The last thing I cleaned at the Abbey is something I’ve been looking at for a while because it’s so pretty. Then I was lucky enough not only to clean it, but to clean it with cotton buds. Yeah, it doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s also something I’ve been wanting to try and then I got to do both and at the same time!!
This is a 19th Century wall hanging from Italy. It was designed only to be hung inside, which we can tell by the fact the back of it has no protective coating. The flowers are made of porcelain and the rest (as you could guess) metal. There were various things to consider when cleaning this.
First of all, there are patches which show that the metal used to be entirely gilded with gold. This would have been beautiful when new, but it is still very stunning.
To ensure that is gilding is preserved best as possible, a very soft pony hair brush was used to dust these parts. A stiffer brush could be used elsewhere on the metal but, as always with gilding, I had to be very careful with it.
Next there were sections of the porcelain where the glaze had chipped off, leaving an exposed porous area.
Obviously I had to be careful brushing these areas so not to chip more. But because this piece is so full of colour, and doesn’t get cleaned enough, it was decided it was best to have a more detailed clean with cotton buds, once the top layer of dust had been removed by brush.
Cotton buds from the shop worked for this, but I was went to a conservation cleaning workshop where the lady said, if you plan to do a lot of this, it’s cheaper to use a toothpick and then spin the required amount of cotton wool around the end – then when it’s done you can just pop off the cotton and put new on. To moisten the cotton bud distilled water is used, and only a small amount as we don’t want to soak the art. Especially in the exposed porcelain I showed above – the water will be soaked in and take a while to dry and could damage it.
Once you’re prepared you gently roll the cotton in gentle strokes across the area. I didn’t get a photo of this, but I got through several buds just for one leaf which I thought was brown but turned out to be a bright yellow green. The cotton buds went black. It was gross but cool.