Pop up Conservation at Knole – Gilding

Here at Knole we’ve decided to make use of an opportune space to create a temporary conservation studio set up right in the middle of the house. You will be able to come and see us working on conservation activities and learn more about our project. The idea for having a Pop up Conservation Studio arose from two different situations. Initially the delay in the project timetable is going to push back the opening of the Knole Conservation Studio opening to May next year. Secondly with the removal of the Spangled Bed we were left with an empty room at Knole – not a usual occurrence!

We decided that both of these could work in our favour and the idea of a Pop up Conservation Studio was formed. We know from our other conservation activities and feedback from the wonderful film in the Spangled bedroom that conservation is of great interest and is really enjoyed by our visitors. We also have a huge amount of conservation work to complete over the next three years!

Therefore from now on, running into the foreseeable future we will be taking on various conservation projects in the Bedroom. For anyone who hasn’t see our wonderful film showing the dismantling of the Spangled Bed, don’t panic it is still being shown. We will start getting on with some important conservation work ahead of the opening of our brand new conservation studio!

Spangled Bedroom July 2015

One of the Spangled Bedroom tapestries ready to be worked on in our newly freed space.

The programme of conservation is still being developed but we’re confident there will be something of interest for everyone. We have already had an upholstery conservator working in here making presentation case covers for the Spangled Dressing room suite of furniture. In the next couple of days (October 15th & 16th) there will be a gilding workshop in this space, illustrating techniques used in making decorative surfaces.

A Golden Opportunity gilding workshops

Gilding in action

Staff and volunteers will be finding out about the ancient craft of gilding and discovering how some of the furniture and frames at Knole were gilded. Gilding used to be considered a secret art with gilders working behind screens and curtains to protect the light sheets from blowing away in a breeze. We will be working at gilding wooden surfaces previously prepared with traditional gesso and bol (layers of fine chalk and clay with animal glue).

By experimenting with how gilding was made we can get a much better understanding about how best to conserve the gilded items in our collections. We have plenty of gilded furniture at Knole and the more we understand it, the better we can look after it. You also never know what interesting stories it might uncover!

Detail of gilded figure on the headboard of the King James II bed prior to conservation and cleaning at Knole, Kent. The bedroom suite was ordered in 1688 and forms a remarkable collection of late Stuart upholstered furniture, but is now in urgent need of conservation to prevent further degradation.

Gilded figure on the headboard of the King James II bed prior to conservation and cleaning.

When the Conservation Studio and the Hayloft Learning Centre open next year, we will continue to experiment with and study gilding technologies. We will also be able to offer workshops so that visitors can learn this ancient skill, as well as methods of heritage science research and analysis.

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