We keep thinking things can not get any busier or more exciting work wise and then they do – 2018 has been no exception!
This year we have been particularly challenged space-wise as our long term site work teams from Westminster Abbey and Knole came home to roost bringing mountains of equipment back with them and we found there was no where to put it – or them! So we decided we had no choice but to move and took on a huge, empty ex call centre space two floors higher up in the same building. Geoffrey needed no encouragement to start planning and designing us a new studio combining the functions of our three smaller spaces. Finally we could have a proper washroom with dye area and laboratory. Finally we could have a proper kitchen and staff room with room for our library, as well as a store room and an office. And finally in September we were able to move in. Then the unpacking and reorganising began, a process that is still ongoing so it is kind of miraculous that we got any conservation done at all this year, but we did.
Enormous thanks to our wonderful team for their help and toleration of difficult working conditions and apologies to our clients, some of whom have had to wait longer than usual – normal service will be resumed very soon. And thank you to Geoff who always works so hard with such patience dealing with all our competing demands, as well as managing to get some paper conservation done too.
2018 began with part of the team back at Knole, continuing with the cleaning of the extremely dirty caffoy fabric in the Reynolds Room and the south wall of the Cartoon Gallery, this time cleaning more than 100 square metres of the wall hangings. This has been one of the most rewarding site work projects – it’s so encouraging when one can see so clearly where one has been working! We were also able to tighten up the caffoy by reinstating lost fixings along the cornices and repair it by inserting dyed linen patches, support stitching damaged areas and sewing loose caffoy patches down securely. With new lighting and the paintings reinstated over the top and the newly cleaned furniture back in place the deep red rooms glow in all their former glory – you should go and take a look. The National Trust’s very sensitive conservation of Knole really is a triumph – it has been such a privilege to be involved.
The first half of this year also saw the completion of the conservation of the Royal Funeral Effigies for Westminster Abbey’s new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. They opened in early June to great applaud in the beautiful triforium space high up amongst the gargoyles and roof trusses of the Abbey. This was an enormous project for the studio involving more than 5000 hours over three years; everyone worked on the hundreds of costume items that came into the studio but this year the majority of our collective time was spent on site working on the effigies themselves and their wigs, then redressing them in their conserved costume layers. This work was ably led by Rachel, assisted in the main by Minny and Mira who worked in both the conservation space at the Abbey and amid the exhibition space while it was still under construction. The opening party on the 1st of June was a very proud moment – enormous thanks to our fabulous team for achieving such a great result.
We completed another big project this year too – the conservation of two of a set of four tapestries from the Spangled bedroom at Knole, beautifully worked by Chris and Hazel with some assistance from Freya (who has now left and is working at Historic Royal Palaces). The late 17th C Brussels tapestries depicting stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses line the room that showcases the Spangled bed and matching suite of furniture. We were finally able to reunite and rehang all four tapestries together again in October after a tricky few days in situ, carefully working out how to safely support all the overlaps and corner hanging required.
In April we were delighted to welcome Victoria Haddock to our team. Vicky has National Trust experience working at Killerton, is involved with the Costume Society and recently completed an MA in History of Design and Material Culture. She is helping run the office and fulfilling the curatorial side of our work; a timely addition to the team as this year we were delighted to take on the role of caring for the Legal Dress Collection, a mostly uncatalogued and little known collection held at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
The spring and summer saw the studio filled with fashion! First an extravagant Worth gown from the Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey and then more than 20 exquisite historic hats from Worthing Museum. Jamie did an amazing job conserving the Worth gown as well as recreating the missing back panels of the skirt; the completed gown is currently on display in, “Dressed For Best”, at Chertsey Museum whilst the whole team worked to clean, conserve and make travel and storage mounts for the hats, currently on display in “Hats Off to Hats” at the Toy Museum in Basel, Switzerland.
Thank you to our Finnish intern Emma Hartikka, hat lover Jo Lance and work experience student Lily Readaway who helped too.
Our Knole work continues now with the conservation of the wall hangings of the King’s Closet, which were taken down five years ago and have been rolled and waiting ever since. This late 17th C wool and linen stamped bright green fabric was in a very sorry state, left ravaged by light, mould, moth and dust. After much experimentation we devised a wet cleaning method that worked combining suction through a screen, several detergent baths, one with a chelating agent and copious rinsing. The summer weeks were spent in a race to wet clean all the panels before we had to take our wash table apart to move up to the new studio on level 7. Rotating groups of our conservators tirelessly sponged and rinsed for hours and hours before carefully pinning out over templates to amazing results. Then more than 30 metres of linen was custom dyed to two different shades of green for the full stitched support. 60 metres of beautiful woven wool and silk braid has also been wet cleaned and is being conserved onto dyed linen tape.
As well as the King’s Closet still dominating our time and the studio, our year ends with two new projects to take us into 2019. More than 100 completely amazing hats arrived for an exhibition of Stephen Jones hats at Brighton Pavilion due to open in February and we have just started our new tapestry conservation project for the National Trust, a pair of exquisite chinoiserie Soho tapestries, part of a larger set from The Vyne – a scene of which has lent itself nicely to this year’s Christmas card.
We wish you all good Christmas cheer and a happy new year – and we look forward to welcoming you to our new studio once it is finished for an open day and a programme of workshop events in 2019.
All good wishes
Zenzie and the fabulous ZTC Team