Notes from seminar showing locations of toned fills and before, during, and after humidification.
Seminar with Lara Kaplan, Objects Conservator in private practice and Affiliated Assistant Professor at Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC).

The seminar introduced common means of reshaping with local or overall humidification, and passive and active ways to repair damaged basketry items.

Baskets are susceptible to deformation if damaged or stored incorrectly (e.g. in a climate with high RH and no internal support). Humidification, overall or local, can be carried out to reshape the basket or to realign members.

Mending is carried out when a break, fold, split or other weakened area needs reinforcing. Typically, the treatments involve adhesives as a backing material and are toned to match surrounding areas.

Loss compensation is carried out for structural or aesthetic reasons. It can be done by mimicking the weave of the basket with materials such as Japanese tissue paper or thick Tyvek, or from casting new parts with paper pulp.

In this seminar, Lara explained the benefit of these techniques while cautioning their impact on the micro-structure of the plant material. The seminar included a practical session where I carried out different loss compensation and mending techniques using various adhesives, paints, and fill materials on two sections of rattan and “Frankenstein” mends on a study collection item.

Practicing 'Frankenstein mends' on a damaged, woven mat.
Natalya Swanson