Showing posts with label textiles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label textiles. Show all posts

July 23, 2013

Work of textile conservator Julia Brennan (ARCA '09) featured in new book on "The Turkish Ambassador's Residence and the Cultural History of Washington, D.C."

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The work of textile conservator Julia Brennan (ARCA '09) is one of the many features in the recently published book by Istanbul Kültür University, The Turkish Ambassador's Residence and the Cultural History of Washington, D.C., authored by Skip Moskey, Caroline Mesrobian Hickman, and John Edward Hasse.

Here are link's to Ms. Brennan's posts in 2011 on the Everett's House Ottoman-style wall fabrics in the ballroom and the project to conserve them.

The residence of the Turkish Ambassador in the American capital is a early 20th century mansion (1910-1915) buildt by Ohio-industrialist Edward Hamlin Everett (1851-1929) and designed by George Oakley Totten, Jr. The Turkish government purchased the home during the Great Depression and undertook a restoration of the residence between 2001 and 2007 under the direction of interior designer Aniko Gaal Schott and architect Belinda Reeder.

Mr. Skip Moskey writes on the 'intersection of politics, architecture, and social structure in the early history of Washington' and used primary research materials to write about Edward Hamlin Everett. Ms. Caroline Hickman wrote about the architect Totten and the interior decoration of the house using diplomatic records in the national Archives. John Edward Hasse documents the musical history of the residence, once the childhood home of the co-founder of Atlantic Records:
An important chapter in the history of the house was the decade between 1934 and 1944, when the sons of Ambassador and Mrs. Mehmet Münir Ertegün, Ahmet and Nesuhi, brought noted African-American musicians home for jazz sessions in the Embassy. There they broke racial barriers and enriched Washington's music scene through their passion for African-American music.
Ms. Brennan worked on the cleaning and conservation of the embroidered and appliqué silk architectural textiles that decorate the upper sections of the ballroom walls, as she describes here:
an extraordinary complex technique of appliqué of silk sateen cutouts (think matisse) on top of contrasting silk sateen ground, with each motif outlined with a cording that was stitched and glued on. The pattern, an architectural niche containing a tall bulbous 'vase' shape, alternates the red and gold silk, so the eye moves along as if following a series of decorative windows.
YouTube has a series of videos on the book launching at the Turkish residence in early July, including a discussion by Ms. Caroline Mesrobian Hickman.  

March 7, 2013

Wall Street Journal article highlights work of textile conservator Julia Brennan (ARCA Alum 2009)

An article in The Wall Street Journal by freelance writer Joanne Lee-Young, "A Guardian of Rare, Exotic Fabrics", highlights the work of textile conservator Julia Brennan who attended ARCA's Postgraduate Certificate Program in Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection in 2009.

Ms. Brennan's professional highlights include conservation work on Abraham Lincoln's coat, Babe Ruth's kimono; a 19th century Thai robe gifted by the King of Siam to the only foreign naval officer charged with leading the Royal Thai Navy; and teaching textile conservation techniques to monks in Bhutan. 

May 6, 2012

ARCA Grad Julia Brennan helps launch Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

Julia Brennan in her Thai Ruan Ton dress outside museum.
ARCA Alum '09 Julia Brennan, a textile conservator, was one of the international consultants who helped  to develop the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles in Thailand.

The institute focuses on preserving and reviving the Thai silk industry.

Here and here are two articles on the Queen's textile museum.  Brennan trained the conservation staff, helped design and set up the conservation lab, and worked with the team to treat, prepare and install more than 150 textiles for the inaugural exhibitions.

The museum will open to the public on May 9th.

November 18, 2011

Part Two: Conserving the Treasured Wall Fabrics of the Turkish Ballroom 2002-2007

Julia Brennan sewing net over damaged areas of silk
by Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

Part two

Atasoy describes that tent makers were divided into groups – those who sewed the tents and others who embroidered. The tent pieces were layers of fabric; the decorations, mostly floral, were cut out of fabric such as satin or silk, to shape the motif such as vase or column. They were sewn onto the backing fabric. A contour around the motif was shaped with a silk cording and sewn onto around the contours to mask the uncut edges and prevent unravelling. This is exactly how these wall fabrics were constructed; with a combination of stitching, glues, appliqués, and embroidery inside the vases. They are also pieced together; with patches inserted around arches, windows, and the stage. There were obviously plenty of pieces on site in order to exactly fit the fabrics into the finished architectural space. The patterns do not all match up – it is a patch work in many curved and small areas.

Lime encrustations and crepeline overlay from the 1960s
Another clue about the construction comes with the backing fabric, a coarse burlap fabric. This was behind all the appliqué silk. It is essentially the backing cloth. The old Ottoman tents were constructed with a taupe colored structural skeleton called ‘cengari’. This carried the weight of the embellishment and helped stabilize during constant installations. The hanging rings were sewn to this rough cloth. This system of hanging rings, (supplemented by later tacks, nails, and glue) was still evident on the Turkish Residence Ballroom textiles. The jute is part of the structure of the textiles. A linen backing had been sewn onto the back probably in the 1960’s campaign.

This was a massive project –- 515 square feet of complex and damaged textiles.

My team set up our workshop in the Residence and stayed for 11 months working, spread out on tables, and up on scaffolding as the seasons passed from blooming dogwoods, shivering cold winter bringing in our heaters, and back into spring, and the blossoming pear trees again. We vacuumed every two days just to pick up the fibers that were flying off the silks. We divided the panels up by location, documented extensively, and then systematically cleaned and repaired. Repairs had to be gross approach and not minute, due to sheer scope of project.

Once all the panels were de installed, then the architects could truly evaluate and see how damaged and porous the walls were. Since the entire house was being renovated, outside masonry work would be done to solve the leaking and stabilize the interior walls. The old crepeline overlays were removed, as well as the later linen backings. Each panel was carefully vacuumed through protective screens to remove surface soiling and dust. This also provided an opportunity to carefully examine each panel, document damage, as well as embroidery and technique.

Full panel after conservation
The most difficult challenge was cleaning. A majority of the soiling was greasy and gritty, blackened and dark stains, from leaks, coal burning heating system and city grime. Embedded into the silks and burlap, it made the fabrics brittle and dry rotted in areas. Due to the original use of glue to attach some of the appliqué and cording, a wet cleaning treatment was ruled out.

Moreover, this kind of soiling is better cleaned with solvent based applications. All the different fabrics and dyes were tested with the solvent and detergent. An extraction system was employed, pushing and extracting a petroleum-based volatile solvent combined with detergent, through each panel, section by section. Buckets of black solvent were extracted from the panels; a majority of the embedded soiling was removed and many of the dark stains were reduced in appearance.

The repair and stabilization of the fabrics was an eight month process. All the loose cording was re attached with hand stitching. The loose pieces of silk appliqué were re attached with hand stitching, and holes were ‘patched’ using new silk sateen in a similar color. Shredded silk sateen was realigned and couched with hand stitching. The surface silks were still fragile and the weight of the appliqué pulled on the silk ground cloth. Because the panels had to be strong and stable enough to be hung again for a projected fifty years, the decision was made to encase the most fragile of the panels in protective netting. If the panel was predominantly red, then a marroon netting was laid over the panel and hand stitched around the edges, and throughout all the patterning, following the edges of the applied cording and designs. Red and gold netting overlays were applied to about 40% of the panels. This overlay literally holds the silks in place and prevents loss while vertically hanging. The overlays do create a slight ‘veiling’ of the embroidery details and cast a slight red or gold sheen over those treated panels.

Finally, new cotton sateen linings were hand sewn to the back of each panel and fragment. Two inch wide Velcro machine sewn to three inch wide cotton upholstery tape was hand sewn along every edge of each panel, both horizontal and vertical axis. Four years later, when the house was completely renovated, our team returned to install the fabric panels. The walls, fully repaired, were sealed with a vapor and moisture barrier. Two inch wide thin battens were attached to the wall mirroring where the Velcro was on each panel. Two inch wide Velcro hook was stapled to the walls aligning with each strip of Velcro on each panel. One by one, working around the room, the panels were re attached. Finally, a system of low level LED ‘marquee’ lights were installed above and below the panels. This provides a subtle and safe lighting solution.

These textile panels never revealed a name or date, but their construction was telling about a by-gone era and production, as well as a flamboyant architect and his trusting patron. The Turkish Embassy did a great service restoring not only these unusual textiles, but the entire building.

References:

Atasoy, Nurhan. “Otag-I Humanyan: The Ottoman Imperial Tent Complex, Aygaz”, Istanbul, 2000.
Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Ottoman Tent”, www.turkishculture.org

Stone, Caroline. "Movable Palaces", Saudi Aramco World, July/August 2010, pgs. 36-43

Julia M. Brennan

November 17, 2011

Part One: Conserving the Treasured Wall Fabrics of the Turkish Ballroom 2002-2007

Julia at work in 2004
Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

Part one

In 2002 the Turkish government launched the renovation of the 1606 23rd Street, NW mansion; every detail both structural and decorative. It took four years. I served on a team consisting of an architect, engineer, designer, curator, conservators and appraisers evaluating the ballroom wall hangings. The main question was how much life remains? Could they be aesthetically and structurally restored to validate the cost of conservation? Discussions included possible replacement with reproduction weavings from high scale design houses, to simulate the overall look but not historic techniques. Another option considered was having new ‘embroideries’ produced in Turkey. (Could that even be done?) Concerns about the structural integrity of the walls to prevent future damage were hammered out. Since the entire mansion was going to have a grand face lift, these textiles had to meet the same aesthetic bar. Otherwise, the inclination was for retirement and replacement with in a newer look, a ‘proven’ longer term wall treatment.

Detail of stains
Nearly 100 years in situ had severely damaged the 515 square feet of wall fabrics. Visible from the floor, about 25% of the fabrics were in severe condition - badly stained, disintegrating, falling apart, and truly disfigured. Huge black stains around window frames marked where the silks were completely rotted. From a cursory examination on ladders, it was evident that the silks and backing fabrics were dry rotted, huge holes proliferated, the stains and encrustations had deteriorated the multiple layers of fabric in areas, the roof and window leaks had leached lime and plaster into the fabric – in short it was going to be a huge challenge!

As a conservator, I truly valued the historic importance of the fabrics. If they were retired, they would never be seen again. It was a long shot that money would be spent to reproduce them accurately. And while not fully proven, I believe they are original to the house and date to circa 1880-1900. In fact, the wall fabrics have not been definitively dated. (No written records were found.) One appraiser in 2002 concluded that they were a mid-century Ottoman style of embroidery and wall covering. While we can conclude that they were installed in situ circa 1914, they could have been cannibalized and cut from earlier 19th century wall coverings from Turkey. Since architect George Totten had lived and worked in Turkey, it is not inconceivable that he purchased these specifically for the ballroom. They are an extraordinary complex technique of appliqué of silk sateen cutouts (think Matisse) on top of contrasting silk sateen ground, with each large motif outlined with a cording that was stitched and glued on. The pattern, an architectural niche containing a tall bulbous ‘vase’ shapes, alternates the red and gold silk, so the eye moves along as if following a series of decorative windows. Within each ‘vase’ or ‘tree of life’ elaborate floral bouquets are embroidered in blues, pinks, yellows and reds. More than 12 genus correct floral bouquets were identified throughout the fabrics. In spite of the blackened stains, holes and losses, the fabrics were definitely worth preserving.

Inserting silk panels
It was also evident that the wall fabrics had previous repairs and restorations. There were many fine elegant stitch repairs, that may date back to the 1800s, depending on the original date of the fabrics. Coarser darnings and glue repairs were obviously later. Laid over most of the panels, and stitched like large billowing pillow-cases, was a dark brown silk crepeline (sheer silk) that was hanging in crispy tatters. This campaign was probably executed in the 1960s or early 1970s, in an effort to hold in place all the falling bits. This technique of ‘overlay’ is still employed by textile conservators. In fact, it was employed in the new 2003 treatment, but with a different material. Silk crepeline is very fragile and usually more short-lived than the artifact. Most 30 year old crepeline treatments have failed, unless they have not been exposed. Unfortunately, no previous treatment documents were available from the Embassy or other partners. My work was entirely deductive.

De-installing panels in 2003
In the initial stages of conservation research, we took down one smaller panel for examination and analysis. This permitted deconstruction and analysis of the entire construction, techniques and fabrics/materials. Some of the panels were hung with curtain rings at 6” intervals. This is similar to the technique used to hang large architectural banners in Turkey and frequently used to hang large textiles and tapestries until the 1970s (until Velcro came onto the market). Traditionally a string was woven through the rings so that the long hangings could be unfurled and hooked up easily. Construction and historic research revealed that the wall coverings are surely related and descended from an earlier Ottoman style of architectural tent hanging. Professor Dr. Nurhan Atasoy has published extensively on Ottoman Imperial Tents. While these hangings are surely not 16th - 18th century, they derive from the tradition of the interior tent decoration, in both design and construction.

Tents were used for military campaigns, state ceremonies, outings, personal ceremonies, daily housing, and of course by tribal groups. The Ottoman army had extensive tents, elaborately decorated to project power, prestige and comfort. The walls of the tents were formed by rectangular textile panels sewn together, and the number of panels depended on the size of the tent. They were crafted to recreate tiled panels in a room or pavilion. (Atasoy) Depending on rank, the tent had various degrees of decoration. Some were richly encrusted, with silks, and sparkling threads and embossed leather.


Atasoy, Nurhan. “Otag-I Humanyan: The Ottoman Imperial Tent Complex, Aygaz”, Istanbul, 2000.
Atasoy, Nurhan. “The Ottoman Tent”, www.turkishculture.org

Part two of this series will resume tomorrow on this blog.

Julia M. Brennan graduated from ARCA's International Art Crime Studies program in 2009.
www.caringfortextiles.com

November 16, 2011

Revisiting the Turkish Residence – The Ballroom’s “Ottoman style” Wall Fabrics

The Turkish Residence
By Julia M. Brennan
ARCA Washington DC Correspondent

This story is not about art theft or repatriation, rather it is a preservation account of a monumental project to conserve part of Turkey’s and Washington D.C.’s shared history.

Recently I had the honor of attending a lecture about the Perge excavations at the Turkish Residence in Washington DC. We gathered in the elegant ballroom, whose walls are covered with sumptuous arabesque and floral red and gold silk textiles. They are not just ‘wall fabric’, but architectural textiles; characterized by two-dimensional niches executed with a syncopation of color, pattern, and rich floral details. People wonder if they are painted, leather, old or new. The whole room radiates from the Ottoman-style wall fabrics. They draw you into a dance around the room, over gilt mirrors and carved doorways, the red and gold niches of red and gold silk vases, with flickers of subtle embroidery. They speak to another era and taste. In 2002, the Turkish Government launched a complete restoration of the mansion – every architectural, structural and decorative detail was addressed. I was given the contract to clean and conserve these fabric treasures. Four years later, when the renovation of the entire mansion was complete, the fabrics were reinstalled, restoring the original Ottoman-style sumptuous character to the ballroom. It was a stunning backdrop to the Perge lecture, and personally very gratifying to see the textiles beautifully restored, as they might have looked in 1914 when they first graced the ballroom.

1606 23rd Street NW was an eccentric and extravagant mansion when it was completed in 1914. Commissioned by Edward H. Everett, a Cleveland millionaire, philanthropist and industrialist, who like many barons, needed a Washington DC base for societal and political reasons. He had interests in oil, beer, and huge glass productions. Everett was the inventor of the ‘crimp’ bottle cap, made famous by Coca Cola. During the Everetts’s residency, their home was the scene for many parties, including musical events in the ballroom, “including singers from the Metropolitan Opera.” (The Sunday Star 9-9-56) His second wife, Grace Burnap, was an amateur opera singer. The house was a gem of The Gilded Age, encrusted with elaborate marquetry and parquet flooring, marble entrance hall, Mannerist paintings, Flemish tapestries, Oriental carpets, a stained glass conservatory, an Otis elevator and the first indoor swimming pool in the city. The 1915 tax assessment was $280,000. (The original building estimated that the cost of building would be $150,000.) No expense was spared.

The architectural design and interior decorations were entrusted to architect George Oakley Totten Jr (1866-1939). His international background and keen interest in architectural ornamentation, produced many lavish Embassy Row homes, combining Oriental and Occidental styles. He designed and built over 16 houses in Washington DC. Totten spent three years at the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1893-1895), lived and worked in Rome, Vienna, Madrid and London, and in 1908 resided in Turkey where he designed the American Chancery and a residence for the Prime Minister. Sultan Abdul Hamid offered him the position of ‘private architect to the Sultan of Turkey’, but the 1909 overthrow of the Sultanate ended that commission. Totten brought to his Washington projects all the elements of his exotic and romantic life, including probably the actual silk wall hangings in the ballroom. No doubt, working for the Sultan, he was exposed to the tradition of ceremonial tent hangings, exquisite Ottoman architectural textiles adorning houses and transitory encampments.

The Ballroom in 2003
In 1932, after the death of Mr. Everett, the Turkish government established their embassy at the Totten ‘palace’. The house was still pristine, and in it’s hey day, a gem of Washington ‘status’ architecture along the Massachusetts Avenue corridor. The Turks acquired the house with all the architectural and decorative décor, “buildings and furnishings” including paintings, fireplaces, wall coverings. Just after the Great Depression, the home was priced to sell. The Honorable Munir Ertegun served as the first Ambassador from the newly formed Republic of Turkey. His sons grew up in this house and in an avant garde musical environment. One of the Ambassador’s sons, Ahmet Ertegun, is known for founding Atlantic Records and signing the Rolling Stones. Given Ahmet’s charisma and love of music, he must have fallen in love with the ballroom with it’s elevated stage, Italianate windows and inset mirrors, gold and blue rinceau-panelled ceiling, carved rinceau double doors, and sumptuous gold and red silk Ottoman walls. It was an over-the-top blend of styles and textures, a perfect place to hold ground breaking jazz concerts hosting Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lena Horne, and other Washington DC music greats. During the Ertegun period, the grand life of the ballroom continued with a renewed style and sound. In segregated Washington DC, local newspaper society columns at the time gossiped and criticized the frequent flow of ‘Negroes using the front door’ of the residence.

In 1999 the house became the Ambassador’s Residence, and after nearly 100 years it was suffering from both structural and decorative damage.

Reference:
“Massachusetts Avenue Architecture, Volume I”, Issued by The Commission of Fine Arts, Washington D.C. , 1973, pgs. 317-346

The next two blog posts will continue the story with the conservation of the wall fabrics.

Julia M. Brennan

February 25, 2011

Bangkok Post Features Julia Brennan in "Conservation Crusader"


Today [February 24], Bankok Post features an article on ARCA's 2009 Alum Julia Brennan in an article titled "Conservation Crusader."

The article describes Julia's upbringing in Asia and her experience in conserving textiles in Butan and Thailand for more than a decade. It also features a project she recently completed:
"... the conservation of the ceremonial robe presented by King Chulalongkorn to Phraya Cholayuth Yothin, otherwise known as Vice Admiral Andreas du Plessis de Richelieu, a Danish navy officer who became the first and only foreigner to take command of the Royal Thai Navy at the beginning of the 20th century.

The robe had been in the possession of the admiral's grandson, who put it up for auction in 2007. This was when it caught the attention of Anders Normann, the consul general of Denmark in Thailand, who hoped to return the robe to its country of origin."

The article includes an interview with Julia where she describes how to handle the conservation of this robe and the robe's current owner. Fascinating read!
Photo: Robe of Vice Admiral Andreas du Plessis de Richelieu (Bangkok Post)

December 3, 2010

Renowned Art Conservator Julia Brennan discusses her adventures in conservation and the ARCA Postgraduate Program in the Study of Art Crime


Julia Brennan is a renowned art conservator specializing in textiles. In an interview with Noah Charney, Julia discusses her international adventures in conservation, the ARCA Postgraduate Program in the Study of Art Crime, and the cleaning of The Ghent Altarpiece.
Read more at Suite101: Renowned Conservator Discusses Art, Art Crime, and Van Eyck http://www.suite101.com/content/renowned-conservator-discusses-art-art-crime-and-van-eyck-a316311#ixzz173Y2vP4B