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Textile conservator, Gwen Spicer of Spicer Art Conservation at work

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Embroidered Danish Heritage

Our intern, Olivia Frechette, shares her insights on a recent project.

Spicer Art Conservation, LLC recently received an intriguing and pretty cool counted cross stitch embroidery for treatment. An embroidered map of Funen County in Denmark (made up of Funen, Langeland, Æro, Tåsinge, and accompanying smaller islands) was handmade by a client's grandmother in 1959. It is clear she was a skilled embroiderer. The map has spent most of its life inlaid into a table top. While the map is looking great for 62 years old, it has been taken out of its table-home for a bit of care before both map and table are passed on to the client's son. 

Surface of the embroidery map. There is some water staining with tide-lines along the edges of the map fabric.

The main city of Odense, famous as the birthplace of well-known fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen, is labelled and marked with a red square.

Close-up of the island of Funen, Denmark. All roads lead to Odense, Funen County's main city.

The level of detail on this map is exquisite. Individual manor houses and landmarks are faithfully represented with neat and tiny petti-point stitches in a rainbow of colors.  

A detail of the map showing buildings in south-west Funen

A detail of the map showing buildings and orchards in north-west Funen

A ship is even bobbing in the Belt Straits, flying the Danish flag of course, with seabirds flying overhead.

Close-up of the embroidered ship

Detail of embroidered birds above Funen

Funen's Danish name "FYN" and the map's date are surrounded by an elaborate wreath. Isn't it pretty?

The map is titled in Danish "FYN" and dated 1959

When the map was unglued from its backing board, a 'ghost map' was discovered on the wooden board! Over the years, the sun snuck through the open weave of the support fabric and oxidized the map design into the wood. The denser embroidered areas was more able to block the light. Read and earlier blog post on other effects of long-term light exposure.

The removed backing board of the map, where the sun bleached the embroidery image onto the wood.

Perhaps the map wanted to start celebrating Halloween early with its 'ghost' double. Spooky!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Trouble with Velcro TM - Is there an alternative?

Since the 1970s, large textiles have been hung using hook-and-loop fasteners, also known as Velcro TM,  which was an improvement for hanging textiles from rings, loops or tacks along the upper edge. Each of these methods created small areas of stress along the upper edge and often a 'scalloped' look. The technique has little changed from the first instructional handouts produced by the Textile Museum and the Smithsonian Institution. The looped side of the hook-and-loop fastener is machine stitched to a fabric, typically wide twill tape. The fabric is then hand-stitched to the reverse side of the upper edge of a textile; the hooked side is attached to the wall or cleat. Over the years disadvantages of Velcro have come to light. Concern with its use began in the 1990s when discoloration of the product was noticed. Several conservators became concerned and were suspicious of product alterations resulting in color change and hook breakage, especially after the patent expired in 1978, resulting in various other brands of hook-and-loop fasteners coming on the market. Even so, Velcro and other hook-and-loop fasteners are still used today. However, it needs to be evaluated and possibly replaced every twenty years or so.
Old hook-side stitched to the outer edges of a quilt.

Velcro was invented in 1941 by George de Mestal, a Swiss engineer whose patent expired in 1978. With the patent's expiration the precise formulation of the previously known 'Velcro' could no longer be confirmed. Velcro of varying qualities and durability started to proliferate. Research by Kim Leath and Mary Brooks found that in 1998, two companies held the Velcro trademark despite producing notably different products. 
The Mag-Slat; An aluminum 'L'-shaped strip with fixed counter-sunk disc neodymium magnets.

An alternative hanging system is the Mag-Slat from SmallCorp, Inc.  A sleeve made of twill tape or Tyvek is made by machine-stitch to receive the steel powder-coated strip. To read more read this link.
Of course, more about the use of magnets can be found in Magnetic Mounting Systems for Museums and  Cultural Institutions, 2019. Get your copy now!  
Joy Gardiner and Joseph Webber. " Failure to Bind: A Re-examination of the Aging of Hook and Loop Fasteners." Textile Specialty Group Postprints. Vol. 20, 2010. pp. 155-120.
Kim Leath and Mary Brooks. "Velcro TM and Other Hook and Loop Fasteners: A Preliminary Study of their Stability and Ageing [sic] Characteristics." Textile Conservation Newsletter. Spring 1998 . pp. 5-11.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A simple vacuum revolution

 I have recently had an 'Aha!' moment. I have always struggled with the small attachment tool for vacuuming. Untill now!

You know that wonderful, handy and inexpensive micro-tool that comes with the many small changeable tools. I realize that part of my struggle when using it, was the narrow-long plastic tube that linked the small attachment brush to the vacuum cleaner connection. It always seemed like I needed a third hand,  because two hands were needed to manipulate the tubes, but one was still needed for the tweezers, the micro-tool and the like.

Why does this narrow tube need to be so long, I thought? Really a new thought. The innovation is just to  cut the tube. So I did this, and Voila! Now less of the tube to manipulate, it simply connects the two sections of the micro-tool. Now, one hand is free to hold the vacuum attachment and the other for other tools that I might need, such as tweezers.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Here's to 2021

Left: Embroidery 
Middle: Magnification of Painted Pith
Right: Chinese Embroidery
Conservation is in the details. This focus was especially important this year as the world shifted and life focused more on the tiny details of living.

We hope for a safe New Year for everyone filled with family, friends, and fun.  And as the world continues to change may we always remember the importance of finding joy in the tiny details.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Preserving a Piece of Alaska History

The Pioneers of Alaska is a fraternal organization originally founded in Nome, Alaska, in 1907 to preserve the legacies of all the state's early white settlers, collecting material related to Alaska's history, and promoting "the best interests" of the state. The organization also provides mutual aid, which was a critical safety net in territorial days and early statehood when there was a lack of reliable public or government services. Alaska was home to several similar organizations, but now only the Pioneers remain.
The Pioneers of Alaska was, and still is, an organization formed from the need of helping each other survive. Helping by providing food, care, medical, legal assistance, recreational opportunities, and social interaction was vital for life in this new and sometimes extremely harsh environment. Conditions of life in this rugged frontier made mutual associations necessary. This northern spirit lives on and is the base for the Pioneers of Alaska.[1]
Originally restricted to white males who entered Alaska before 1900, the organization's membership today must be residents of Alaska for at least 20 years to be eligible to join. Once led by men, women became eligible for all leadership positions in 2012. The Pioneers are divided into 16 igloos, or chapters, each for men and women. The Grand Igloo unites Alaska’s Pioneers by meeting once each year with the subordinate Igloos which take turns hosting these conventions. The subordinate igloos maintain active schedules of business meetings and social gatherings. The Pioneers, long involved in legislating fish and game laws and garnering support for the elderly, also played a key role in bringing Alaska into statehood.

The painted fabric banner receiving treatment in the Conservator's Studio was one created for Igloo III, located in St. Michael, a small community near Nome. The St. Michael Igloo was chartered on May 10, 1907. Today, St. Michael's population is less than 500 residents.

Historic image of the hall interior with the banner at the back wall.

Tears in the fabric, paint loss, and a missing tassel were attended to by conservator Gwen Spicer.

The recent banner from the pioneers treated was an unusually constructed vernacular design with four satin weave fabric panels, two dark blue, and two white. These panels were positioned with the selvage edges horizontal, allowing for the stronger weft threads to carry the weight, but also creating vertical tears.

In addition to a painted scene featuring a man pulling a sled at the top, lettering at the bottom spells out the Pioneers' motto, Ecce Novum Astrum, "Behold the New Star."

The reverse side of the banner, a cotton layer, shows extensive water damage.

The layers of the banner were separated to gain access to the reverse sides of the fabric. This also allowed for each side to be cleaned. Then the loose threads were aligned and supported with a full adhesive backing. By having the banner and its layers hanging vertically, the best alignment of the layers could be ensured.

Gwen stitches the banner to a new fabric backing

The banner above is not the first banner of this type to be treated in our studio. Previously a banner a more traditionally made banner from 1909 for the Fairbanks Igloo was treated.  

Before treatment of both the front and reverse sides of the Fairbanks Igloo #4 Banner
Detail of an earlier Pioneer banner from Igloo 4
After Treatment of the Fairbanks Igloo #4 Banner


[1] Pioneers of Alaska website. http://www.pioneersofalaska.org/igloo_history.html. Accessed April 10, 2020.


"Behold the New Stars: Pioneers Crown New Royalty." https://www.juneauempire.com/news/behold-the-new-stars-pioneers-crown-new-royalty/. May 14, 2018. Accessed April 10, 2020.

Monday, April 13, 2020

A Safe Ride for the Sloop Clearwater Model

Last year, Spicer Art Conservation was asked to protect the model of the Sloop Clearwater for transportation from its home to New York City. The Sloop Clearwater is the floating icon for the successful citizen-driven environmental effort to clean up the Hudson River. The sloop is one of the first vessels in the U.S. to conduct science-based environmental education aboard a sailing ship.

Model on display at the Hudson River Maritime Museum

Here's a bit of its history:
In 1966, folk music legend and environmental activist Pete Seeger, in despair over the pollution of his beloved Hudson River, announced plans to “build a boat to save the river.” Seeger, along with many other concerned individuals, believed that a majestic replica of the sloops that sailed the Hudson in the 18th and 19th centuries would bring people to the river where they could experience its beauty and be moved to preserve it. 
Seeger and friends played dockside concerts up and down the river, passing the banjo case for donations to raise funds to build the sloop. As an awareness of Seeger’s vision grew, so did the crowds. In 1969, the 106-foot sloop Clearwater was launched at Harvey Gamage shipyard in South Bristol, Maine. On her maiden voyage she sailed to South Street Seaport in New York City, and then ultimately made her home on the Hudson River.[1]
The model was made sometime in the 1970s, by Bernhard Schulze, who created the hull, and Anneliese Schulze, who made the riggings with great attention to detail.

Model images from the Clearwater.org website.

The task was to fully condition the model before it left the Hudson River Maritime Museum, carefully support it for transportation in a box and support that into a sturdy wooden crate. The work was performed at the barn of the Hudson River Maritime Museum.

Support tray with attached ethafoam supports. All labels with instructions.

The model was in quite good condition and was well secured to a solid wooden base. The model's hull extended beyond the base. Due to the many fragile elements, it was the base that required full support by way of a slide-out tray. 

The model safely secured inside its travel box.

Ethafoam support at the main mast.

Wooden shipping crate with the interior travel box.

[1] History of the Clearwater from the Clearwater.org website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Shipping in the Time of Social Distancing

We have implemented the necessary protocols to keep Spicer Art Conservation up and running during this time while also keeping our staff safe and adhering to all recommended and required guidelines for everyone to be working from home now. As a part of this, we have worked to ensure Gwen can continue performing treatments safely while the rest of our staff have transitioned to working remotely in compliance with all New York State mandates and guidelines.

So in line with this, we here at Spicer Art Conservation wanted to take this opportunity to show everyone how to use a set of services offered through USPS.com that can greatly aid in staying connected while adhering to all necessary social distancing guidelines and keeping everyone safe.

The first of these services is called “Click N Ship.” This service allows individuals to provide details on any package they need to ship, including the dimensions and weight, and then the customer can pay for the shipping and print their shipping label from home.

The second service we want to tell you about is called “Schedule a Pickup.” This allows individuals to schedule a time for their mail carrier to come to their house and pick up any packages that need to be shipped, eliminating the need to go to the post office to drop things off.

A caveat: the online scheduling for pickup service is not available everywhere for every address, but it is a widely available service that can be utilized at this time to assist in shipping packages while staying home as much as possible. If you find you are unable to schedule a pickup and happen to know your mail carrier, feel free to ask them about the possibility of scheduling a pickup (while maintaining the appropriate social distancing requirements) or even call your local post office to check on the ability for scheduling.

Here at Spicer Art Conservation, we will be using these services to help with the return of any items which have completed treatments and we encourage any client with something they are looking to have treated during this time to use these services to safely ship your item to us. 


How to use “Click-N-Ship”

Things you will need:
  1. Return Address
  2. Address where the package is being sent
  3. Package Details
  4. A Printer to print the shipping label

To begin head on over to the USPS website 

After you select “Click-N-Ship” you will be taken to screen to log into your account.  If you do not have an account yet, take this moment to create one; instructions are located at the end of this post. Then proceed with the rest of the steps.  Once you have your account set up, navigate back to the Click-N-Ship section to proceed.

First, you will need to enter the address where the package is shipping from, if you have your address set up in your account it will prepopulate in this section, as you can see below. At this point, you can edit the address if you need, or you can select either of the side options which will provide you with tracking notifications or will allow you to enter a different zip code to determine the shipping costs.  This can be used if you are planning to drop the package off for shipping.

Once you have taken care of where the package is shipping from it is then time to proceed to where you are shipping to package to.

Next, you will select the date you want to ship the package (note try to make this match the date you will use for scheduling the pickup)

Now it is time to enter the package details. If you are using one of the USPS Flat Rate Shipping options, select that radial. Otherwise, you will enter the detailed information on the other side of the box. 

This next section is where you can enter the value of what you are shipping for shipping insurance purposes.

Finally, it is time to select your shipping. First, you need to use the drop-down menu to select the type of shipping you want.

Once you have made this selection from the drop-down menu, confirm that you have a blue checkmark for each of the steps if you do not return to the unfinished step and make the necessary changes. Finally, select the blue button at the bottom to proceed to the next screen where you will see the different shipping options available based on your selections and the different prices based on the information you have entered. (The shipping options you select here will be used again when scheduling the pickup for the Type of Package)

Select this shipping option you would like and scroll on down to the final section where you can add additional options. (Please note, during this time as we work to maintain social distancing for everyone’s safety we ask that clients do not select any of the options requiring a signature to help us and our mail carrier with social distancing. Just provide us the shipping details as always and we will watch for the delivery and notify you as soon as it has been delivered)

When you are finished with your selections go ahead and add the item to your cart. This will take you to the last screen where you can confirm all of your shipping details. If you find an error you can select edit and make the necessary changes. If everything is correct you can head onto the billing portion of the process.

Once you get to this point, you just click the blue button to enter your billing information and complete the checkout and payment process. Once you have finished paying, you will be provided with the mailing label which can then be printed out and attached to the package.

Please note, printing the mailing label does not schedule a pickup. You must schedule the pickup as a separate step.


How to Schedule a Pickup

Things you will need:
  1. Where is the package being picked up?
  2. Package Details
          *Type of Mailing
          *Total Weight

To begin, head back to the main USPS webpage (www.USPS.com)

This time you want to select “Schedule a Pickup” from the dropdown

From here you will be taken to the next screen where you can begin entering the information for the pickup. The first section is where the package will be picked up.

**Please be aware that this is where you might run into issues with scheduling your pickup. For example, while the address of our studio is eligible for pickup and runs into no issues on this screen, my home address comes up as not eligible, but I have confirmed with my mail carrier that, in fact, they can pick up packages from my location. Should you run into issues at this step try contacting your local post office by phone to see if they can assist you in scheduling the pickup**

If you have successfully made it past the first screen, you will then enter the information to tell the mail carrier where the package will be left along with any additional notes they might need to get the package. This step is important because the mail carrier needs to be able to find the package without needing to speak with you in person, as speaking in person defeats the social distancing benefit of this service.

Next, you can select when you would like the package to be picked up. Selecting during regular mail delivery is free and still allows you to select the specific day you would like to schedule the pickup.

This next screen you select the day of the pickup. Remember earlier when we selected the day the package would be mailed while completing the Click-N-Print steps, this is where you try to get the dates to match as close as possible.

The next step will be to let the mail carrier know how many packages they will be picking up by entering totals for each type of package. The type of package will match with the selections you made during the Click-N-Ship steps. You will also enter the weight at this point. It is important to remember this is the total weight of ALL packages being picked up. 

Once you have filled in all the required information, just check the box at the bottom of the screen and select “Schedule a Pickup”. 

The final step is to make sure you remember to put your package with its already paid shipping at the location you have selected before your scheduled pickup time.

We hope this will not only help you with shipping items to us for conservation but that it will also help everyone to safely stay in touch during this time and we look forward to seeing you back in the studio again for help with all your conservation needs in the future!


How to Create an Account

If you have not already created an account select “Sign Up Now” to begin creating your account.

The first step is to create your user name. You can use your email address for simplicity.

Next, is to create your password. All of the password requirements are listed.

After you have created your password you will need to select and answer 2 security questions.

Next, choose the type of account you want to create. For most people, it will be a Personal Account.

This next step is where you will enter your contact information.

Lastly, you will enter your address. Once you have entered your address click “Verify Address” located at the bottom of the page.

Once you address has been verified the green checkmark will appear and you can complete the account creation process by clicking “Create Account.”