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Seeing in Different Ways: A Liz Magor Backpack Project
Seeing in Different Ways:
A Liz Magor Backpack Project

Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 2)

Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)
Why Paper Discolours (Part 1)

Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum
Mending a Tear in an Aboriginal Drum

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)
Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 3)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 2)

Distortions and Dimensional Changes
in Paper (Part 1)

After treatment
Oscar Cahén: Innovative Conservation
for an Innovative Artist

Rigid Water Gels: New Treatment Options for Paper Conservators

Structural Remedies for Canvas Paintings

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 4: Digital-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 3: Photo-based Material

Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 2: Paper-based Material

First Steps
Organizing and Preserving Collections - Part 1: The First Steps

Natural Dyes
The Use of Natural Dyes in Textile Conservation

A Relocation Project

Challenges of Preserving Contemporary Artwork

Preserve Your Investment through Art Conservation

A Project Completed: Heritage Preserved

Old and New Methods for Cleaning Paintings

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I? Part 2

I Can See Clearly Now – Or Can I?

The E.J. Hughes Mural: An Expanded Project

Is She or Is She Not an Emily

Treating Art with Sensitive Media

Malaspina Mural: An Update

For the Artist: Testing Your Materials

Conservator as Art Historian

Alum Sizing and the Art of W.J. Phillips

Treatment of an Elizabeth Keith Wood Block Print

Structural Treatment of an Emily Carr

The Treatment of a Monumental Wall Hanging

Changing Images

Preserving a Rare Record

Gold Leaf: Imitation and Genuine

The Case Against Canvas Backings

Heritage Colours: Research Discovers Original Colours

Lighting Your Art: Balancing Seeing and Protecting

The Double-Sided Emily Carr Painting

Choosing a Period Picture Frame

How to Identify a Picture Frame

Stretching Canvas and Restretching Artwork

Mounting Textiles

Aging Paintings:
Some Causes and Effects

Chine Collé Prints

What's Your Favourite Color?

Backing Removals

Rips, Holes and Tears

Filling in the Gaps

DIY – Preventative Care of Paintings

Frame it Right

Fire, Water and Smoke-Damaged Paintings

Inherent Vice

Saturated Problems:
A Water-Damaged Painting

Moldy Paper

Conserving Time

Conserving Paper: Dos and Don'ts

Repair of Textiles

Conserving Wood

Rescuing Endangered Murals

Repairing Acid-Matte Burn

Art Services & Materials
Exhibition Openings & Events

  Conservation Corner Back

Filling in the Gaps

by Rebecca Pavitt
Conservator, Pacific Conservators
Vancouver, BC

Pricking outline of insert
Pricking outline of insert
IT OFTEN HAPPENS that art and documents on paper come into the lab missing a few pieces. Broken corners, lost fragments, punctures, gouges...any number of mishaps can result in losses that are visually disturbing, and may destabilize the paper support.

There are three basic methods of dealing with these problems. The first is simple mending. Small losses, as are commonly found along fold lines or edges, can simply be bridged or reinforced on the reverse with Japanese paper and an archival quality adhesive such as wheat starch paste or methylcellulose. The Japanese papers used in conservation, (often mistakenly called “rice paper”) are made from the long fibred kozo plant. These long fibres give even very thin papers or tissues great strength, and allow repairs to be unobtrusive. Wheat starch and methylcellulose pastes are stable, reversible adhesives with a well-studied history of use in conservation.

Setting insert in place
Setting insert in place  

Paper losses can also be filled with paper pulp. Paper scraps and distilled water are pulped in a blender and the slurry is used to fill the area of loss. The application technique can be as simple as the judicious use of tweezers and a piece of blotting paper or as complex as the computerized leaf-casting system used by many book conservators. After drying, the fill can be toned or in-painted with watercolour to blend with surrounding areas.

The last method – paper inserts – is my personal favourite for larger losses. Here a paper of similar tone, texture and weight is cut to shape and fit inside the loss. My method is to lay the fill paper under the loss, prick the outline onto the fill paper with a thin needle (careful not to puncture the original!), cut the fill with a beveled edge, and paste into place with a Japanese paper underlay. The fill can then be toned and in-painted to match surrounding areas.

Insert toned with paint
Insert toned with paint  

What is the most unusual fill I ever made? Last year a client brought in some lovely old prints her father had left her. One of these was the Battle of the Nile, a very finely detailed etching, with major areas of loss. Neither her budget nor, I suspect, my in-painting skills, could accommodate any of the fill techniques described above. With her permission, I took the print to my wonderful neighbourhood printer, who very patiently worked to make the best laser copies of the piece that he could. (They were not, I hasten to add, anywhere near the fine quality of the original!) I could however, use the copies to cut and match the areas of loss in the print, fine tuning the matches with watercolour detailing. The result, while not up to the standards of a connoisseur, was within budget and allowed her to enjoy a print that would otherwise have been too damaged for display.

For more information visit the FACTS (Fine Art Care and Treatment Standards) website at www.artfacts.org.

Last issue: Do-it-yourself preventative art care.
Next issue: Rips, tears and holes.

 Fri, Feb 1, 2008