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Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Thursday, May 25, 2017

What is Bondina? And how is it different from Reemay or Hollytex?

Visiting another art conservator is always a way to learn new things, but visiting an art conservator on another continent is always an adventure and often unexpected things are discovered. I spent a wonderful time with Carolina De Stefani at the London Metropolitan Archives in London, UK. You may know about Carolina if you have read about her involvement with the "Great Parchment Book Conservation". The reason for my visit to the Archives was to learn their technique of using magnets to flatten parchment. Their experience was broad and extensive, having many volumes of water and smoke damaged books containing pages of parchment.

In the research I have done on the use of magnets and how their use has entered the field of conservation, I have been so amazed by the fact that there were these various conservators, almost in the same year, who began to use magnets to flatten challenging parchment that could not be flattened by the more traditional methods. Each conservator had their challenges, and thus methods that resulted in developing their own techniques. However, each used resources, time allotment, and the tools on hand to solve their immediate issues. From each problem and solution found, we can only gain from their problem solving.

From my visit with Carolina, I also learned about a new material, called Bondina. I learned in my visit to both the Victoria and Albert and British Museum that this is a common material used by conservators in the United Kingdom and has many advantages.

At first impression Bondina seems to be like Hollytex, but then not. I will say it is a wonderful blend, that is somewhere between Hollytex and Reemay. Bondina, like the others, is also a non-woven material made of polyester fibers and comes in different thicknesses. 

Thick Hollytex (71g).  Photo from Conservation-by-Design.

Thinner Hollytex (34g).  Photo from Conservation-by-Design.

Bondina comes in three different weights (30, 71, and 100 grams), each with their beneficial uses. The thinner (30g) version, is very calendared and is not good for washing due to the high level of calendaring. But, it is great for covering surfaces under artifacts. Carolina used it to cover the metal surfaces when flattening the parchments.

Bondina "30" (30g).  Photo from Conservation-by-Design.

Bondina "100" (100g).  Photo from Conservation-by-Design.

The thicker version (photo immediately above), identified as "100", can be hot melted (as most likely the thinner version can be as well). This makes it good for making folders along with Mylar (Melinex). Carolina also uses it for a support with washing, very much like we would use Reemay in the United States.

I brought some Bondina home to the US. Now having samples and being able to really look at them more closely, Bondina really is an interesting "sister" of Hollytex and Reemay. I was pleased to learn that there are distributors here in the US, a google search will point you to them.

Reemay (35g).  Photo from Conservation-by-Design.

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.

Learn more about magnets and their many uses in the new publications Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and Cultural Institutions. Available for purchase at www.spicerart.com/magnetbook.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Great work Historic Woodstock!

It is at times like this that I truly love my job. 

I just returned from a visit to an amazing collection in a museum located in Woodstock, NY. Woodstock is known for many things, but less so for this incredible collection of artists' work consisting of paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture, textiles, photographs, books, manuscripts, film/sound recordings, antique tools, and an extensive archives of all the other arts organizations in the community.  This group had an early connection to the inclusion of artists into the WPA during the New Deal years. The Historical Society of Woodstock was founded in 1929 by a group of artists, writers, academics and local citizens. The Society maintains its link to the community of artists who are still at work in this community.

Over the years I have visited the museum many times. As early as 2008 they had already begun the project of renovating and modernizing their historic structure, the Eames House. At this time, their collection had mostly been moved to a secure location where organization and data recording was done. 

No large project like this is simple or straightforward. Always there are many moving parts. However, this dedicated group sought funding from local groups throughout New York State; NYSCA, Get Set, Ready, Go in 2009; and on the federal level, from the Federal Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) in 2010; and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2016. Each assessment was used as a building block that allowed them to fulfill the promise of earlier recommendations.

I want to share the great work they have done by showing a few before and after images.

Temporary secured space in 2008 and 2017, east view. Now this section is used for town archives.
Temporary secured space in 2008 and 2017, west view. Now used only for painting storage.
 Love these chrome-coated steel wire shelving!
Notice the clip boards hanging on the shelves. From the beginning they were keeping track of collection locations.
In 2008 inventory lists were handwritten and now computer generated in 2017.
One of the very early painting storage that had been used in the Eames House. In 2008, only the wooden racks were present.
The same corner is now used for boxed archival storage (2017).
Eames House storage room in 2008 and 2010. Between the visits the walls were
insulated and painted. Now there are new insulated windows and light blocking shades.

At each visit there was always noticeable progress. 

Eames House, home of the Historic Society of Woodstock, in 2009 and 2017. The
addition positioned in a vulnerable corner provided a handicap bath room and a small kitchen.
 Eames House suffered water damage at this corner due to the sloping of the landscape,
adding to the high humidity levels inside. With the new addition, french drains were installed. 

The CAP was performed with Tilly Architects who gave them great guidance for how to improve the historic building while keeping its integrity. 

The dedicated group who did so much!  What a team.

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.