Cloisonne Repair

The Meiji period in Japan saw the apogee of a long tradition of craft. One of the primary forms from this time is cloisonne. The restoration of these sublime objects is a specialty of our work at Restoration Services.

When a piece of cloisonne is impacted, a dent in the substrate (usually copper, occasionally plated with silver) may result. This usually causes radiating cracks, and even losses, from the glass layer above. The first step in treating such damage is the cleaning and consolidation of the crushed and cracked glass. Using optical epoxy, the cracks are invaded, becoming stable as well as nearly invisible. Dents are filled back to the original surface with the same optical epoxy, as it is generally inadvisable to actually push out the dent because it can cause further cracking and loss of glass. The surface is then recreated, using airbrushing and very fine handpainting, finishing with recreating the original design, and blending the repair unseen into the surrounding polished surface. This is a skillful and little-known process.

On the finer Meiji pieces the restoration process can be a considerable challenge, using all our artistic skills to harmonize with the intricate images and designs, and even representing the bronze, silver or gold cloison wires that usually separate the colors. These repairs are not done with glass and wire, and the pieces are not reheated. Instead, we use reversible acrylics and museum-grade optical epoxies and pigments (we formulate our own paints) to make the most durable and light-stable repairs possible, that are also conservationally appropriate.

 

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