One of the highlights of attending the Ozquilt Network conference in Adelaide last month was the opportunity to visit ArtLab Australia. The 50 minute tour included a range of projects such as painting restoration, gilding, photographic and paper works and marble scupture repairs but our primary focus was textiles conservation. Principal Textile Conservator, Kristin Phillips showed us her current assignment, a Chinese silk banner from the Victorian Gold Fields that she is painstakingly stabilising with long, fine polyester threads torn directly from a piece of fabric. We also viewed a vintage crazy quilt and learned about the process of washing textiles – in this case some glorious William Morris curtain fabric. (Sorry no photos.)
The following day, Kristin gave a presentation entitled Stop the Rot: Deterioration in Textiles. The first part of the presentation highlighted some fascinating conservation projects that Kristin has worked on including the comprehensive treatment of the Eureka Flag and the conservation of clothing worn by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi at the time of their assassinations that are on dislay at the Indira Gandhi Museum in India. You can hear Kristin talking about these and other projects at: ABC Life Matters Interview with Textile Conservator, Kristin Philips (12 minutes).
The second part of Kristin’s presentation concentrated on practical steps that we can take to optimise the life of our textiles from understanding the implications of our choice of materials and techniques through to exhibition environments and storage methods. Many of us were reassured to learn that it OK ! to wrap our works around polyethlene foam pool noodles for support and there is no need to cover the noodle with tissue paper or fabric first. However, she confirmed that it is best to store rolled textiles with the right side facing out to minimise wrinkles and creasing on the front of the work.
Kristin also emphasised the importance of wrapping textiles in washed calico (or other economical cotton fabric) or tyvek* and checking works regularly for signs of degradation. Wrapping not only protects the work from contact with damaging surfaces (eg acidic cardboard), it prevents light damage while the work is not on display and forms a useful barrier as part of an integrated pest management system.
On a related subject, I have had several people ask me lately about the best way of packing quilts and textiles for shipping. This video from the special exhibits team at Quilts Inc contains lots of useful tips (and a cat!)
I find zipped polyproylene pillow protectors really convenient and economical for packing quilts in for both storage and, with the addition of a large plastic bag available from Chungs, shipping. It’s certainly quicker than making my own! although one day I might try out Terry Grant’s nifty textile travel bag design. (Update: In response to my query, Kristin has advised that “polypropylene is a good stable fibre and will be fine for both long and short term storage”.)
Products & Suppliers (November 2014)
- Archival Products & Suppliers List published by the Powerhouse Museum Sydney.
- Archival Survival 2014/2015 Catalogue offers tyvek by the roll along with a range of bags, boxes and envelopes.
- Tier Gear offers Tyvek 14M (42gsm, 150cm wide) for A$9.50 per metre.
- Cavalier Art offers heavier weight (but only 914mm) by the metre and by the sheet