2017- Dust and Teamwork

The main themes of this last busy year seem to have been dust and BIG, complex, dirty textiles. Oh and scaffolding. We bought our own scaffold tower this year and then had to buy extensions to make it even taller. The new equipment is great but what makes these big projects possible is the amazing team we have at Zenzie Tinker Conservation and their team spirit! So this year’s round up is a salutation to the team.

The year opened with weeks and weeks of micro fibre cleaning of the caffoy wall coverings in the Cartoon Gallery at Knole – a race against time, freezing cold and very dusty conditions.

Putting in an adhesive support, an awkward job when the hanging is still on the wall and there is little access…

The year is closing amidst the same surroundings where we are cleaning and repairing the final wall of the Cartoon Gallery and the Reynolds Room. Thankfully the dust and temperature levels are back under control now the builders are working in a different part of the house. And the cleaned and re-hung paintings look amazing.

View of the east wall looking glorious after full conservation.

Another particularly dirty and large project which kept our attention for much of the year were the Morris & Co wall coverings from the Drawing Room at Ironmongers’ Hall. Over the year we removed, cleaned, repaired and reinstated 120 square metres of Bird fabric. One of the dirtiest textiles we’ve ever cleaned and the most challenging to reinstate, the end results were wonderful. Phase one involved the wet cleaning and reinstatement of four panels damaged by a water leak – this work was presented at the Icon Textile Group Wet cleaning day held in Wales in September 2016. Phase two involved taking the other 26 widths of fabric down, surface and solvent cleaning them to match and then reinstating over the summer.

Thick greasy soil on the reverse as well as the face. On some of the panels the pattern was nearly obscured and the difference after cleaning was remarkable.

It’s good to have team members of different sizes as well as left and right handers. Jamie, Minny and Emily cheerfully size up the challenge!

In December Zenzie had the pleasure of being invited by the Ironmongers’ Company to a Christmas lunch in the Grand Hall.  Drinks were served beforehand in the completed Drawing Room and our work drew many admiring comments.

Another dusty team project concluding in 2017 was the condition surveying and cleaning of 39 Canterbury Cathedral colour from the East Kent Regiment Buffs Chapel. The colours were reinstated in April in time for a special ceremony attended by veterans from the regiments associated with The Buffs.

Zenzie, Freya and Jamie meeting with Heather Newton, Head of Conservation, Canterbury Cathedral, to discuss the colours.

July saw Natalia and Zenzie going off to teach a six day module on adhesives at the Abbeg Stiftung Foundation in Switzerland for the second time. We were joined by Elizabeth-Anne Haldane from the V&A for one of the days. It is always a pleasure to showcase the work of our team and share our expertise with students.  Preparing for these workshops is a huge team effort with many samples being made in the studio beforehand, equipment assembled and new case histories being added to our presentations.

Natalia demonstrating heat sealing techniques to the students

No sooner had we returned from Switzerland we were off again closer at home this time to Lancing College Chapel. There we undertook the in situ cleaning of the last set of tapestries to have been woven at Merton Abbey for Morris & Co in the 1930’s. Working in the awe inspiring surroundings of the vast chapel on a five level scaffold we condition checked, vacuumed and Smoke Sponge cleaned the three huge tapestries. Exceptionally dirty, covered in hundreds of dead ladybirds, cobwebs and chalk dust it was amazing to see their vibrant colours gradually restored as we worked. About 5 kilos of dust were removed!

You can just see some of the team in their hi vis vests starting work on the top level.
Full view of the tapestries

Throughout 2017 our work conserving and remounting the costumes from the Royal Funeral Effigies at Westminster Abbey has continued. Rachel has been ably managing the team working both in the studio and on site where work is picking up a pace prior to installation from January.

Rachel and Minny with the Duchess of Buckingham being photographed for the Guardian article.

Museum Crush featured a lovely piece on some of the effigies in September, and in November Maev Kennedy and a photographer from The Guardian came again to see some of the effigies being re-dressed. Also in November we were happy to welcome the Icon Textile Section on their visit. The new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries will open in June 2018 in the stunning Triforium of Westminster Abbey.

Holding the fort back in the Brighton studio much of the year were Chris and Hazel quietly working away conserving the first of our two tapestries, part of a set from the Spangled Bedroom at Knole. The year closes with the first one finished and lined in time for Christmas and the next one ready for framing up in the New Year.

A myriad of other smaller projects have been fitted in around these featured. Maybe we will have time to write these up for the website soon!

So my year ends with a massive thank you to the wonderful team at Zenzie Tinker Conservation, Brighton who make all these projects possible: Hazel Arnott, Emily Austin, Minny Close-Brooks, Emma Hartikka (intern), Freya Gabbutt, Georgina Gilmore (currently on maternity leave), Ania Golebiowska, Holly Hales-Marley (our new administrator),  Mira Karttila, Geoffrey Major, Rachel Rhodes, Jamie Robinson, Chris Sambrook and Natalia Zagorska-Thomas. Thank you too to Katy Smith.

Early in the new year we hope we will be combining our three conservation spaces into one big space on the seventh floor of our building – we look forward to welcoming you to the new studio in 2018.

We wish you all a very happy Christmas and all good things for the New Year!


17 December 2017

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