza as head of Mexico's government. Moreover, the U.S. provided rail transportation through the U.S. from Texas to Arizona for the movement of over 5,000 of Carranza'a forces to fight Villa at the Battle of Aqua Prieta; where Villa's Division del Norte was smashed. Villa felt betrayed and began to attack U.S. nationals and their property.

Villa killed more than 30 Americans in a raid on the U.S.-Mexican border town of Columbus, New Mexico in March of 1916. In response, the U.S. government sent General John J. Pershing and his troops to enter Mexican sovereign territory and capture Villa (Pancho Villa Expedition, later named the Mexican Expedition). Pershing was unsuccessful and Villa proved elusive during an 11-month manhunt.

from 1916, yet seems like it could fit in 2016..."Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it"
1916 cartoon by Clifford K. Berryman, via National Archive Berryman colletion This media is available in the holdings of the
 National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the ARC Identifier (National Archives Identifier) 306154.

But it wasn't just the Revolution that was going on; in fact something larger was on the horizon. The U.S.-Mexico border was a potential location for a German-backed invasion by Mexico. The threat of such an invasion was discovered in January of 1917 when the British intercepted and deciphered the Zimmerman Telegram, discussing Germany's proposal to Mexico to form an alliance with Germany should the U.S. enter World War I. In March of 1917 the contents of the telegram were made public and affirmed by Zimmerman himself. The Mexican Expedition ended when the United States entered World War I (the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917) and Pershing was recalled.

As an interesting side note, who happened to be serving under General Pershing? None other than a young lieutenant George S. Patton. There is a strange coincidence for us here at Spicer Art Conservation as we had recently conserved several items from the collection of the George S. Patton Museum of Leadership. We of course wondered, is there a pillow case among Patton's personal items from his service at the border?

We also discovered that a pillow sham is a common souvenir that was not only sent home to loved ones by service men, but it was also received by them as well. And, it is just as common today as it was one hundred years ago.

Souvenir military pillow cases are textiles that need require preservation to ensure their longevity. Professional textile conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation treats textiles.
Examples of military souvenir pillow cases

At Spicer Art Conservation we conserve historic textiles and artifacts. Whether it is a military uniform, a historic flag or banner, a tablecloth or quilt from your Aunt Sally, or General George Patton's famous Green Hornet Uniform, it is conserved with care and professional exacting standards. Visit our website and check out our textiles page for more about previous projects and artifacts we treat at Spicer Art.
Gwen Spicer is a textile conservator in private practice. Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper. Gwen's innovative treatment and mounting of flags and textiles is unrivaled. To contact her, please visit her website.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to make a longer storage tube for large textiles, especially oversized flags

Rolled storage is a great method for storing oversized textiles, especially large flags. Rolling is a method that precludes the textile from being folded, therefore eliminating fold lines and areas of weakness caused by folding. Oversized textiles, especially very large flags, require special accommodations so that they may be rolled. Since flags and large textiles come in a wide range of sizes, standardizing a rolled storage system can be challenging. First, there must be enough storage space for a large rolled flag to be housed. The second (and maybe biggest) challenge is that the supplies for rolling very large flags and textiles do not exist, they must be created.

This post is about how to create a custom sized/oversized acid-free tube by adding length.  It is not intended to teach about rolling of textiles, however that information can be found in part three of our previous posts about flag storage: "How to Store Your Flag: Part 3 - Rolling".


While I was doing the survey of a large collection of flags at the State Historical Museum of Iowa we found that the standard 8 foot long tube would not accommodate several of the flags; in fact the longest of the tubes needed for Iowa's collection was 16 feet. So what to do? What follows are images and even a video (above) that explains one method to create a lengthened tube. The process of creating that very long tube is demonstrated by Pete Sixbey, conservator and Kay Coats, collection manager, both of the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

textile conservation of historic battle flags and banners by textile conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation Albany New York capital region. oversize flag storage rolled archival tube for textiles
Measuring the cut of tube for the extension and the insert.

Spicer Art Conservation, How to create custom archival tubing to support an oversize textile, flag or banner for museum, private and institutional collections using archival materials and built by a professional textile conservator.
Making the cut.

textile conservation of historic flags and banners. creating storage using archival materials and rolled storage methods to eliminate folding and creasing of textiles. war flags, battle flags, civil war revolutionary war war of 1812, world war 1, world war 2, antique flags
On the table saw, slicing out lengthwise a 1" channel. This width
is basically the distance of the thickness of two walls of the tube

Preservation of historic battle flags and banners, textile conservation, rolled storage for large or oversized textiles and flags, preservation, storage, repair, conservation
The cut out channel. This width of the channel is critical
to insure that the  insert is tight inside both halves of the tube.

creating custom rolled storage tubes for the preservation and care of the historic state battle flag collection of the State of Iowa, with textile expert and professional flag conservator Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation
Now squeezing the insert down to fit inside of the tube.

textile conservator Gwen Spicer works with staff from the State Museum of Iowa to desgn custom made archival tubes to roll the fragile oversized battle flags in the State's collection
A vise-grip and clamp provide pressure on four sides.

Textile Conservator, Gwen Spicer was on-site to assist the State of Iowa with their battle flag collection. Gwen instructed the museum on how to create extended archival tubes to safely store the largest battle flags in a way that allowed them to be free of folds which can be quite damaging to antique materials including silk, cotton or wool flags
Positioning one side of the tube.

Flag conservation, storage, repair, preservation, mounting, presure mounts, display, and collection care by textile conservator Spicer Art Conservation
Fitting the smaller tube inside of the larger. A mallet might be needed. 

Flag conservation, storage, display, mounting, collections, state house historic battle flags and banners, antique textiles repair, preservation, conservation and care.
And now for the other side! Above you can see the sliced tube
fitting inside of two 8 foot tubes, therefore creating a 16 foot tube.

Iowa's larger flags are now rolled using archival materials and can be safely stored until they require conservation treatment or are ready to be prepared for exhibit or mounting.

Happy Flag Day from all of us at Spicer Art Conservation. The preservation and conservation of historic flags and banners is our expertise and it has been out great pleasure to assist institutions, museums, state houses and private collectors with flag collections both great and small.  

Gwen Spicer is a textile conservator in private practice.  Spicer Art Conservation specializes in textile conservation, object conservation, and the conservation of works on paper.  Gwen's innovative treatment and mounting of flags and textiles is unrivaled.   To contact her, please visit her website.