Hats off to Hats (Part 5)

Conservation of Hats Through an Intern’s Eyes by Emma Hartikka

Conclusions and Impressions

It is over – my internship period with Zenzie Tinker Conservation! Hard to get to grips with how fast the time flew. It is time to look back and reflect on the time gone by.

Firstly, I should mention that the hats are now all gone and off our hands. It was great to see how the staff in the studio pulled together and worked really hard to get the hats ready to go in quite a tight schedule. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the beautiful hats and learn from others at the studio. Hopefully they (the hats) will have a safe journey to Switzerland with the supports, boxes and paddings we prepared for them!

Secondly, my internship wasn’t all about the hats. Alongside the hats project, I was able to try my hand at a couple of different things during the four months in Brighton. I participated in site work at Mottisfont manor house taking down fake ermine curtains, made padded boards for a Chinese silk embroidery and carpet samples as well as helping with various other things going on at the studio (and there was a LOT going on all the time). It was interesting to see how a private studio works, how even the seemingly mundane things, such as timekeeping, paperwork, bills, meetings and communicating with clients, are essential aspects of the business. Also my language skills improved with some additional conservation terminology which we definitely didn’t learn at primary school.

On top of all that, I got a good opportunity to travel around the country visiting different textile conservation studios. These include the studios of the National Trust (a spacious converted barn in the middle of the Norfolk countryside full of beautiful tapestries), the National Museum of Scotland (a huge, well equipped collections centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh with wonderfully varied objects), the British Museum (a flexible conservation space in the heart of the museum, as well as London, with fascinating ethnographical objects peeking out everywhere) and the Peoples History Museum (a neat space inside the museum in Manchester where museum visitors can watch work being undertaken on colourful banners and flags through a window).  I also got to visit the home of a private conservator who converted her dining room into a working space).  It was fascinating to see how many, varied ways there are to set up a well run textile conservation studio and how many different kinds of objects the conservators can be working on. I am so grateful to all those who kindly opened their studio doors to me, showed me around and discussed their work!​

Here are some selected pictures taken along my time as an intern:

My hands straightening a lace trimming.
Making supports for hats was very satisfying. A bonnet sitting happily on its personal support.
One of my favorite hats having a surface clean. So much fun!
The power of teamwork with Mottisfont curtains.
It is ready! Proud of my padded board.

One important fact has surfaced over and over again during my time at the studio; like in life generally, there is not necessarily one right way to do things. There are many options and you must choose the one you think is best for the object in hand. To understand this is kind of scary but also liberating. Internship time it is all about growing and learning different approaches – and that is also what I have done, hopefully.

Life at the studio goes on but I am flying home towards new adventures. Thank you for reading the blog and following along my internship journey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *