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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.


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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.

Look for Gwen's book, "Magnetic Mounting for Art Conservators and Museums",  to be out in 2018.




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