Papier-mâché that barks : Woof ! Crack ! Woops…

Conservation of a mechanical pull-toy bulldog

by Ségolène Girard


Seg is speaking !

Remember me ? So much happens all the time in Nico’s workshop that my past articles about the conservation of a Horse Racing Game are far buried under other wonderful adventures…One of which I was part of just recently and I am going to tell you about !

When I met Nico in 2013, I was a second year student in paper conservation in Paris. I now graduated some time ago, and it happened that the development of a new product for conservation brought me to speak for AIC’s conservators annual meeting in Houston in May 2018. It is a long journey from home therefore I did not give it a second thought when I learned I was going: I told Brittany we should Skype ASAP, as I had the most exciting news !

Indeed, we never shared that piece of information with you dear readers, but Nico and I met online…and never in real life at that point. It started with a comment on her blog and we became Skype pen-pals. Actually we chatted so much at that point that it felt like we had visited each other’s workshop dozens of times and shared many coffee cups vs tisane’s (hour difference obliges).

We lost no time and decided I would come from Houston to her Seattle workshop Memoria Technica for a few weeks – once the AIC’s one week conference would be over. She had a great piece that needed the expertise of a paper conservator, and I expected no less from her !

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We would soon realize that if we already had very similar furniture taste, we were also clothes dopplegangers…if that is not long-term friendship investment !

 


 

CHAPTER 1: A SAFE KIND OF BEAST

The object in question is this papier-mâché bulldog barking pull-toy from the late 19th c. … with an unintended pulled apart head. The dog was never meant to look so scary and actually probably made the pride and joy of a small kid – which cracked us up every time we looked at it, I mean how scary would it be to cuddle now ? It would have taken a very brave kid to handle this dog, or a nice fixing, for which we would need all the bravery we could ask the conservation fairy for. Luckily I am always excited by a good challenge and I found myself in the best location to get inspiration from, in this new setting that a horologist conservation workshop is compared to the pristine white, minimalist, feng-shui paper conservation operating space.

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A view of the bulldog during conservation, in Memoria Technica Workshop

 

So let’s roll our sleeves up and start with the necessary understanding of what is on the slab, meaning knowing the origins and components of the bulldog, and what caused its arrival in the workshop.

« A late Victorian British Bulldog pull-along toy, flock finish, papier-mâché, with green/black glass eyes, opening mouth and bark operated by chain from collar, moving head, wooden castors, coconut hair in collar, 13″,25 » [1]

Would be the description of those sympathetic growling toys, very popular in the late 19th c. as pets for wealthy children. With no doubt we had a fine specimen before us, let alone for a few components differences, such as a collar made of horse hair instead of coconut fibers.

The explanation for this extravagant collar is a far-back French penchant for exotic animals that went wild in the 19-20th c., when beasts from foreign countries such as lions would be brought back to Paris and walked proudly in the streets. That way, Dali’s personal art critic Babou the ocelot would pee on his prints regularly, and Josephine Baker favorited sleeping with Chiquita the cheetah, while a sweet story tells how Rosa Bonheur’s lioness walked painfully in the stairs to call her mistress and make sure to die in her comforting arms.

Those who would rather walk a dog, accessorized their fierce looking pet with a long hairy collar evoking a mane, thus reducing risks. Naturally, toys followed the trend.

 


CHAPTER 2: A TERRIBLE ACCIDENT

Dismembering the bobble-head to inspect the insides of the bulldog, we found another both funny and interesting piece of information: the head is made of two hard papier-mâché parts, and covered with a thin cast paper “mask” that covers both parts and refines the face features.

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View of the head molds where they split in two parts, and where the diaphragm sits

 

On both parts a paper tag is pasted from the inside, on which is written on one side “Alphonsine… [date]” and on the other “Alphonsine… [different date]”. Alphonsine is a French soft-sounding girl name, particularly fashionable in the 19th c., which means….this would have been our bulldog’s model name ! Very fitting is it not? Both parts would be assembled thanks to this mark-up differentiating them from all the other heads on the toy maker’s bench. We can imagine there were several breeds, each with a different boy or girl’s name to disntiguish the toy model, as we still do today with dolls.

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Inside the papier-mâché jaw, a tag that reads “Alphonsine april 19th” in French

 

A hidden mechanism in the collar allows the dog to bark by pressing in your palm on the extremity of the leash, basically like a pump similar to that of a motorcycle making the distinctive “tac tac tac” or “bark bark bark” sound ! It is enhanced by a diaphragm hidden in the jaws, which also open up and close alongside the barking. Unfortunately, being one of the best feature of this toy, the use of the mechanism slowly caused pressure on the head and led to the cracking of a rigid papier-mâché head not big and strong enough to withstand those repetitive moves.

The right back foot also suffered pressure from the inside on the castor wheel and a too short paper mold. Cracks and deformation appeared here and there on strategic areas supporting the structure, such as the ribs or the twisted right front leg. The tail broke with another kind of pressure, and one we can imagine too well: the repeated pulling of small children on that fragile appendage.

 

Someone attempted repairs with glue at two different times, as characterized by different looking glues, each times on the tail and on the broken leg. Those repairs are irregular and dripping over the whole area, forming a thick oozing shell of shiny appearance around the cracks. Hair is caught in the hardened adhesives and the paper got darker.

 

The hair is missing in several areas because it is only flocked, and a lot of tears are naturally joined with paper flakes and entirely missing areas. There are major losses to the collar hair. Fun notes, if the collar hair is made of horse hair, Nico had doubts about the flocking origins. Regular diameter, shortly cut (around 5 mil.), fair and hard…it does not look like any other animal than one that is human ! Ahem…any thoughts about this? It will not impact our treatment thankfully.

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Horse hair from the mane is partly missing around the collar

 

 


CHAPITRE 3: ALPHONSINE GOES TO THE CONSERVATOR

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General view before treatment

 

After taking some photographs and reporting all of the above in details, we suggested the following operations.

 

1. Dry cleaning with a hepa filter vacuum

We removed the head from the neck and secured the detached parts with pillows and textile tape on the leash. Covering the mouth of the vacuum hose with fine mesh, we started dry cleaning the outside and inside of the object’s surface. With help from a soft brush in some instances to guide the dirt in the aspiration, and sometimes with a “metal air pump” from our conservator horologist’s workshop that we found helpful to avoid hair loss.

Indeed, the process was very slow and risky as the hairs were not very well fixed and those that were detached gathered in corners and grooves. We removed as much dirt as possible, but did not insist where no humidity would be needed during further treatment, as humidity fixes dirt and makes it harder to remove.

 

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Tools from other specialties often proove useful when having limited visibility, here a dental mirror helps guiding the cleaning process with a hepa filter vacuum

 

 

2. Dry cleaning and wet cleaning of the gesso covering the tongue and gums

Most of the dirt accumulated on the colored gesso was in the mouth as dirt tends to stick to gesso partially made with gelatine. After dry cleaning the mouth covering with rubber sponges, and erasers on paper and stable areas, we proceeded to wet cleaning with methylcellulose. Cleaning a mouth with synthetic saliva sounded appealing, and it proved to be efficient although used short term and followed with a quick water “rinse” with wet cotton swabs. Where dirt was really hard to remove, 5% methylcellulose gel was applied topically. It allowed the area of dirt to swell and remove it with a wet cotton swab afterwards.

 

 

3. Removing glue with synthetic clay

Removing glue with laponite and solvent can be pretty satisfying… but oil and scissors are still not part of the conservator’s toolbox, and removing what is close to chewing gum in hair became rather challenging with no user guide.

Soaking pieces of laponite with acetone or ethanol we made sample zones and with different timers, we were able to assess the following:

Layers of glues had been intertwined during two different old repair sessions, therefore steps would be taken to remove the glue and what would be residual.

 

We started with a laponite poultice with acetone to remove the first layers, applied through non-woven fabric and sealed around the tail. After 10 minutes, we were able to lift easily the first layer of glue, like nail polish chips. It had to be repeated a few times to access the second layer of different glue. But in places where it had no “second layer of glue” intermediary and was directly applied on hair, there was a pigment migration in the glue which loss could not be avoided through removal of the glue.

 

In order to remove the second layer of glue, we applied laponite soaked with ethanol and water – or it would dry too quickly following the same method as previously described. After 15 minutes, we were able to cut through the thick layers, but mechanical removal was dangerous and hard to control grabbing hair with the blade of the scalpel. Therefore we used pointy tweezers with which we would pull pieces of glue little by little. When it would harden again, we would soften it with the poultice to repeat the process. It was a long and repeated method, as the glue would harden very quickly once the poultice was removed. Softening it longer than 15 minutes did not help as the hair would then be caught in the really soft glue along with the painted paper underneath. In some places, to avoid loss of pigment and hair, residual glue was abraded dried, then smoothed with ethanol and a brush.

 

4. Repairs with strips structure

One of the biggest challenges was the crack on the head. As explained earlier, because of its direct relation to the way it was made, it meant we could not just mend it without taking into consideration the origin of the skull alteration. The inevitable crack would appear again under the pressure of  the mechanism on the two parts of the head mold if we just pretended nothing happened. This probably is one of the great and few occasions we have as conservators to make a point for what we do versus restoration.

Restoration would consist in covering up the default in the object, causing more tension on an already fragilized area, and dragging further damage and loss in time. Conservation here is the balance between: respecting the general overlook of the object, not repeating characteristics that could bring further damage, with care of not denying them for legacy.

Our job as conservators is to make sure to prevent the cause of alteration to strike again, without changing the first goal or intention of the object.


For that matter, we needed to find a way to consolidate the crack layer by layer, with a material that would be strong but still thin and flexible enough to put no stress on the tear. We pasted one sheet of 30 gms Japanese tissue on Tyvek with Lascaux that was cut into 15 x 5 mil. strips once dry.

 

With a mixture of Lascaux and wheat starch paste (50:50), they were adhered through the original laminated papier-mâché, starting from the bottom, drying with continuous pressure of a Teflon bone folder. Once a strip was applied it was sandwiched with a piece of 30 gms Japanese tissue pasted with thinned wheat starch paste until reaching the upper layers.

 

 

 

The inside of the skull where it splits in two naturally from the mold design, was reinforced with a large strip of the Tyvek repair material, pasted on the papier-mâché on the Japanese tissue side with the Lascaux + Wheat starch paste mixture (50:50).

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Applying a large strip of repair material along the split skull from the inside

 

5. Infills

Working in a horology conservation workshop, we found that using “too many different materials would be the enemy of well-made” so we kept using the 30 gms Japanese tissue we had at disposal. Pasted pieces were slits in some areas, and when the gap was to large, it was first stuffed with cotton linters.

 

To ease the process through and through we bandaged the head in strategic areas, using book conservator materials. Repairs were held still with first-aid bandages and artists clippers while the repairs would dry. Access was still pretty intricate and hard to access in many places, where we had to apply continuous pressure…by hand.

 

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Getting creative

6. Retouching

Infills were finished with a toned 17 gms Japanese tissue – the color of the papier-mâché – before final retouching.

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Toned Japanese tissue of the papier-mâché colore, levels the infill before retouches

 

We retouched using with 3% hydroxypropylcellulose in ethanol and raw pigments chosen for their stability characteristics. Both are picked from the tip of a medium hard brush and juxtaposed on the infill until desired color effect is reached.

 

7. Hair flocking

We found that hair flocking was not disrupting the general aspect of the object in areas of loss. Therefore, since we were unsure of the nature of the hair and with no definitive or unique solution yet for this field of conservation, we just did not add hair on the infills. However, the dog was the perfect cobaye for an idea we have had in our mind for a few years now…a future article will tell you all about our idea to make fake hair on such pieces. To be continued! (The link will appear here)

More before-after pictures:

 

 

 

And here are two sets of pictures Nico sent me after I left, that illustrate quite well our collaboration :

 

Above – right chop corner was mended and retouched by Nico, and the left one by myself. She looks less « crazy » now that her grin is back in shape, don’t you think ?

 

Here on the leg, I thinned down the glue and started aligning the gap while I was still in the workshop, and Nico completed the conservation treatment with the remaining infill layers and retouching.


CHAPITRE 4: AU REVOIR CHÈRE ALPHONSINE

Dear Alphonsine looks better now if I dare say of my own work. Although she came in very poor condition, it was possible to gain back some of her past lush with rounded-up conservation and keep her integrity intact.

Racing horses cannot be made from donkeys, therefore, some distortion is still present – but believe me when I say three weeks were not enough to shape the face into her past glory. More months would not have been enough either, as, remember: the head is made of two hard papier-mâché molds, covered with a thin papier-mâché “mask” which was not of the same shape exactly. When the thin mask broke in the middle, it had already changed shape from the pressure applied from behind with the other two parts, and elongated on the nose, thus a strange shape confined under paint.

We lift it up to a close appearance to was it used to look like (both parts of the face are asymmetrical on all the pull-toy bulldogs we found), but did not insist, as the client wanted the mechanism to work again – who knows for how long. Trying too hard to reshape the head would have just make it break again, eventually, as you remember the two small « mask » could not whistand the large « skull » pressure.

Therefore we compromised to bring the tear together but did not insist more than allowed. Leaving to a conservator with more time (if that exists) the possibility to shape it one day again, as all materials employed are removable, compatible, and durable in time.


As I was working there three weeks only, you will sadly not see in this article how to put back in place a crooked leg (which could have been graphic), or hear the bark (not suitable for all audience either) of Alphonsine. This is a mission for Nico and I know we will get a ticket for the show.

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General view shortly before I left after three weeks of work

 

I wish to thank her, once more and always for all the light and fun she brought me through this collaboration. Meeting her met all my best wishes, and working together on this really challenging and fun piece was the absolute cherry on top of the Twin Peaks famous pie. She introduced me to a lot of talented and kind people that went accross the shop for work or encouragement and I am glad to say she is well surrounded – and to say this to them that will recognize themselves, I cannot start naming them as I don’t have enough fingers to count them.

More than this, I made a great friend in Nico and confirmed a passion for my job, which I hope everyone can say also. Goodbye for now with a picture from the farmer’s market in Seattle (in case you still had doubts that the two of us really met). À bientôt ! – Yours truly, Ségolène

(to be continued when I am back in the studio)

[1] As seen in Hartley’s auction on September 27th 2014 : https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-gb/auction-catalogues/hartleys/catalogue-id-srhar10003/lot-a1b46a28-633f-4b31-84f1-a3f70167a3c2

Barbara Dumont, Anne-Laurence Dupont, Marie-Christine Papillon, Gaël-François Jeannel. Technical Study and Conservation-Treatment of a Horse Model by Dr Auzoux. Studies in Conservation, Maney Publishing, 2011, 56, pp.58 – 74. <10.1002/anie.200905131>.

Jeffrey Warda, Irene Brückle, Anikó Bezúr & Dan Kushel (2007) Analysis of Agarose, Carbopol, and Laponite Gel Poultices in Paper Conservation, Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, 46:3, 263-279 http://dx.doi.org/10.1179/019713607806112260

8è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Final by Ségolène Girard

Restoration of a 19th c. lottery game by M.J & Cie.

8è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Final by Ségolène Girard


Seg is speaking !

Hello everyone ! Because now I know I am not speaking all alone (ha ha) actually I was lately saying to Brittany that I thought I was only writing these articles for her (and that I was still happy to do it), and two or three friends of mine. But she told me to look in the insights of the blog, and….to the 90 people that read my last post, and to the others (maybe more) that read my former posts ; I am so very flattered !

It’s been exactly a year after I first started writing on this blog thanks to the spot Brittany allowed me to have. It was also at about the same moment that I met her so that is very significant for me, and probably an important date on the calendar for both of us. But that you will know about in time. So yes it makes me sad, and at the same time very happy to write that last article about the Horse Racing Game, at the same time the end and the beginning of even more great things to share with you people ! So much happened within a year.

Now, the last pictures of the Horse Racing Game with before/after restoration comparisons (I know you all love this, we all do). Enjoy !

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The plateau before and after treatment of the felt, stabilization of the rust, and fixing of the flaking paint :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.54.20Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.53.03_________________________________________________________________________

A sight of the cardboard of the base that I had to change ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.54.42

Remember all the mold it was suffering from ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 23.01.32Now with a new non-acid cardboard, and an extension of the flaps that were missing from the base papers. I replaced them and colored them to merge with the originals ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.52.23And here is a closer view of the aspect of the paper and the details of the plaque. Remember also that golden papers had all to be replaced, you can see the final result here :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.52.39_______________________________________________________________________

The cardboard lid was extremely warped. Thanks to the dampening room, weights and patience, I got excellent results as you can see on the following pictures :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.54.03Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.51.36

Unstucking the papers thanks to the Gore-tex® process allowed me to regain the original flatness and resorb the folds and deformations of the paper. These pictures also gives you the comparison before-after dusting, cleaning and bathes that the papers had been subjects of ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.53.46Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.53.23________________________________________________________________________

The pinky-greyish marks are the result of passage of time. I decided not to touch them as I feel that we already get the best results of the original colours with the cleaning process. Nevertheless, I of course executed retouches on the pieces of papers added in order to fill the torn and missing parts. Yet, they are executed in a slightly different tone to let appear the restoration. As part of our ethics, we are not pretending that our restoration never occurred. We are here to extend the life of the object, and if possible, allow a better appreciation of it.

There, on the left and right sides of the corner, and even a tiny piece in the point of the angle.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.50.36And here, visible when close, but invisible when at one meter of distance :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 23.20.15

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Et voilà :

IMG_4443IMG_4443 copie IMG_4430 copie Capture d’écran 2013-05-06 à 00.30.33 Capture d’écran 2013-05-06 à 00.33.15

Previous: 7è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game -Conservation (Part II)

Read Also: Conserving a papier-mâché barking bulldog

6è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Conservation (Part I) by Ségolène Girard

Restoration of a 19th c. lottery game by M.J & Cie.

6è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Conservation (Part I) by Ségolène Girard


Seg is speaking !

Finally after a year, here my conservation process. No more talking, let’s get to work.

First, I dismounted the cardboard base that was covered with mold, in order to get rid of it rapidly. It was easy to do since the paper flaps of the base were already unstuck from it. Then I pulled the nails out, it was more delicate because they were so rusted they could break at any moment and remain in the wooden base, unreachable.

Then I dusted all of the game with soft brushes, and powdered rubber. Just like a peeling ! Making sure to go everywhere, insisting on the intern metal parts now accessible with harder brushes made of pig bristle. Everything was removed with soft large brushes of goat hair.

This is a picture of the papers on the lid after this process, you can see the rubber is absolutely grey :

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Here is a better picture of its aspect before and after the dusting treatment :

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.09.16

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.08.05

Just with that simple process, it sure looks better ! But that is not all, dusting is extremely important for the interventions to come ; indeed, we are about to bring water to take the papers off. The maximum of the dirt needs to be removed before bringing up some water, because it could cause more stains, or encrust even more the paper.

The papers need to be removed in order to clean them into a bath if the colors holds fine to the paper. The side papers are not too complicated to remove because the sides of the box are already quite flat.

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.32.42

The harder part is the top paper, because the cardboard is curved, and the paper, almost unstuck, is ripping at the limit stuck-unstuck.

We cannot bring directly water on the box, because the cardboard would disintegrate. Now how do we proceed ?

Let me introduce to you ; The Gore-tex® !

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.27.40This technology created especially for the needs of restoration is the sort of gauze here on the picture. It transforms the water held in the soaked blotters (ivory form), into water gas ! The plastic sheet is called Melinex®. It creates a dampening room, this way, the paper will unstuck gently through a night, without any risk of making halos. The only inconvenient is the length of the process, since I had to do it side by side for logical reasons. But it was worth it !

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.48.37There you see it perfectly unstuck without any liquid water added. Magical ? No restoration !

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.50.02Oh wait yes there are stains I know… but it can be explained ! The darker stain is actually the remaining humidity in the paper brought by the Gore-tex®, it was already drying away.

The brown watermarks in the bottom were there already, and that is one of the reason I now processed to a bath, and did as well with all of the other papers.

Cleaning them is important for several reasons ;

=> Visually, it would be nice to remove the remaining dirt that is really encrusted in the paper.

=> Then, it will help us to flatten them, and also the cardboard of the lid, which has to be done separately since the cardboard and the paper moved differently beginning at the moment they got separated by the flood.

=> Flattening them will allow us to repair the tears and gaps, remount golden papers on the edges, and to stick it back on the cardboard.

=> Finally, water will do good by reuniting the fibers of the paper, reorienting them, and getting the oxidize particles off. Indeed, any paper made after the middle of the 19th century has chemical components, that oxidize with time and yellows the paper. This process is inherent to the composition of the paper. We cannot stop it, but we can slow it down with bath.

Be careful, this is not something you can do at home ! Many people use also whiteners ; now if you did not know, never redo this ! You are only destroying further your object. It sure looks great and white again after the bath, but it will now be destroying itself ten times more rapidly, in ten years it will be even yellower than before the bath, a former yellow color that it had gain within 150 years.

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.54.27

After having done tests in order to see if the painting held well on the paper, I put them into a bath of water only. You can see the upper paper, and a torn bottom flap. They are laying down on a non-weaved fabric used in restoration, the papers are actually very thin and brittle, and the cloth allows us to take them off the water with no risk of tearing them (a philatelist’s dream !).

With soft brushes and a gentle action I removed all the dirt I could, which was easier as it was softened.

You can see how the paper regained its original color.

Up next: 7è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Conservation (Part II)

Previous: 5è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Diagnosis and Suggested Treatment

5è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Diagnosis and Suggested Treatment by Ségolène Girard

Restoration of a 19th c. lottery game by M.J & Cie.

5è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Diagnosis and Suggested Treatment by S. Girard


Seg is speaking !

And sorry for the delay – the end of my third year is full with the preparation of the two next years : those of my master’s thesis, and long-term internships. Hopefully, I will get the chance to study in England to follow the path of Brittany, and hopefully at Brittany’s future workshop that promises to be filled with any restorer’s dreams, thank to the amazing job she is doing !

Let’s now get into the real process of restoration of my horse racing game.
After a full report of the deterioration it suffers of, and having took many pictures to complete it, I began thinking about options on what would have to be done on the game.

Capture d’écran 2014-04-03 à 23.05.05

It sort of was a personal project I did on my own, so of course, there are things that after a year I know I would have done otherwise with experience. But I am glad I got the chance to work on that piece so soon, since it has been a challenge the all way long. Also, considering that with only a year +1 I am already reconsidering my choices, and designing new options if I had to deal with a piece like this again, I feel it is very promising, and that this “stepping back” will grow with each year gained in experience.

As a two years student in restoration and conservation of paper works, I envisaged quite advanced actions :

– The game will be dismantled, drawings made to build it back.

– All of the pieces will be treated separately, and first dusted.

– I would then unstick all of the black papers, in order to repair the tears and gaps, and gain in flatness. Also, this would allow me to flatten the cardboard lid, before sticking the papers back. The golden papers, too oxydised would be removed and replaced by new ones. I felt that their now green colour was not rendering back the cheerful aspect of what that of game fortune used to give. If it has only been for the colour, I might have let them, considering them as part of the story the game came trough, but anyway, they were too incomplete, brittle, and could not offer their former protection to the edges.

The lid needs to be flattened, and the paper cleansed

The golden edges are not gold anymore, and they are leaving the sharp edges vulnerable to wear and tear

– The cardboard lower part, covered with mould, will be removed and replaced with a non-acid cardboard used in restoration.

Mould on the lower part of the game, after dismounting it

– The base, made out of wood, will be decontaminated because of the insects before putting the papers back.

Insect holes on the wooden base

Did you know you can recognize the insect that lived there only by the shape of the holes it leaves behind him ?

– The metal parts will be treated against rust.

Rust on the plateau of the base (inside view)

– Lead painting will be stabilized to prevent it of more flaking.

Flaking paint on the hoop

These actions resume what I dealt with the same way that I would now do it.
The only part that caused me trouble at that time, and that I would have done differently if I had had the time and funds is the treatment of the felt on the plateau. I decided to remove it because of its faded colour, and it was sometimes so thin you could see through it. Also, I wanted to access the metal parts to treat them against rust. It was a very hard choice to make ; choosing between which part to favor, and which to sacrifize. Anyway, I will probably have more time to study these types of problems in the future when I will be my own master on board !

Up next: 6è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Conservation (Part I)

Previous: 4è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – A bit of History (Part II: Lottery Games)

 

1è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Introduction by Ségolène Girard

Restoration of a 19th c. lottery game by M.J & Cie.

1è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Introduction by Ségolène Girard


Seg is speaking !

Last summer, preparing for my second year specializing in paper conservation, I had to find a few engravings or flat objects to work on. But I enjoy brain-teasers; no need to say that I wanted something more challenging.

While meandering in a jumble sale, among My Little Poneys’ toys, corkscrews, and other useless tat people keep, I came across this lottery game. The only antiques dealer of the market had other great pieces, but it is this game that caught my attention.

Capture d’écran 2013-06-19 à 12.56.23

Paper. Cardboard. Wood. Metal. Gears. Felt. Lead paint flaking off. Rust. Dust. And cherry on top: a fair amount of mold – quite a lot actually. Precisely the kind of object my teachers would never want me to touch before I’ve gained enough experience. Did I ever mentioned that my teachers always tear their hair out in my case ? Well once more, I would go against their will, hoping that once more I will manage.

People usually see me as one that has a lot of confidence, but here I’ll confide in you something – I usually get through tricky situations pretending that it’s a piece of cake, even though I know once again I’ve gotten myself into problems. And guess what? It works ! I’ve never had so much success than the times I practiced being positive – End of the self-centered parenthesis.

Back to the bric-à-brac dealer: Literally drooling over the game – to give you an idea – the sight of mold and dust and broken objects has the same affect on restorers as a new pair of shoes onto a fashionista. We need it. We want it. Of course I had forgotten my wallet, and I begged my father to lend me the money. He refused. Here I have to say that as the two stubborn people we are, we had a little brush. I explain ; my father is the kind that usually buys things on a whim. But he doesn’t like to loose a trade. The dealer here was selling the game 30€ ($40). A game of that sort in a good state is 300€ (c. $400). So when he asked for 25, and the trader refused, I said yes for 30 right away, and he said no. For a difference of 5 ! Ha, fathers. I guess he also knew it would be trouble at school. Well I won’t epilogue on this. I don’t know how that happened. But I finally got it.

Dad if you read this, I hope you’re not too vexed, and you realized it was a good bargain in the end. Actually, thank you, it put more pressure on me to succeed in this first demanding restoration. *No pressure. Easiest restoration ever* Anyway life is not without taking risks, and my concept of learning includes mistakes.

This was more of a personal introduction. Next time, I will give you a brief historical of this piece, sketches, and dissection of the different materials, before we get started with the scientific part !

up next : 2e Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Condition Report