Conservation Conversation

I had not appreciated, until I was invited to visit the Textile Conservation Section last week, just how much shared ground there would be. Susana’s and my paths had crossed some months earlier during one of my first research sessions in the textile store. I remember beautiful, highly intricate, Greek embroideries were being selected from the archives for future exhibitions. Many times I’d looked fleetingly through the tall windows into the conservation studio whilst passing along the corridor. Large, light space, quietly industrious – it looked fascinating. And now here were those same embroideries – fifty-one of them ‐ being meticulously conserved and documented in preparation for their travels to Athens and the Hellenic Centre, Marylebone (Oct/Nov 2006) Textile Conservation Section, V&A. The textiles are all protected by cloths and tissue paper until they are to be worked upon. It seems such a narrow arête of intervention that a conservationist must tread. The need to equip the piece with enough strength and integrity to survive in it’s future life on the one side, the abyss of over interference on the other. I reiterate that which Susana spoke of in previous blog; Conservator and artist alike: we analyse structure, study material, seek out the rhythms of the original maker and generally try to climb into the history of the piece. And then, with almost obsessive attention to detail and all the sensitivity we can muster, we follow our own parallel routes. At a recent talk in gallery 101, Frances (one of the senior conservators) had jokingly said how they would be conserving my work in years to come. It made me think… I know that my tapestries are likely to out live me ‐ tough things that they are ‐ but I hadn’t ever imagined them being scrutinised by such professionals. How would they bear up? I think they would probably discover an artist with a bit of a cavalier attitude to longevity and a nightmarish concoction of silk, hemp, linen, lead, pewter, wire (rust) …I don’t think we need go on. I very much look forward to the ongoing creative conservation conversation. Susana Hunter with volunteer in Textile Conservation Studio, V&A - Click to enlarge. Conserving 16th century Persian carpet - Click to enlarge. Conserving 16th century Persian carpet (detail) - Click to enlarge. Tray of threads ready for use - Click to enlarge. Florence's table - Click to enlarge. Susana's table - Click to enlarge. Conservation work on corner of Greek embroidery - Click to enlarge. Reinforcing extremely fine Greek embroidery - Click to enlarge. Testing for colourfastness before wet cleaning - Click to enlarge. Unpinning Greek embroidery after wet cleaning - Click to enlarge. Washed Greek embroidery - Click to enlarge. Desk - Click to enlarge.

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