It’s been a while since the last post. We have been busy with multiple projects and there’s been little time to pause and reflect on the treatment of the leather panels. In the meantime, some progress has certainly been made. Consolidation and reinforcement of the trim is complete, and we have now turned our attention to the main structural damage, namely the large tears near the bottom of the panel. All that stabilization was essential before we could safely turn the panel face down to begin the next phase of treatment.
As I mentioned earlier, the area of damage was consolidated with Pliantex solution from the reverse. (Due to both the limited budget and to minimize the extent of damage, the old paper backing was removed locally around the tears/splits, rather than overall.) For additional strength–so that the leather is sound enough to withstand having something adhered to it–we also applied a dilute solution of BEVA 371 in the areas immediately surrounding the tears to be mended. The repair will consist of lining the tears and areas of separation with narrow strips of Hollytex/BEVA film on the reverse. Then the old canvas backing we temporarily removed to gain access will be reattached to maintain uniformity in the structure of the layers.
From the front, the losses and gaps will be filled with BEVA Gesso mixed with powdered pigments to more closely resemble the color of the leather, plus glass microballons to make the fill lighter/ less dense. Some final toning of the fills as well as the Goldbeather’s skin used for reinforcing the edges may also be necessary to reintegrate the surface appearance. Then we will add a rigid backing made of several layers of acid-free corrugated board laminated cross-wise, over a cushioning layer of dense polyester batting. This backing is the most important measure in protecting the panel from future damage. But that’s not quite the end…we will move on to the other three panels in the group. Undoubtedly, this will be a year-long project at the very least.
Somehow, I would really like this blog thing much more if it were a dialogue wherein ideas could be shared. I am very open to other ways of thinking and approaching the conservation of leather, so I would love to hear what techniques and adhesives others are using. Do you consolidate to strengthen the surfaces prior to mending? What are your preferred adhesives and loss compensation materials (other than BEVA)? Any comments or feedback you’re willing to share would certainly be appreciated!