Historic Scotland Internship in the Conservation of Decorated Architectural Woodwork, based on a project to restore Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Ingram Street Tearoom Interiors, at workshops in Glasgow managed by Glasgow Museums. My supervisors were Andrew Stone then Marie Stumpff.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928)
The Ingram Street Tea-rooms in Glasgow City Centre were designed for Miss Kate Cranston by (now) internationally celebrated artist/designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh between 1900 and 1912. It was made up of several interconnecting salons (Ladies Luncheon Room, 2 Billiard Rooms, Oak Room, Oval Room, Ladies Rest Room, Chinese Room & Cloister Room) with hallways, toilets, staircases & catering areas. Though largely wooden in construction, there was also a range of innovative materials employed including leaded mirror glass, leaded casein plastic, woven rush, and areas of gilding and decorative painting. The tearooms were closed in 1950 from then on they were owned by Glasgow City Council and became used for storage and a souvenir shop. They finally removed in 1971 however they were subsequently stored in poor conditions, resulting in considerable damage. In 1977, the rooms were taken into the care of Glasgow Museums who instigated their reconstruction.
Ladies Luncheon (or White) Room (1900) after restoration & reconstruction
Work began on the restoration of the Ladies' Luncheon Room in 1993 for an exhibition on the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The exhibition was held in Glasgow in 1996, later toured in the USA as part of the ‘Art Nouveau’ exhibition, and proved to be a huge success, stimulating interest in the rest of the rooms.
My one-year internship took place in the second year of a three-year Project, which aimed to reconstruct the Chinese Room, Cloister Room and Oval Room with funding from the Scottish Executive, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and private donors. The following year I returned to the project as a freelance conservator
The aim of the conservation project was to 'restore the original design idea whilst retaining as much of the original material as possible'. The reconstructed rooms have been designed to be displayed as free-standing structures.
CLOISTER (MOORISH) ROOM (1911)
Before dismantling ca. 1971
Helping to reconstruct new ceiling onto curved mould
The new ceiling was constructed using 'Jesmonite', an acrylic co-polymer, reinforced with quad-axial fibreglass sheets. The original was constructed with plaster & reinforced with horse hair, but were destroyed from damp storage conditions & reconstruction was guided by B&W
Installation of part of the new ceiling-showing one of the domes
Adhering wooden batons to rear of 'capping' pieces. Turn buttons were then affixed to these
The 'capping' piece batons fit in existing gap between panels & turn buttons keep them in place from behind
Close-up of niche with leaded mirror panels flanked by painted 'lozenge' design capping pieces, with carved wavy design above
Close-up of wall-panels
The above image shows the range of bright colors employed in the design. Mechanical damage to the surface is visible appearing at chair height and uneven colors of the lozenges due to
Solvents were tested in discrete areas to remove the dark wash that had been applied to some of the non-patterned panels on top of the original finish.
CHINESE ROOM (1911)
Chinese Room prior to dismantling, ca. 1971
Carrying out structural repairs on lattice parts
The room had been overpainted many times, most recently in this dark green.
Removing heavy overpaint from the woven rush screen revealing damaged underlying paint
layers & defining its true texture.
Following analysis, a new paint was specifically mixed to match the original paint surface in color & composition (lead based). This was applied over the existing layers, because removal of all overpaint layers would be challenging and costly and this method preserves the original.
Repainting of elements
During reassembly before new parts painted
One of the lattice cabinets made up on leaded up casein plastic strips, and mirror glass
One of my personal projects focused on the mirror panels from the Chinese Room-consisting of Flat Panels (89 remaining of 109) & Curved Panels (16 remaining of 17). This included de-installation, cataloging, documenting & carry out individual condition assessments, surface cleaning & packaging for storage.
Showing deterioration to leaded mirror panels
Each panel displayed various types of deterioration: surface dirt, broken or twisted lead came, loose/missing putty, broken/missing glass, missing/deteriorated areas of backing (asphaltum coating), corroded silvering.
Front-cleaning to remove surface dirt from mirrored surface
I also practiced impregnation methods of repairing cracks in glass, using Hxtal Nyl-1 (2 part) epoxy resin) & carried out in-depth research into methods & materials for consolidation of silvering & backing, in-gilding of missing silvering & application of a protective backing material.
Rear- cleaning to remove surface dirt from fragile backing
OVAL ROOM (1909)
The investigation work on this room was just commencing as my internship drew to a close. No original photographs existed of this room and it had long been documented as being painted white by authorities on Mackintosh. SO to my great delete during cleaning trials I was the first to discover this was NOT the case after all.
Close-up during cleaning of curved window screen
The white ovepaint was easily removed using aqeous cleaning solutions with non-ionic detergent revealing the underlying original surface-in this case a dark& glossy stain.
Window screen nearing completion of overpaint removal
During removal of overpaint
Paint removal from wooden panel revealed dark, glossy stain with relief work picked out in silver
During cleaning trials
And a fabric with wood surround panel revealed an underlying gold! ..........................................................................................................................................................................
Glasgow Museums has now restored the Chinese Room and the Cloister Room, and sections are displayed in the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Museum. Little photographic evidence of the tearooms over these years is known to exist. The Ingram Street Tearoom was originally one of four tearooms owned by Kate Cranston with designs provided by Mackintosh, the others being Buchanan St., Argyle St., & the Willow (on Sauchiehall St). They are now the only original set of Mackintosh tearoom interiors to survive.
In forthcoming blogs I will talk about other projects I worked on at the Ingram Street Tearooms!
For more info on Mackintosh & the Glasgow Style: http://www.crmsociety.com/