Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rebecca Vaughan House Roof

The Rebecca Vaughan House is known to be the last site in which anyone was killed during the Nat Turner slave insurrection in 1831. The house was recently donated and relocated to the Southampton Agricultural and Forestry Museum in Courtland Va. The restoration of the house will be carried out in 3 different phases as fundraising efforts allow.

The first phase included replacement of the metal roof with a cypress shingle roof, and restoration of the 5 original dormer windows and the recreation of the missing 6th dormer.

The Cypress shingles were provided by Museum Resources located in Providence Forge Va.

The Window Sashes and Frames were built by Old Virginia Millwork in Franklin Va.

Roof before restoration

Damaged rafters removed

New rafters and bracing being installed

Framing the missing dormer window

Replacement of missing skip sheathing

Framing and sheathing complete

Cypress shingles go on

Back side shingles complete

Restoration of front side dormers

Priming original beaded shiplap siding

Completed dormer trim

Restored dormers awaiting window sashes

Painting completed dormers

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Introducing Black Creek Workshop

Black Creek Workshop is the collaboration of husband and wife team, Benjamin and Maeve Bristow, and specializes in Architectural and Decorative Arts Conservation. With Benjamin’s extensive work as a highly skilled historic carpenter and cabinetmaker, and Maeve’s formal training and employment as a conservator of painted surfaces and historic interiors, they bring over 20 year of experience and professional expertise to their new business.

In addition to historic conservation, we will be offering custom furniture and cabinet work from our new workshop. We will be focusing on producing faithful reproductions and well as custom designed works. We hope to feature upcoming projects on our blog and feature items available for purchase.

Located in Toano, Virginia, our workshop encompasses 2000sqft of studio space and a fully equipped cabinet shop. However due to the nature of large-scale projects, our work is often carried out on-site at locations throughout Virginia & South East USA.

Contact Us!

Contact us at:

Maeve & Ben Bristow
Black Creek Workshop LLC
236 Industrial Boulevard Ste. G
Toano, VA 23168

Cell: 757-784-0449 or 757-876-7256


Thursday, April 29, 2010

CRM-Chinese Room Pagoda Light Fitting

The 'pagoda' light fitting was one of 18 designed by Mackintosh in 1911 for use in the Chinese Room (formerly Gentleman's Tearoom) of Miss Kate Cranston's Ingram Street Tearooms, Glasgow. It was suspended from the ceiling through voids in the lattice sub-ceiling. Beneath the wooden sections hung domed light shades, made from copper but painted green which had shapes cut out to project beams onto the pay-desk.

Chinese Room (1911) circa 1971.

The 'pagoda' is carved from Cypress & consists of 8 tiers but constructed from 4 carved sections (2 tiers each), descending in size from bottom to top. Each piece is joined to the next with long wooden screws and animal glue, and there is a hole in the middle for an electric cable to pass through.

Pagoda before treatment-overpainted with missing pieces

Underneath there is an inverted dome so it could sit on the curved metal light shade. The upper faces are painted in an off-white oil-medium, the edges are painted green, and the undersides are painted dark red. The original '4-legged' accessory that should sit on top of the structure is missing, but a replacement has been carved previously.

Separated into component parts for treatment

The whole piece is covered with layer of greasy dirt, especially on the recessed bottom where it has a craquelure effect (perhaps due to direct heat contact). Some of the protruding edges have broken of (mostly lost), and reveal the original colour scheme & timber substrate.

Reassembled after replacement of missing areas

After separating into component parts splits & detached pieces were re-adhered with PVA & clamped. Broken edge planed flat whilst removing minimal of original to allow a good fit with new timber & more stable structure. Piece of cherry wood (good alternative) were cut & spliced to broken edges, adhering with PVA under clamps. New timber was carved to match original curved edges, using extant areas as reference. Before final cuts& sanding etc, the structure was reassembled dry to check the shapes in relation to on another.

Underside view-during cleaning

Component parts re-adhered using animal glue (same as original) & original screw reinstated. After cleaning tests ethanol on cotton swabs was used to remove greasy dirt from all surfaces.

During repainting & attachment of new top decoration

After concluding the original color scheme, acrylic paints were mixed and applied over all of the upper surfaces, using underlying areas and other fittings from the set as reference. Underneath surfaces were not repainted as considered to be original, but new carving painted to match.

After restoration treatment

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stone Conservation- Scotland

Back in 2002 I moved from Glasgow to its very different but equally amazing neighboring city of Edinburgh, to take up a position with private stone conservation company owned and run by Nicolas Boyes. Over the following year I would gain a sound knowledge in the use of lime, and a ton of practical experience, working on-site full time on some of the most significant buildings in the capital. Here is just a few:

St. Giles Cathedral, Royal Mile

Since 1998 an important project has been underway to renew the fabric and interior of St Giles' Cathedral. So far, it has centred on conservation of the medieval Tower and the Crown Spire, and on the exterior of the building - releading of the roofs, stonework repairs and expert attention to the stained glass windows. My work included repointing 'miles of joints with natural lime mortar, securing loose areas of stone, and filling losses in the stone using a lime-based material which I color matched with addition of pure pigments and tooled to match texture etc.

Royal Scottish Academy, the Mound

The Royal Scottish Academy Building, situated in the centre of Edinburgh was designed by William Henry Playfair from 1822-26 with alterations 1832-5. Along with the adjacent National Gallery of Scotland, their neo-classical design helped transform Edinburgh in to a modern day Athens of the North. 2004 saw the completion of Phase 1 of the Playfair Project which consisted of restoration of the RSA building and creation of an underground link (Weston Link) between the RSA and the National Gallery of Scotland building behind. My work on the RSA included cleaning of interior stonework using steam-cleaners, and alone I carried out the removal of graffiti on 2 exterior sides of the buildings & their columns etc. Methods for graffiti removal included use of solvent gels, steam-cleaning and extensive use of a portable laser cleaning machine. Areas of greater disturbance were lime-washed after color matching.

Queensbury House-after completion of restoration

Queensbury House was built in the mid C17th and experience a fascinating history including site of a notorious murder, army barracks, public and geriatric hospital, a House of Refuge and in 1997 it was acquired by the Scottish Office to be integrated into the complex for the new Scottish Parliament building. This part of the project involved restoration of the exterior, return to its original height, and reinforcement with concrete & steel throughout.

For the interior, specialist contractors removed C19th plaster & excavated, then RCHAMS surveyed & documented the internal walls & historical features. Where stonework was of high quality it was left exposed and my work there involved brushing down loose areas of mortar then re-pointing around the stonework using historically accurate mortar. This had been matched for color, aggregate and composition, and was applied & fashioned so that it fitted in with the appearance of the areas of original mortar. Other remaining walls are covered in plasterboard and painted.

Mansfield Church-Christ

The West Wall/gable wall depicts the 'Second Coming of Christ' and was executed by Phoebe Anna Traquair in 1900-1901. My work focused on the upper portion of Christ with a rainbow aura surrounded by angels & musicians located below a wheel window & cill.

West Wall/ The Second Coming of Christ with Pentecostal Frieze below

The raised work/pastiglio on the angels' halos & musical instruments has been oil gilded. The paint is an oil-medium on a lime-plaster ground & it has been varnished. There is a large vertical settlement crack running diagonally through this area.

Showing damage to angels' faces below cill

Water ingress from the wheel window & cill has caused delamination of stonework, failure of plaster & flaking paint-with substantial loss & friability. Facings of eltoline tissue applied in 1993 have temporarily secured the weak & flaking areas of paint, and at the same time some consolidation & reattachment of raised elements was carried out using a PVA.

Carefully removing facing tissue where possible to allow proper condition assessment

Between 2000-2002 the 2year project to stabilize & restore the fabric of the building included repairs to the guttering, windows, stonework, and securing & monitoring the crack.
The large structural crack is now believed to be stable however it is felt to be visually disturbing. There is evidence of overpaint on the edges of the crack suggesting earlier treatment.

Reconstruction of pastiglio

Lascaux Heat-Seal consolidant 375 (70%in white spirit) was injected behind areas of loose/flaking paint & laid down with a tacking iron. Friable areas of plaster were removed and edge-pointed with 1:2 lime/sand course mix.

In-filling of structural crack

The large structural crack was cleared of old loose plaster and deep-filled with the 1:2 lime/sand mix to a level 5mm below surface. Losses in the ground layer were in-filled level with fine filler (1:2.5 lime/marble dust). Losses to angel's halos were remodeled using a traditional gesso putty recipe.

During cleaning to remove surface dirt

Cleaning was carried out using aqueous chelator to remove surface dirt which then allowed an even removal of discolored varnish using using ethanol. This also softened over-paint so it could be removed mechanically.

In-painting losses

Losses to the paint layer were in-painted sympathetically to the original finish in watercolors to bring up to tone then pure pigments bound in varnish medium
(Dammar gloss).

Loss compensation of gilded using transfer gold leaf

A new plane was created over the gap between the two crack edges using the fine filler which was in-painted & in-gilded to achieve a unifying & continuous appearance.

Finished treatment-after final coat of varnish!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Abbey Strand- Painted Ceiling

This project focused on a
decoratively painted timber beam ceiling (early C17th) originally from Midhope castle which is now located in 'Abbey Strand', a late C15th three-story building located next to the Palace of Holyrood at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The building now houses the Historic Scotland bookshop and the treatment of the ceiling was carried out alongside conservators from South Gyle’s structural painting conservation unit.

This ‘beam and board’ timber ceiling was created during the Scottish ‘Renaissance', a period during the reign of James VI (1567-1625) when there was a flourishing of creative activity. A unique collection of painted ceilings, mainly of this type of construction have been found throughout the country.

The oak support beams were painted on all three sides with a design involving geometric patterns, scroll-work and sunbursts. Working in a water-based glue tempera medium or 'distemper' the design was outlined in black over a white chalk ground and then filled in with color. It is unlikely that the decoration received a protective covering by the original artist as often their intention was to achieve an entirely matte surface finish.

Close-up of flaking paint

It was noted that the paint was actively flaking and required immediate attention and stabilization. Distemper paint is often under-bound and appears to be powdery, it is inadvisable to make direct contact with the paint layer during treatment as this is likely to remove it. Therefore it was necessary to work through Japanese facing tissue.

Brushing a weak gelatin solution through Japanese facing tissue

A gelatin solution was chosen to consolidate the powdery and flaking paint because it does not not affect the refractive index (RI) of this paint, hence not changing the appearance, and is not an alien material. However is is very hygroscopic and vulnerable to fluctuations in relative humidity (RH) so a controlled environment is essential.

A cotton swab is used to apply light pressure to lay down the areas of lifting paint whilst removing excess gelatin solution and solublilized surface dirt. The facing tissue is then carefully removed whilst still damp and the painted surface is allowed to dry naturally.

Finished treatment: the delicate surface has been stabilized, flaking areas laid down and surface appears slightly brighter due to removal of some surface dirt.