Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Conservation Case Study: The Dining Room "Meshed" Rug

Quite a few years ago, Parkwood was used as the location for a carpet cleaning commercial. The commercial, for a spray and rub product, featured the library of Parkwood, as a museum, where a famous document was signed, but not before the quill and ink hit the carpet c. pretend 1775, leaving a historically significant stain. Forward to faux museum film set 2004 where the commercial continues, having the famous stain be removed by a new over zealous faux museum employee using the featured product.
While the commercial was humorous, leaving the featured product looking marvellously effective, it was just a commercial.

This past summer Parkwood was the location for another production shoot. Due to a mishap the artefact dining room carpet ended up with a very dark brown oil based (Min Wax Liquid) stain that saturated the fibres of the 300 year old Meshed Persian rug. A vibrant blue with red undertones, typical of meshed rugs, the intricate patterns were all but a brown blob in the 2ft x 2ft area of the stain. Contrary to the commercial shot on location in 2004, we did not turn to the spray and rub product nor the steam cleaning approach. In preservation our methods are strictly the safest and non damaging, non structural altering approach and this often means that we only use the most inert and non chemically developed methods.

The first concern with our freshly stained Persian rug was the physical strength of the carpet fibres. As mentioned, the carpet is 300 years old and while in amazing condition for its age, has seen many feet walk across it. The strength of the warp and the weft and its endurance under mechanical forces of cleaning were a concern. Our meshed rug is composed of cotton warp threads and wool weft fibres, each organic product, having its own personality and attraction/retention elements with regards to the stain.

The first step in the treatment program was to try and remove as much of the dark brown Min Wax oil-based stain, as we could see. This process was an application of a very gentle soap ( horse soap) called Orvus Paste. The best friend to many museum functions, Orvus is one of the most gentle products on the market, several times more gentle then Ivory Soap for the lay person.  Hours after the initial spill were spent just mopping up the surface stains, while ensuring that Parkwood staff were not manipulating the original blue and red vegetable dye hues that were used to colour the carpet in Iran 300 years prior.

The next step was the professional conservator visit. Fine Art Object Conservator, Miriam, was on site the following day and began her evaluation of the stain and the condition of the rug. Miriam further analysed the warp and the weft structure and its physical integrity for enduring the next steps. The stain removal process meant that the rug would be saturated for many hours with blotting techniques applied, and could the fibres, seen to the right, withstand the pressures of the cumulative blotting.

The curatorial decision was to proceed with the initial treatment, with the understanding that should an area of loss occur (aka a hole) the conservator would be dying threads and reweaving into the historic warp and weft pattern.

The treatment process continued with an eyedropper application of the conservation solution applied to the stain with precision grid like accuracy and then blot. Imagine the hours of tedium application that this involved. An eye drop of solution to a 5cm area, blot, continue.

Application of the poultice

After about 80 hours of solution application and blotting, we moved onto the next stage of our treatment. The poultice stage. The idea of the poultice was that as the clay dries, it helps draw any remaining brown colour from the rug fibres.

We have completed about 30 hours of poultice application, drying and removal, followed by reapplication. This week has seen us reweave some of the rug fibres that have loosened over the weeks of treatment, and after drawing the residue brown Min Wax stain through the poultice, we are back to the eye dropper solution treatment and blotting procedures.  The end of this week will see 120 hours of work applied over the last weeks and months to the carpet. During the hours spent kneeling over the stain, from the curatorial perspective, I almost wish that the 2004 commercial for the spray and rub product was indeed true.

No comments:

Post a Comment