Alumna conserves sculpture in Central Park, NYC

Applying Renaissance Wax on the Eagles and Prey Monument

Anna Ng graduated from our BA (Hons) Conservation: Stone, Wood & Decorative Surfaces in 2019. Following her studies she moved to New York and is currently working as an early career conservator.

Earlier this year, Anna secured a paid, full-time summer internship position on the Monuments Conservation Technician Program with Central Park Conservancy (CPC), with grants from The Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.

CPC is a private, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of Central Park, NYC. Conservation technicians are involved in the annual programme of examination, documentation, preservation and conservation of the bronze and stone sculpture in the park, and additional special projects.

During the internship, Anna worked as part of a team to treat many of the monuments in the park, developing a wide range of practical skills and techniques.

In Anna’s own words, here are some of the programme highlights.


After the graffiti removal treatment, to improve the stark and slightly over-cleaned appearance, the lettering on the base of the monument was reinstated with Lithco Black by hand painting with a fine sable hair brush. 

Applying Lithochrome Black on the lettering that has been weathered and powered washed away on the Columbus Circle Monument



The Lombard Lamp at Grand Army Plaza had a failed coating and a section of missing ornamentation. Initially, the surface was prepared for painting with a pressure washer equipped with a spinner tip as well as scuffed with light abrasives including bronze wool and bronze brushes. Repainting consisted of one coat of primer and two coats of paint in mid-gloss black applied with a spray gun. Originally decorating the Lombard Bridge in Hamburg, Germany, the replica lamp at Grand Army Plaza was painted black in a concerted effort of continuity with its historic predecessors. The Sherwin Williams DTM Wash Primer was left to cure for a day and each coat of Sherwin Williams Semi-Gloss Black acrylic paint was allowed half a day. A mould was taken off the east-facing relief and ornamentation, using Rebound 25, in order to be replicated and installed in place of the missing sections on the west side of the lamp. Afterwards, sealing of the joint below the lamp took place using Dow Corning 795 building sealant (grey).

Steam pressure washing the surface of the Lombard Lamp

Preparing the surface with masking tape for silicone application on the medallion

Removal of the test material from the mould


The Untermyer Fountain features a bronze cast of Walter Schott’s Three Dancing Maidens, completed in Germany prior to 1910. The sculpture depicts three young women, holding hands in a circle and sits on a limestone base. The hot wax coating on the bronze figures have endured weathering and wear from being exposed to the elements. First, the figures and base were pressure washed and cleaned with a mild solution of Vulpex. Then it was dried thoroughly with clean cotton rags. Once the surfaces were clean, clear of debris, and dry, a blowtorch was applied onto the surface and immediately followed by an application of wax that is then spread and punched into the surface evenly, paying close attention to the nooks and folds of the drapery on the figures. The wax was allowed to cool and settle overnight before we followed up with a thorough buffing with clean cotton rags the following day.

Applying blow torch to heat surface to a temperature of 93C (200F) for the application of a proprietary colour matched hot wax

Buffing the Untermyer Fountain figures after a power washing and an application of hot wax


The graffiti along the base of the fountain was removed through a thick application of Rock Miracle Paint & Varnish Remover with a chip brush then agitated thoroughly to lift the settling spray paint from the surface of the sandstone. The Rock Miracle was allowed to dwell for 30 minutes before a steam pressure wash. The treatment was successful in removing the graffiti.

Application of Rock Miracle

Steam pressure washing of surface to aid in thorough removal of Rock Miracle and spray paint



The fibreglass hippos have inherent flaws in their fabrication which manifested in cracks, chips, and voids that allow moisture to seep into the internal structure. A 2-part PC-7 epoxy in a colour-matched grey was mixed then applied with spatulas then was smoothed and feathered to blend in the surrounding surface to arrest deterioration.

Application of colour matched epoxy onto the surface of hippos





Historic paintings adorning the walls of St James the Great church, dating from different periods between the 14th and the 18th centuries

Third year Conservation student, Louise Davison, took part in an internship over the summer, to consolidate, stabilise and clean the unique paintings on the walls of the church of St James the Great in Gloucestershire.

St James the Great is a grade I listed church renowned for its wall paintings, including a depiction of the Life of St James the Great cycle, which is considered to be the best-preserved of its kind in England. The paintings, consisting of six different schemes, date from different periods ranging from the 14th century to the 18th century, and were uncovered in the 1950s.

Depiction of the Life of St James the Great cycle

The conservation programme was organised by a collaborative team, including the local church council, the Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) and conservation company The Perry Lithgow Partnership.  It was important for the team that the programme created training opportunities for a conservation student and an emerging conservator, and Project Partner, ICON, were supportive of these aims. Louise was “extremely excited” when she found out about the internship through ICON.

Section of the South wall that Louise treated

Louise worked on a section of the South wall on the east side of the church, focusing on the Romanesque window splay. She started by removing fragments of lime washes on the original paint and plaster to produce a cohesive and readable appearance. She was able to remove fragments of lime washes on the only remaining piece of 16th century text in the church.

Louise carrying out conservation treatment 

Following the removal of what remained of layers of lime wash, Louise turned her attention to removing the crude repairs across the wall and in the window sill. This revealed an area of early 14th century decorative scheme on the window ledge, which was a great and unexpected discovery.

Louise conducted cleaning tests on the window, exposing the vibrancy of the coloured decoration lost under years of grime and dirt. With guidance from members of the conservation team, she also carried out grouting, consolidation and fills using specialist techniques and materials.

Commenting on the internship, Louise said: “The project was everything I hoped for and more. It benefited my hand skills, confidence and deepened my love for wall paintings. I have been inspired to work on projects in the future that involve wall paintings, and to complete a masters.”

Louise features in this short film about the conservations programme.


As part of the Historic Craft module, first year students on our BA (Hons) Conservation: Books & Paper course have been developing bookbinding skills during a series of workshops with tutor Shaun Thompson, Conservation and Collection Care manager from Cambridge university library.

The focus of the workshops is Romanesque bookbinding, and students have been learning Romanesque sewing techniques. Romanesque bookbinding involves sewing several different parts of the book, including the text-block, primary Tab end-band, the chemise, the edging strip and the secondary decorative end-band.

With the support of their tutor, the students are creating their own model Romanesque binding, which will enable them to understand how the sewn elements combine and interact and will give them invaluable insights into the craftsmanship, materials and techniques used in their production which essential knowledge for book conservators.

As well as developing historic bookbinding skills, the students are also learning about the historic context of bookbinding and are considering Romanesque bookbindings in significant collections in the UK and abroad.

We were delighted to find out recently that a short film made by Foundation alumna Jess Chowdhury, was shortlisted for the Cinemagic Young Filmmaker 2020 Awards!

Jess’s short film, Early Grief Special, is a stop-motion animation about grief, set in a greasy-spoon cafe, and follows the experiences of a new customer who orders the “special”. Describing the film, Jess says the Grief Express Cafe “is the only place in London where people are allowed to grieve. Even though the service is super quick (maybe too quick?), this is without a doubt the worst greasy spoon ever!”

Jess meticulously sculpted all the models and puppets used in the short film, creating the sets and the characters, as well as storyboarding and animating the film. She says, “Coming up with a story about grief was very difficult. The storyboard and characters were constantly changing throughout the process. I started building the set at uni and then completed the project at home during lockdown. It was tough but I was just grateful to be able to continue working on it.

Art School Foundation Tutor, Emma Montague, describes Jess as one of the “most hardworking and humble students she has worked with“.  Emma said,  “it’s so wonderful to see Jess receive recognition for her exquisite craftsmanship, clever wit and creativity“.

During the one-year Foundation Diploma at the Art School, Jess specialised in 3D Fine Art, enabling her to interrogate and test sculpture and model-making processes and techniques.

Commenting on her time on the Foundation Diploma, Jess says, “I started out by making caricatures of political figures. I enjoyed sculpting people and turning them into funny cartoon-like characters, a bit inspired by Spitting Image. The materials I like to work with are polymer clay, cardboard, scraps and found objects. I’m inspired by cartoons and films that I find comforting. I enjoy making work that is satirical and/or nostalgic. Cartoons and puppets led me to animation and wanting my sculptures to come to life.”

Jess went on to describe her final project on the Foundation Diploma. “My final project was a short stop-motion film ‘Long Time No See’ which combined model-making, puppet-making and stop-motion animation. These were skills that I wanted to play around with. I found the process very challenging as I had never made a stop-motion film like this before, with handmade sets, puppets and props.” She continued, “I loved doing my Foundation at City & Guilds of London Art School, it gave me the space and support to explore both my passions of sculpture and animation in depth.”

After completing the Foundation Diploma, Jess went on to Wimbledon College of Art to study BA (Hons) Production Arts for Screen, graduating in the summer with the production of ‘Early Grief Special’. During her degree course she focused on sculpting, model-making and puppet-making, explaining, “The things I learnt during my Foundation year definitely helped me to figure out that model-making and stop-motion were the skills that I wanted to develop.”

Here is some of the other work she made on her BA course.

We’d like to congratulate Jess on her success and look forward to seeing her future work! You can follow Jess’s work on Instagram @jesschowdhury_

Students on our BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Woodcarving & Gilding have been working hard over the last few weeks as the course continues through the first term. We’re following the progress of woodcarving student Paul Flanagan @paulflanaganartist as his carving and gilding skills develop over the year. Here’s our student woodcarver’s diary for weeks 4 & 5 of the BA course.

Week 4

Following on from the first three weeks of the course, the initial two days of the week centre around woodcarving and this week the students are continuing to develop the acanthus leaf carving they started last week. With the support of Woodcarving Tutor Tom Ball, the students carefully refine their carving and the acanthus leaf shape becomes more clearly defined.

By the end of the two-day session, Paul’s acanthus leaf carving is in great shape, starting to accurately reflect the form of the plaster model he is copying. Amazing work Paul!


The second half of the week focuses on developing the carvers’ drawing skills with our Drawing Studio Manager and Tutor Diane Magee. The first drawing lesson encourages the students to think about form and structure rather than a finished drawing. So Paul’s brief is to draw the structure of a leaf, using a black Conte crayon, without including the leaf’s outer edge or cells.

This drawing workshop is followed by a series of first thoughts and sketches of dried leaves and then peppers. First thoughts and sketches are quickly-drawn small images of an object using swift turns of the wrist to create soft strokes that can be altered and refined as you go.


Week 5

The next two days are the final sessions allocated to the acanthus leaf carving, although the students will have the opportunity to go back to their acanthus carving at a later date if they want to. So the next two days are spent carving ever finer details into the acanthus leaf, using smaller gouges, and finishing the shaping.

At the end of the two days, the acanthus carvings look really impressive (see Paul’s carving below). Paul says, “I am mostly happy with the piece but I did make a few mistakes; like the smaller leaf on the head is far too small but as this is my first carving I think I’ve done pretty well.” So do we Paul, so do we!!

In the drawing classes this week, the students choose a plaster moulding of historic, architectural ornament to draw. After some deliberation Paul chooses this ornament that includes the acanthus motif.

After drawing his first thoughts and sketches, Paul starts to make a larger-scale, sustained drawing of the design.

The students will develop their drawings over four days, so we’ll bring you an update soon!

In our next diary instalment, the student carvers will be introduced to modelling in clay and casting – we can’t wait!


Photos courtesy of Paul Flanagan

Two weeks ago we published a blog post following the progress of first year Woodcarving & Gilding student Paul Flanagan as he started on his BA course.

We’re delighted that Paul has settled into the course really well and is making great progress. He has been keeping a detailed course diary on his Instagram account @paulflanaganartist,  which he has kindly allowed us to share with you.

So setting off where we ended last time (at the end of week 1), here are the highlights from weeks 2 & 3 of the first year on BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Woodcarving & Gilding!

Week 2

The week started with the Woodcarving module and this week, the students were introduced to chip carving. After testing out their tools by carving basic shapes, the students graduated onto carving a geometric flower and a geometric pyramid pattern.



Continuing with chip carving, students drew a geometric pattern and after marking out the lines on a practise board, used a fishtail gouge to scoop up to the lines.

After this practice run, it was time to carve into lime wood – great work!

Following a tool sharpening session using a Japanese water stone, the Basic Joinery module continued from last week with a focus on dove-tail joints. This involves precision measuring and cutting, and works out well in the end!


Week 3

A new week – a new woodcarving project, and today, the students started to carve an acanthus leaf. The acanthus leaf is one of the oldest and most used motifs in architectural carving. Students started by making a scale drawing of the motif from a mold and transferring it onto a piece of wood. Using a V tool, they roughed out the basic outline and then removed the outside waste wood with a gouge, leaving the basic shape.

Getting closer to the edge of the drawing takes time and a steady hand, especially in those tight, curved areas. The students use a flat chisel for best results. Then they start to model the acanthus leaf, developing the depth and shape in more detail.

During the next two days, the Drawing module gets underway with the Art School’s superb Drawing Studio Manager and Tutor, Diane Magee. As a key part of the carving process, developing accurate drawing skills is absolutely crucial to the success of the woodcarvers – but don’t worry, they’re in good hands!

Their first drawing exercise is designed to encourage the students to think in different ways and focus on the shapes and perspectives they can see. Instead of using a pencil, they used a twig and ink to make the lines!

The next subject in the drawing class posed more challenges – in Paul’s case the subject was a horse’s head.

The exercise teaches the students to make an initial diagnosis of the subject they are drawing so they know what challenges the piece will bring. Paul says “The exercise was a challenge but I think I learned a lot, mostly that horses are really hard to draw!”

The next two weeks will see the students developing their acanthus leaf carvings and more drawing workshops. Follow Paul’s activities in weeks 4 & 5 here.

Photos courtesy of Paul Flanagan

Postgraduate student Jessica Mantoan, has carried out a conservation treatment on the Art School’s Georgian doors as part of her MA Conservation and has been presenting the work she has done to fellow conservation students in their ‘social bubbles’.

As part of the treatment, she carried out scientific research to look at improving the durability of the mortar used around the doors and tested whether using a barium hydroxide additive in the mortar will increase the durability.

Her laboratory test results were extremely positive showing that mortars made using a small proportion of barium hydroxide are more resistant to acid rain decay and nucleation of sodium sulphate salts due to air pollution.

Following these encouraging results, Jessica tested the new barium hydroxide mortar outside the lab environment by applying it in situ in the Georgian doorcase where it is exposed to road traffic pollution from the busy main road where the Art School is located.

Although the initial results are positive, using a barium hydroxide additive in the mortar has never been tested before, so to get a thorough understanding of the durability of this mortar, a longer-term study is required. Jessica is recommending that future Conservation students draft conservation reports year after year to analyse how the barium hydroxide mortar of the doorcase deteriorates.


A couple of weeks ago, we posted a blog about the conservation project that MA student Johannes Wagenknecht is currently working on – The Alcibiades Dog, a cast concrete sculpture loaned from Chatsworth House. This week, Johannes is starting to compile his condition report of the large piece which will include meticulous detail about the overall condition of the sculpture, an examination of areas of deterioration or loss, the state of previous repairs and highlight any areas of risk or concern.  The report may include annotated photographs, diagrams and graphs.

Lime Modeling Tutor, Sarah Healey-Dilkes, and our second year Stone, Wood & Decorative Surfaces students took the opportunity to observe the state of the complex composition and repairs of the object since its production about 200 years ago.





All the tutors in the Historic Carving Department are delighted to welcome our student carvers back into the studios after the summer break – with a special welcome to all the new students and first years on our BA and postgraduate courses!

Of course, things are a little different this year. Throughout the Art School, extensive measures have been put in place to protect students and staff from Covid-19 and our seminars and lectures have gone online. Everyone, in all parts of the Art School, has to wear a protective face covering, we are all frequently sanitising our hands and ensuring we keep distanced from each other.

Despite the changes, we are really enjoying being back and are excited to be teaching and studying again.

So, how did the first week go? Paul Flanagan, a first year student on our Woodcarving & Gilding BA course, has been keeping a record of his progress on his Instagram account @paulflanaganartist, and we’ve borrowed his photos to share on the Historic Carving blog (thanks Paul!).

Day 1

First year students arrived at their own dedicated work stations in the newly refurbished Woodcarving Studio. This is probably the only time they’ll see the studio looking so neat and empty!

Day 2

It doesn’t take long for Paul’s work station to gather a carver’s tools and equipment! Today the students learnt how to sharpen their chisels – a fundamentally important skill. They used a fine Japanese stone and strop to get a mirror finish and coat the bevel of the gouge with Sharpie pen so they can check for any low spots when they put it over the stone.


Day 3

Students started their basic joinery training and amongst other tools, learnt how to  use an impressive Japanese saw.

Day 4

Basic joinery continued and the students learnt different joinery techniques.

Day 5

Today the first-year carvers had an online Art Histories lecture. Art Histories programmes are integral to all the courses at the Art School and give students a comprehensive understanding of historical and contemporary critical theories. On the Historic Carving courses, students learn a detailed and materials-based approach to Art History, The History of British Architecture, The History of Style, and The History of Carving Techniques.

So that’s the first week on the Woodcarving & Gilding course completed! In week 2 the students study chipcarving, learning about the different types of cut that each tool makes in the wood, and how the shape and size of the
chisel dictates the pattern. Read about their progress here.

MA Conservation student, Johannes Wagenknecht, who is specialising in stone conservation, has chosen to treat the cast concrete of The Alcibiades Dog from Chatsworth House during his one-year course.

This garden statue by Austin and Seeley (1828 – c.1877) made of coade stone or cast concrete, arrived at the Art School today in pieces. Weighing a total of about 450kg, the statue was carefully and expertly taken into the stone yard by Clare French, Historic Carving Technician.

The object was unloaded at the main gate and transported on a forklift truck by Johannes and Clare, with the assistance of two others, to a gazebo set up in the stone yard.  Clare French is very familiar with the fork lift, which can lift up to 500kg, as it is regularly used to unload and move stone blocks for the Historic Carving Department.

Now it is ready for the conservation treatment to begin… watch this space!




It’s official our new BA (Hons) Conservation: Books & Paper course has launched and our new first-year students on the course have joined us at the Art School.

On day 1 last week, the students spent time being inducted into the Print Room so that they can begin learning about etching from our expert staff. The students learnt about the traditional intaglio processes and made their own etches.

The Print Room at City & Guilds of London Art School was established in the late 19th century. Today, it offers a facility for printmaking open to every student in the School.

Professor Norman Ackroyd CBE RA ARCA was instrumental in re-establishing the Print & Engraving Room as a thriving centre for teaching and practice after being invited in 1995 to consider its potential for the future.

We focus on the teaching of traditional intaglio processes – including hard and soft ground, sugar lift, aquatint and colour etching. Teaching is delivered by practising artists working with etching.  By teaching the full range of methods, we provide an historical context of the intaglio process and offer the same experience in terms of techniques, problems and solutions as that employed by Rembrandt, Goya and Picasso.

Our aim is to provide a practical understanding of how etchings of the past were made to inform the study of how they are best conserved for the future.


As part of the Historic Craft unit of the course, first year students studying on the BA (Hons) Conservation: Stone, Wood & Decorative Surfaces have been doing some fantastic work with our modelling and sculpture tutor, Kim Amis. During this bas relief workshop, the students transcribed a two-dimensional image into relief form using clay. The group had to agree the depth of the relief that they all worked to.

When finished, the clay relief will be prepared for kiln firing and the fired clay can then be gilded.

The aim of our Historic Craft units are to give students an insight into the processes and materials used by the original makers of the cultural objects they may be treating. Having a thorough understanding of how an object was made is essential to effective conservation treatment planning.



First year students on our BA (Hons) Conservation: Stone, Wood & Decorative Surfaces took part in a gilding workshop with Gilding Tutor Rian Kanduth, an expert in oil and water gilding.

During the workshop, students were introduced to the materials, tools and formulas of oil gilding and verre eglomise and took part in practical exercises to further understand the techniques.


In one of our covid-secure conservation labs, and wearing their protective face coverings, students on the BA (Hons) Conservation: Stone Wood & Decorative Surfaces course have been taking part in a workshop to learn the historic craft skills of japanning with specialist tutor Alex Schouvaloff.

The purpose of this japanning exercise is to gain experience of working with paint and varnish, both traditional and modern, to understand the specific decorative techniques of both japanning and oriental lacquer. Skills learnt here not only help students understand the associated conservation and restoration principles but will also provide and hone many transferable skills.

Students learn the similarities and differences between Oriental lacquer (Urushi) and European simulations (japanning) and the fundamental principles of the lacquering process and its development in Europe since the 17th century. They also learn how to apply paint and varnish layers in an appropriate manner, gain a thorough understanding of historic and modern materials and their conservation and restoration context, explore styles and iconography of japanned and lacquered surfaces and document photographically at each stage which they will then annotate and produce a written process log.


During the summer break, two conservation students going into their final year, Louise Davison and Cody Cochrane, undertook a conservation project with the Duchy of Lancaster, the private estate of the British sovereign. The restoration work took place at Lancaster Place, an imposing Art Deco building overlooking the River Thames, which has been the administrative headquarters of the Duchy of Lancaster since 1932.

The conservation brief was to repair and restore the stone-carved crest above the main entrance of the building. The crest had become weathered and faded, with some loss of the stone substrate. Its south facing orientation along the River Thames meant the gilding and paint had suffered significant deterioration since it was last restored in 1999.

The crest of the Duchy of Lancaster prior to conservation

Louise and Cody carefully cleaned the surface of the crest, dating from the building’s origin in the 1930s, removing loose dirt and dust. They filled areas where the losses had occurred and protected the crest’s surface with an outdoor stone primer. Once the surface was fully prepared, the students gilded areas of the design that had originally been gilded, with the expert advice and support from our Gilding Tutor Rian Kanduth, who spent some time at the site.  Two layers of paint were then applied to the rest of the crest, reproducing the original colour scheme.

Commenting on the finished project, Duchy Head of Project Management Graeme Chalk said: “Both students did an amazing job and worked extremely hard to renovate, repaint and re-gild the existing plaque which had weathered quite badly over a period of 20 years. Thanks to their technical skills and enthusiasm for the task the crest is now fully restored and looks as good as new!” He also commended Louise and Cody for their “courteous and professional” conduct and their “incredibly high standard of work“.

We look forward to collaborating with the Duchy of Lancaster on future conservation projects.

The crest primed and ready to receive gold leaf


Cody applying gold leaf over a coat of gilding size


The gilding stage completed


Louise beginning the first coat of paint


First coat of paint being applied


Louise retouching the second coat


Crest fully restored to its former glory


A closer look at some of the detail


Further detail


Viv Lawes is an art Historian who specialises in the study of carved and craft objects from the European tradition and East Asian contexts. In this short film recorded on Zoom during Lockdown, Viv speaks about the content of her taught sessions on our undergraduate Historic Carving and Conservation courses, and discusses the different methodologies she employs. One of the key features of Viv’s sessions is the teaching of the specific vocabularies around art design objects. For a conservator or carver, using precise descriptive terms enables an accurate assessment of an object’s status; her course teaches these terms and helps students to use them fluently.

Viv is particularly interested in ‘making heard’ the ideas and attitudes of students from different cultural, craft-based and professional backgrounds. In her seminars she encourages discussion and debate and critically evaluates the Western tradition from a range of different perspectives.

Dr Oriana Fox is an art theorist and practising artist, and teaches Art Histories on a range of courses across the Art School. Here, Oriana speaks about the different Art Histories modules she teaches on the BA (Hons) Fine Art course. As you will hear, Oriana teaches art history from a particularly contemporary perspective and encourages students to think about artworks from the past as well as the present through the lens of the very latest theoretical, cultural and political ideas.

Feminist theory, Queer theory, Crip theory and disability politics, post colonial subjectivities, Black and BAME discourses, intersectionality are introduced, unpacked and presented from an entirely global perspective.

In this Zoom conversation with Head of Art Histories, Tom Groves, during Lockdown, Oriana also tells us about some of the more creative and experimental teaching and learning strategies she uses in her sessions. Through discussion and debate; from quiet individual study to analytic speed dating; Oriana’s sessions have something for everyone.

During the coronavirus lockdown, the Art School’s facilities have been closed and our courses delivered remotely. Our Historic Carving students have continued practising from home; some working from existing workshops, others setting up make-shift studios where they can. Our carving tutors have also been delivering our wood and stone carving courses from their home studios.

We were lucky enough to have a virtual visit to the Norfolk workshop of Nina Bilbey, our Senior Stone Carving Tutor, who showed us around her amazing studio and introduced us to her collection of tools and the work she is currently making.

Enjoy the tour!

As well as getting a glimpse into Nina’s lockdown world, we were also treated to lockdown studio visits from some of our alumni, Fellows and students. You can watch all these films, and more, on our YouTube channel.

Visit our Historic Carving web pages to find out more about our undergraduate and postgraduate architectural stone carving courses, or get in touch on

Matthew Rowe and Materiality & Meaning: Critical thinking and the use of philosophical ideas on the MA in Art & Material Histories.

During the Coronavirus Lockdown in the UK, Head of Art Histories, Tom Groves, met with philosopher and critical thinker Matthew Rowe on Zoom to discuss the kinds of ideas he explores with students on the MA in Art & Material Histories. He also provides some really useful advice about how we can use philosophy as a kind of tool kit to dig down under the surface of everyday thinking to reveal how our understanding of the material world is shaped by the histories of thought.

If you are thinking of applying to the Art & Material Histories MA or would like to know a bit more about how we use philosophical ideas on the course, watch this.

Andy Bannister teaches across the Art Histories and Fine Art Departments. He is an artist, researcher and musician whose current work explores the impact of developments in science and technology on culture and society during the Cold War era.  Andy is a lead tutor delivering lectures and supervising MA students as they write their MA Fine Art Critical Model Dissertation.

Here in a Zoom discussion carried out at the height of the coronavirus UK Lockdown, Andy explains what the Critical Model Dissertation is and how it enables students to explore the complex web of threads that link their studio work to its various contexts. Andy also reflects on the dynamic relationship between writing and making and how students are supported to navigate this.

If you are thinking of enrolling on the MA in Fine Art, or if you already have and want to know more about what the Dissertation involves, you will find this short video really useful.

The Art Histories Department at the Art School delivers a wide range of learning activities to all students across the Art School. One of the principles of the Department is that the finest understanding of art and art history emerges out of an up-close, first-hand experience of its objects of study. Whether it is a complex theoretical text, or layered painted canvas, or intricately carved altarpiece, we believe that the close encounter produces the most valuable knowledge.

Michael Paraskos delivers a series of lectures entitled The History of British Architecture. During his session, students studying Conservation and Stone and Wood Carving, journey with him through the ages and around London’s wealth of historical buildings.

In this short Zoom chat with Michael, carried out in June this year, he reminds us that only so much of what we know about historical buildings emerges out of speculative thinking. Only by experiencing architecture in person can we meaningfully reflect on how a building worked as a living space at the time of its creation as well as today.

During the coronavirus pandemic our awareness of the material world has become heightened. Certain objects and surfaces that we never gave a second thought to (door handles, shopping trollies, park-benches etc), became charged with a frightening potential for harm. Our hands too became vehicles of contagion, and what, who, how and why we touch became entangled with the discourses of politics as well as health.

Laura White is an artist and material thinker whose research explores our relationship with the material world. Here in a Zoom interview, carried out at the height of the Lockdown in the UK, Laura reflects on some of the many aspects of her teaching on the MA in Art & Material Histories at the Art School.

If you are thinking of applying to the MA in Art & Material Histories, this short video will provide you with an insight into the this aspect of the course.

Boris Johnson by Imogen Long

Historic Carving students have been working from make-shift workshops at home during lockdown, supported by their tutors through online tutorials, demonstrations, discussions and one-to-ones.  We recently posted a blog about the acanthus bracket carving project that our first year woodcarving & gilding students have been working on.

First year students on our BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Architectural Stone course have also been busy at the kitchen table-come-workbench, making their first life-size portrait head models in clay, guided by our fabulous Sculpture, Modelling & Casting Tutor, Kim Amis.

Students had been timetabled to work with a life model every day in the studio, where their observational skills would be combined with anatomical study and an accurate system of measuring using callipers. Then came lockdown.

In lieu of working from a life model, students have instead been focusing their attention on a series of familiar faces: five female leaders (Cressida Dick, Arlene Foster, Caroline Lucas, Gina Miller, Nicola Sturgeon) and five male cabinet ministers (Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak). All ten are high profile and  visually accessible through media every day during the pandemic.

Caroline Lucas and Michael Gove by Callum Antonelli

The challenge began with a ball of clay approximately the size of a large orange, suitable for modelling safely at home in the smallest of spaces. Each student modelled ten portrait maquettes at speed. Every morning at 9.30, tutor and students met in Zoomland to share the results, debate and move on to the next character.

Dominic Raab, Arlene Foster, Caroline Lucas and Boris Johnson by Emma Sheridan

Students carried out visual research on their subjects, looking out for particularities in their profiles and facial characteristics and making preparatory sketches. They also studied portraiture and modelling styles and techniques used by artists such as Honoré Daumier, Auguste Rodin, Giacomo Manzù, Ernst Barlach, Camille Claudel, Käthe Kollwitz, Jacob Epstein, Suzie Zamit, and Germaine Richier.

As ideas progressed and developed, proposals were explored for public sculpture and architectural interventions as a way of presenting all ten figures together as an artwork.

This blog was first published on the Art School’s Material Matters website.




One of the projects currently being undertaken by students in the first year of BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Woodcarving & Gilding is to carve an acanthus leaf design onto a wooden bracket.  Tutor Peter Thuring is supporting students throughout this module with tutorials, demonstrations, one-to-ones and a variety of online learning aids. We thought we’d give you a peek into our virtual woodcarving studio and show you what our students are learning.

All the students have received a plaster cast of an 18th century bracket design and two pre-band sawn lime wood blanks, which Peter posted to their homes. Before they start carving their lime wood bracket, Peter is guiding them step-by-step through the preliminary stages: thorough research and drawing; carving a clay model; using a plaster cast design guide.

Research and drawings

The acanthus motif has been used as architectural ornament throughout history and as such, there are many variations on the design. However, through comprehensive research and analysis, consistent features can be identified such as a strongly defined centre vein with lateral veins tapering down to the bottom of the central vein and the division of the leaf edges into three or five parts.   The acanthus design drawing is built up from a basic, symmetrical grid structure, with layers of detail precisely measured and added to the grid to form the final drawing of this ornate design.

Clay model

Two blocks of clay, exactly the same size as the lime wood blanks, are prepared by the students and left to dry to “leather hard”. Using their drawings as a detailed guide, they measure out sections and the main volumes in the design, mark them in the clay, and then cut them into the clay with chisels. Taking each section at a time, they gradually and meticulously mark out the full detail of the designs into the clay and, selecting the appropriate chisels, cut into the clay to create a model that will form an exact carving guide for the acanthus bracket.

As well as producing an exact model of the bracket design to be carved, this process helps the student carvers understand how the motif design fits together, the relative proportions of each detail and the carving techniques required to create this intricate design.

Plaster cast model

As the students don’t currently have access to the Art School’s specialist facilities, their Tutor, Peter Thuring, created the plaster casts for this project from an 18th century model, and sent it to the students along with the lime wood blanks. From the plaster cast, the students can carefully draw the acanthus design onto the wood blank. Different methods are used to achieve this including detailed and accurate measuring and tracing.

Now the final part of the process can begin – carving into the wood blank…


Since the Art School’s workshops and studios have been closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and national lockdown, tutors on all our courses have been continuing tutorials, seminars and one-to-ones from isolation at home and students have been working in their make-shift home studios.

Content and teaching methods have been adapted and taught online through the Art School’s online learning environment, Moodle, and other online platforms. Even here in the Historic Carving Department our students are able to continue developing their carving skills from home.

A new project set for first-year students on our BA (Hons) Historic Carving: Woodcarving & Gilding course supports them to carve an Acanthus leaf motif on a bracket. Tutor, Peter Thuring, posted a full briefing paper for the project on Moodle and sent a plaster cast of an 18th century bracket design and two pre-band sawn lime wood blanks by mail to each student’s home.

There are various stages to the Acanthus project. Students have been asked to conduct their own thorough research into Acanthus leaf design as used throughout history as architectural ornament, and create drawings based on their research.

Although there are many different variations in Acanthus motif design in different historical periods, there are also many consistent features. This illustration, taken from a 19th century source shows how the design can be built up from first principles.

Following their research and drawing practise, they need to prepare two blocks of clay and allow them to dry to “leather hard”. These will be used to practise cutting the Acanthus leaf shape and form a clay model on which to base the final carving.

At each stage, from research and drawing to cutting the clay models and finally carving the wood blanks, students will review and discuss their progress with Peter, who will provide feedback and demonstrations to guide them through the process. As well as their  hands-on “workshop” practice, students need to keep a carving process log which documents their work in progress and includes their completed models. Along with a self-evaluation form, this will be submitted for assessment at the end of the project in May.

For a more detailed description of the processes our student carvers are undertaking, read our blog ‘Preparing to carve lime wood acanthus brackets’.

As well as the more structured guidance provided in the project briefing paper, Peter has made some helpful suggestions for completing this carving project at home. He uses hand-drawn diagrams to explain how to secure the carving onto the kitchen table in lieu of a workbench.

Screw the carving onto a small board.

Clamp it onto the kitchen table.

Steady rickety table legs by tying a bag of sand, bricks or gravel with a rope to the table, increasing the load if the table still moves.

The first-year woodcarving students are just starting this new module and work is progressing well so far. Here’s student Tom Buchanan working on the project on his kitchen table workbench.


Two second-year BA (Hons) Conservation students are set to take part in a new conservation project at ‘Gerry’s Pompeii’, the London home of artist Gerald Dalton. The project, due to take place when lockdown measures allow,  follows a successful campaign led by Dalton’s friends and family to secure funding to preserve the site specific collection of works left in his home after he passed away in August 2019, and open it to the public as a house museum.

Part of the extensive collection at Gerry’s Pompeii

Gerald Dalton was a prolific artist who made sculptures, models and other works mainly focusing around his interest in British history. Inside his flat, the body of work includes models of buildings in a variety of materials (wood, plastic, paper, metals, textiles) and found objects; small scale, mass produced sculptures that Dalton painted and modified; and framed works, mainly on paper, that he augmented and changed.  Painted concrete sculptures stand in the garden and along the towpath of the Grand Union Canal. These are sited along a wall decorated with tiles, pieces of mirror, found objects and other materials.

Monitoring the visible light falling on a framed print with an environmental monitor 

Second-year Conservation students, led by Art School Tutor and stone conservation expert, Jennifer Dinsmore, recently conducted a thorough conservation assessment of the site. The detailed assessment included material identification and observations to help understand conservation risks such as fading and chemical breakdown caused by exposure to light, or mould growth due to high moisture levels. It also involved monitoring the relative humidity, visible light and ultraviolet light at the site using specialist monitoring equipment. Visual assessments were made about the condition of some of the objects, the garden and of the building interiors, and risks from increased visitor access were considered. The group identified a priority list of treatments to minimise further damage to the site and objects, and noted the need for an ongoing maintenance plan for the building and the collection.

Conservation students, Cody Cochrane and Louise Davison, will join the team at the site to take part in a range of collection care measures and carry out environmental monitoring.  Louise explains the conservation challenges that lie ahead and what she hopes to learn from the assignment:

As a conservator the vast amount of modern materials used in the domestic setting creates an exciting opportunity. There are challenges to the project which involve establishing a system of cataloguing, stabilising the collection and assessing a priority rating within the collection. This, however, requires establishing the materials before treatment, through examination, monitoring and observations. As an emerging Object Conservator, the opportunity to be part of a community project that has been fiercely campaigned for, is fantastic. The project has scope to allow me to grow, learn and put into practice the knowledge and skills that have been taught at the Art School.” 

It is hoped that Art School Conservation students can have further involvement with the site in the following academic year. Tutor Jennifer Dinsmore describes the valuable learning experiences students would gain from working on Gerry’s Pompeii:

the conservation challenges presented by this unique collection would provide significant experience in dealing with modern materials, mixed media and understanding how to provide meaningful access to the site. Initially this could include students continuing with the monitoring programme and carrying out detailed condition assessments of the objects and could involve students on the existing Stone, Wood and Decorative Surfaces pathway as well as our new Books and Paper pathway.”

Photo credit: Guy Smallman

Winner of the Art School’s Student Initiated Project Prize 2019, Art & Material Histories postgraduate student, Roberta De Caro, has organised a series of workshops for survivors of domestic abuse in which she will explore how the material qualities of glass can be used to reconstruct, repair and heal the fragmented self.

Held in the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, Lambeth, participants will manipulate shards of coloured glass to create new fused glass objects that will not only reflect and refract the light, but also their own histories and experiences.

The workshops are the meeting point of different aspects of Roberta’s practice and the Art & Material Histories course: an engagement with materials and materiality; their cultural associations; a close attention to their socio-political concerns; an interrogation of the human condition through the material world.

Roberta explains: “In this series of workshops, I am particularly interested in observing the different emotions that glass-making might elicit and how these can relate to the experience of surviving domestic abuse. These emotions can range from fear of manipulating a fragile but sharp material, to a sense of achievement in creating new objects from fragments. The whole process can be a powerful cathartic experience”.

From the Fragment to the Whole Glass Workshops will be held on 16, 23 and 30 March 2020 in the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, Lambeth. For more information about the workshops, or if you are interested in assisting, please contact

To find out more about the MA in Art & Material Histories, watch the course video and book onto an open day. For further help, please email us at


Concluding a series of six workshops with artist and materials researcher Laura White, our Art & Material Histories students have been exploring the co-dependent relationship between materials and the human body. Through a series of exercises that inhibited as well as expanded their bodies’ capabilities, students reflected on varied material experiences and what they can teach us about the ways we might privilege specific embodied encounters.

The workshop began by asking students to pick up a familiar object without the use of their hands and lift it from the floor to the table. Students discovered that by working together, new forms of behaviour and understanding were exposed. Next, they were invited to construct an object/sculpture/device that impeded their bodies’ normal capacity. Cardboard, plaster, duct tape, and more, were wound and wrapped around material things and then latched to the body in novel and unexpected ways, producing a multitude of artwork/research tools that could be used to re-evaluate our physical interactions with the material and art world.

This final workshop concluded a series of material-based research activities that have challenged not only our relationship to the material world, but the very methodologies by which we carryout art historical research itself. Art is made of materials; pixels, paint and stone, clay, meat and foam, and in order to fully understand them we need to develop new forms of material knowledge.

All images courtesy of Laura White.

Ornamental Woodcarving alumna (2015), Clunie Fretton, has recently completed the restoration of the Master’s Chair of the Joiners & Ceilers Company. Here she describes the complex project and explains how she approached the in-depth research, design and carving required to replace the missing elements of the intricate design, whilst minimising any indications that the chair had been restored.

“The restoration of the Master’s Chair of the Joiners & Ceilers Company posed an exciting challenge (Figure 1). The chair, on long-term loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum, was made in 1754 by Edward Newman, a Past Master and talented cabinetmaker and carver, and gifted to the Company. It possesses carving and design of a distinctive flair and aptitude, and marries very elegantly the two concerns of the Joiners & Ceilers, who as a livery are responsible for both joinery and carving, the latter at times conflated with panellers under the archaic word “ceiler”.

The chair, constructed from mahogany, has survived in remarkably good condition with very few significant losses from the ornately carved and pierced back despite its many years of service. However, the apex of the chair-back had seen more substantial losses, most notably the loss of a whole finial on the right hand side of the chair, and a number of heraldic elements from the coat of arms figured in full relief in the middle, and it was agreed that these missing elements detracted enough from the silhouette and impact of the chair to warrant their replacement.

Figure 1. The chair after restoration (Photography by Clunie Fretton)

It was particularly important during the restoration to reduce the ambiguity of any replacements. This was more easily achieved in the case of the missing leaf tips, as the acanthus style of ornament has a predictable design, in addition to there being a surplus of reference material in the carved chair-back itself. The task was made easier by the hints left in the way the carving had been undercut, as the decisions of the original carver left clues as to how the missing carving would have continued up from the breaks if one were to follow the curves to their conclusions. The missing finial, of course, could be copied directly from its mirror on the opposite side of the chair, barring a missing leaf tip at the top.

The replacement of the heraldic elements posed a greater challenge and was the area in which there was the greatest lack of reference material. The content of the missing heraldry is defined very clearly in the blazon – a written description of the coat of arms that leaves no uncertainty as to the devices that are featured – but the execution of the missing elements was more problematic. However, research yielded a copy of Edward Hatton’s  New View of London, published in 1708, in the British Library, and his comprehensive survey of London very handily included descriptions of the Halls and Arms of every Livery Company and, luckily, engravings of many of their coats of arms. Though published just under fifty years before the chair was made, this proved the closest reference image that could be obtained of the coat of arms at that time, and the most contemporary blazon:

“Crest is a Demy-Savage proper holding a Spear Or. Supporters 2 Cupids of the last, the dexter holding a Woman crowned with a Castle, the sinister a Square.”

This thankfully cleared the sometimes muddied record of what the dexter supporter was holding, which had in some references been more akin to a figure of Christ, and clarified her as wearing a mural coronet. The crest, a “Savage”, was shown in the reference image holding a tilting spear, which had in later incarnations developed into a regular spear. The savage motif has also been debated over the years: he is not a true Wild Man of the Woods, as these are usually depicted as extremely hairy, but is more likely to have Silvanus, the Roman God of the Woods, as his inspiration. Silvanus is commonly depicted with a crown of leaves, just as the Joiners & Ceilers’ Crest is, and makes a more understandable choice for a livery company devoted to working timber.

There were in total eleven missing pieces, comprising the arms from the supporters, an arm and head from the crest, the finial, and numerous leaf tips. Work began by modelling in a hard modelling wax, in order to create a removable reference for the new pieces being made and to fine-tune how best the new pieces ought to sit in relation to the old. Small blanks were then cut from Honduran mahogany, with the grain of the wood running in the same direction as on the original.

Carving began on pieces fixed to a piece of board with a hide-glue paper joint, allowing the carving to be held in place and the majority of the waste material removed with reference to the wax models before they were detached from the back board. With some excess material left, the carvings were then offered up to their positions, and the lengthy process of carving away their points of contact began. As it was not possible to remove any original material in order to “make good” the breaks, the new pieces had to be carved to marry up with the oftentimes jagged and uneven breaks.  It was particularly important at this stage to have excess material left, as it allowed the matching of contact points to be made exact before the rest of the carving was completed, in order that on pieces such as the sinister supporter’s arm, the square would sit vertically and at the correct angle. At this stage the small size and awkward shape of the carving demanded that it no longer be fixed or clamped, but held in one hand and carved with the other.

Figure 2. Savage crest with left arm, spear and head restored (Photography by Clunie Fretton)

The carving of the head (Figure 2) proved the greatest challenge due to the paucity of contemporary references. Inspiration was taken from the two supporters, which though carved with great facility also retained something of the uncanny in the proportions and shape of their faces. The broad foreheads and closely clustered features are typical of infants, but some of their unusual look was transposed into the head of the savage to create continuity with the existing carving style.

The finial, by contrast, could be worked more freely (Figure 4). After taking measurements the design was reversed, and carved largely by eye, so as to introduce the natural differences in appearance that occurred across the rest of the chair when the design was originally mirrored.



Figure 3. Restoration in progress. Spring clamp and Kemco platform in use on the sinister supporter (Photography by Clunie Fretton)

With the carving complete, the pieces were glued in place with hide glue bulked with coconut shell powder and microballoons. The clamping of the small and irregularly sized pieces was tricky, and the best solution proved to be using Kemco Impression Compound pressed onto the new carvings in order to create a platform for the spring clamps (Figure 3).

The chair had been French polished after (and over) the breaks, which was removed where it would interfere with the adhesion of the glue. The carvings were then colour-matched to the original using garnet shellac, a very close colour match, adjusted with a minute quantity of lamp black pigment. The additions were then rubbed back to be consistent with the wear on the original, and a small quantity of hard black wax used to smooth the joins where extensive wear of the breaks had rounded their edges. Renaissance Wax provided the top-surface in order to knock back any areas too deep to dull the sheen from the shellac by sanding.”

Figure 4. Comparison of finials: original on the left, restoration on the right (Photography by Clunie Fretton)


I’m grateful to the Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilers, Leela Meinertas, Nick Humphrey, and all the members of Furniture Conservation for their support during this project.

This blog is adapted from a version first published in the V&A’s Conservation Journal.

Each second-year student was given an object from Kensal Green Cemetery to examine and conserve during the Autumn and Spring Terms. The objects are all memorial plaques that are stored in the crypt of the Anglican Chapel at the cemetery.

They have been cleaning the objects to remove dust, soot (carbon) deposits, sulphation and other soiling. Consolidating friable areas of stone and carry out any necessary repairs, including fillings. They are also designing and constructing a wooden handling tray that the object can be stored in, to provide protection from handling and damage. In approaching the cleaning of these objects, the aim is to achieve a cohesive clean while also ensuring that the inscription remains as legible as possible because this is central to the significance of the object. On the photographs below you can see the students painting within the lettering with Gamblin colours.


Rian’s gilding module introduces oil gilding, water gilding, verre eglomise, pastiglia (raised gesso), sgraffito (egg tempera scored to reveal underneath layer of burnished gold leaf on a gesso ground), Verre églomisé (reverse glass gilding), textures in gesso, all essential skills in Conservation. To learn these gilding techniques, our first year students are using the moulds of fruit or vegetables that they have created in previous woodcarving, joinery modules and limewood boards. The course provide the opportunity to make a test panel with an array of colours, both traditional and bespoke from a variety of bole suppliers. It is also a chance to learn about colours used during particular periods in decorative art history and the countries that favoured them.



The Art & Material Histories students are getting their hands dirty again – this week they are up to their elbows in wet clay at Rochester Square Ceramic Studios in Camden, re-thinking the recently re-popularized but ancient craft of ceramics. Starting from a position of ‘not knowing’ and led by artist and researcher Laura White, the group are exploring without boundaries the rich potential of this earthly material.

Using different processes and clays – throwing, hand building, extruding and casting, using buff, porcelain and terracotta clay, the students are deconstructing the assumptions and ideologies around its craft by challenging not only the material’s behaviour but also their own!

Throughout 2020 and 2021, as part of its Material Matters programme, the Art School is engaging in a multidisciplinary research project investigating Clay through a broad range of artistic, historical and material contexts. For more information about our Material Matters programme and how you could participate in the MA in Art & Material Histories, contact us at

All photographs courtesy of Laura White.


We are well into the delivery of the first year of our brand new MA in Art & Materials Histories course here at the Art School. It’s not only the subject itself which is new, as it draws from contemporary critical thinking and material-based artistic practices, but also the way we are teaching it. We are working with the idea that in order to appropriately engage with new ways of material thinking, we also need to engage in new ways of learning, and the course is proving to be exemplary in this respect.

This week, our students took part in a day-long workshop with artist and researcher Laura White and materials expert, Senior Lecturer in Design at Goldsmiths College and joint founder of UCL’s Institute of Making, Martin Conreen. Blobs of silly Putty, blocks of metal foam, jars of impossibly light Aerogels and Mummy Black pigment and much, much more were handled, played with and critically evaluated in relation to future technologies and artistic practices.

Photo credit: Laura White

Last week, students took part in N16’s Meat & Delicatessen’s organic Poultry and Sausage workshop. Lead by expert butcher Paul Grout we learnt the craft of dissecting and tying a chicken and de-boning meat for the stuffing of Cumberland sausages. Reflecting on the sustainability of the meat industry and the increasing popularity of its alternatives, students worked side-by side with their teaching staff to experience hands-on the pleasures (and for our 2 veggie student’s, challenges) of organic meat preparation.

Photo credit: Laura White
Photo credit: Laura White
Photo credit: Laura White

Next week, our students will be out and about in London’s museums and galleries in order to discover and reflect on artworks material value, shifting status depending on their material context and the constructed narratives around them.

All in all, the course is shaping up to be one of the most innovative and progressive MA’s in contemporary Art History.

As part of the annual Venice trip in November 2019, the group of second year Conservation students visited the 16th Century Canton ​Synagogue at the heart of the world’s first ghetto with Art School Conservation Tutor, Jennifer Dinsmore, who gave the students fascinating insights into this impressive building with complex conservation challenges.

The Canton Synagogue was founded in 1532 and completely restored in late baroque period. The Jewish Museum of Venice, situated next to it, is a little but very rich museum founded in 1953 by the Jewish Community of Venice.

The precious objects shown to the public, which include important examples of goldsmith and textile manufacture made between the 16th and the 19th centuries, are a lively witnessing of the Jewish tradition.  Furthermore, the museum offers a wide selection of ancient books and manuscripts and some objects used in the most important moments of the cycle of civil and religious life.


Whilst we were visiting the Synagogue, we were lucky to watch the live Conservation of the terrazzo floor, a composite material using various stones such as marble, quartz, granite set in mortar, at the 16th-century Schola Grande Tedesca.



Miyuki Kajwara (current MA Conservation student) and Jonida Mecani (2019 BA Conservation alumna) have recently spent two months on San Giorgio Maggiore, a small island off Venice, after being selected to take part in a two-month, fully-funded internship at the Abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore. This initiative is supported by Venice in Peril, a fund dedicated to conserving Venice’s architectural heritage and treasures.

Miyuki and Jonida have been living and eating with the small community of Benedictine monks at the Abbey, whilst carrying out a conservation project to clean a series of stone sculptures around the inner walls of one of the entrances in Palladio’s Church. This has been a fantastic opportunity to work at a world-famous site with complex conservation requirements.

During our annual Venice trip in November 2019, we visited the two interns who introduced us to the work they have been carrying out and also showed us the wooden choir that was the focus of the previous year’s Venice in Peril interns, alumni Catherine Grey and Olivia McIlvenny. Their brief was to monitor the evolution of the corrosive insect infestation in the wooden carvings and present a detailed conservation report to officials at the Church with recommendations on how to conserve the ornate work.



The Gothic Cathedrals of the Isle-de-France

This is the third year that we have run a medieval study trip for first year carvers and conservators. This year the generous grant from the Stuart Heath Charitable Settlement allowed us to extend our range geographically into France, and increase the length of the trip from 3 to 4 days. This allowed us to make a tour of most of the major Cathedrals of the Isle-de-France, which encircle Paris with convenient travel  distances between.

The primary aim of this trip is to allow students to contextualise what is being learnt in Art Histories study, as well as their practical studies in the workshops and studios. The opportunity to physically experience the great Cathedrals on site, rather than through photographs, allows a much deeper understanding of the interrelationship of the architecture, sculpture and glass painting. Also it is possible to easily follow the chronological development of the Gothic style in its various phases and forms. The Early, High and Late Gothic  periods are  all perfectly exemplified in this closely related group of buildings that were at the epicentre of the development of medieval art through the 12th-15th centuries.

Given their age and the vicissitudes of time and history, these buildings also provide the perfect opportunity for staff and students to explore issues around the restoration and conservation of ancient monuments. Reims Cathedral, for instance, given its location on the front line in WWI, was tragically shelled leading to a disastrous fire and the collapse of some parts of the building, necessitating a major restoration programme. At the time this shocking event had an impact across Europe, much like that created by the recent destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas and Palmyra by ISIS forces. More recently Chartres Cathedral has undergone a radical and controversial clean internally which has led to heated debate in heritage circles. There is no better place to discuss the issues arising from events like these than in the buildings themselves, where the effects of damage, decay, restoration and conservation can be seen directly.

Apart from the academic benefits, the social opportunities of such trips are also very significant, allowing conservation and carving students to get to know one another better, as well as staff. Given the generous sponsorship, we were also able to offer discounted place to students from other years, as well as to staff, and in the end a total of 37 students and staff participated in the trip.


We set off on the Friday with a long coach journey that delivered us to the start of our itinerary at Laon Cathedral. Dramatically silhouetted on a hill that dominates the surrounding countryside, the west front was washed by the late afternoon sunshine when we arrived.  Memorably, after the coach took a wrong turn, we were given a police  escort to the set-down point. Laon is a little visited masterpiece of early Gothic design, so the perfect place to start the visit, as its powerfully modelled façade and richly sculpted portals were highly original, famous throughout late 12th century Europe, and very influential in the later development of portal sculpture. Following installation in our hotel, the evening was spent eating in the varied restaurants of the old medieval town.


Saturday found us at Reims, sadly out of sequence chronologically in our list of Cathedrals, but the influence of the Laon experiments on the facade of Reims is very apparent. Reims was the coronation church of French royalty, and a centre of carving, particularly notable for its figure sculpture as well as its naturalistic foliage carving. In England, exquisite examples of this style are found at Southwell and York Minster, so close to the Reims spirit that the English carvers must have visited and studied it. Some of the third years who participated in the trip were able to remember seeing the Southwell carvings on our first medieval study trip, which took us up the east side of the country to Lincoln ,York and Durham.

We had two Frenchmen on the trip, one a student, the other a tutor, Ghislain Puget, who knew the  building well having worked on its restoration.


By Sunday we had reached Chartres, where we had an extended stay, given the importance of the building in the history of Gothic architecture. Although it was the first great monument of the High Gothic style, its West Front carvings pre-date the rest of the building by some 50 years and are themselves the best and most perfectly preserved example of early Gothic sculpture. Despite the bitterly cold weather, the group enjoyed a thorough exposition of the sculptures by Michael Paraskos, our Art History Tutor.


Next on the itinerary was Beauvais  which is famed for the tallest vault ever built in the Gothic period. Unfortunately, in their ambition, the builders overreached themselves and the vaults collapsed soon after construction. Undaunted, they were rebuilt, and remarkably, despite not completing the nave, a tower and spire of even more spectacular height was added later. It too collapsed, so Beauvais remains a heroic fragment, still beset by problems of stability as evidenced by the ugly wooden bracing to be seen inside the church. This was the coldest day of the trip, with snow whipping round our ears as we studied  the building. The buttresses supporting the vault of the choir are so tall and spindly that the whole structure needed to be made more rigid with the introduction of tie bars at a high level. In ornamental terms, the building is very interesting, as  renaissance forms start to appear amongst the gothic foliage of the north transept portals.


By Monday lunchtime the road was leading us back north-west to Calais, via Amiens Cathedral, roughly contemporary with Reims but fortunately less damaged in WWI. Consequently, the choir furnishings remain intact and feature some beautifully preserved late Gothic polychrome carvings facing the aisles, whilst the wooden choir stalls are extraordinary, featuring much virtuoso late Gothic carving. We managed to obtain special permission to enter the choir to sketch and photograph these closely, much to the delight of the woodcarvers. One sharp eyed student identified a small WWI memorial cut by Eric Gill, the lettering of which really stood out against the indifferent French lettercutting of the period.


Although focus of the trip was on the study of medieval art and architecture, we also managed a couple of other visits en route. The first was to the Palace of Fontainebleau, the next largest royal palace to Versailles, famed for the Galerie Francois I, with its Early Renaissance carved panelling, and its figurative stucco decorations by Rosso and Primaticcio, who were amongst the first to bring Renaissance forms to Northern Europe from Italy.

Finally, we concluded with a stop at the WWI Memorial at Thiepval, in the form of a monumental arch designed by Lutyens and poignantly inscribed with the names of over 70,000 servicemen who died in the surrounding fields but have no known graves. It seemed right to stop here in this centenary year of the end of the Great War.

Given the generous funding available to support it, this was the most ambitious and successful medieval study trip to date. First years were heavily subsidised,  and smaller subsidies were made available to other students as well as tutors. The increased numbers attracted by the bargain prices meant that costs per person could be  kept really low (£135 for first years and £200 for others).

Next year we may repeat this model of coach travel to nearby European centres, but are also considering the possibility of travelling further afield by budget airline and running a single location trip.

‘Intimacy’ is something we have been thinking about in the Art Histories recently; the intimacy of love and a love for art’s objects, and the intimacy we forge with certain ideas. Of course, making engenders a particular kind of closeness with the materials we use; the hand and eye’s special knowledge of material qualities and ‘the shape of things’ is what most art making depends on. But there is also an unquestionable intimacy in the love we have for art made by others. We often love and sometimes fall in love with the objects of art – and it is through our fidelity to that love that we discover something new about those objects, but also something new about ourselves. Research, when it is done well, is arguably an expression of love, which goes some way to explain why the madness of spending all weekend in bed with a book of theory or flying half way round the world just to see an exhibition, visit an archive or hear an artist talk, can feel so right. Writing about art is also an intimate affair, and good art writing can read like a love letter to the art objects of our desire.

I met with Tess Charnley at the Art School soon after she had got back from New York. We sat in the school’s café, and over coffee and cake, spoke about love and intimacy and the gut-felt longing one can have for art’s many things. Tess told me about Wojnarowicz and his death and the complex relationship she has with him. After our meeting Tess wrote the following brilliant and beautiful text and kindly suggested that we publish it here for others to read. For me, When I Put My Hands On Your Body embodies so much of what good art writing can be – it is intimate and honest and longing for something that ultimately can’t be found.

Tom Groves



When I Put My Hands On Your Body

 It was a March day in New York last year, wild with snow. Having spent two days schlepping from closed museum to closed museum, drawing time in cafes and bars, I was jet-lagged and uneasy. I had travelled from London to be in his archive, to follow an interest that I couldn’t seem to satiate at home, and everything was shut. It seemed fitting, considering his fascination with the elements, that this should be what stood between us. But on that Thursday morning, the snow was greying on the pavement as the city began to thaw.

Archives are strange places. They are imbued with so much time; the sense of time that comes with preservation, the time of a life, the time consumed by research. It’s a lot of pressure. Almost like going to meet someone with whom you have been talking online for weeks; you’ve forged a mediated intimacy and now it’s time for the real thing. You can’t know how much a person really turns you on until you sit with them, calculating how many centimetres you would have to move for your skin to be on theirs.

My fascination with David Wojnarowicz began in November 2017, when I first encountered one of his photographs in a small seminar room. The image was of Peter Hujar, his friend, mentor, and few times lover, shot moments after his death from AIDS. The photograph reeked of death and I felt an immediate kinship with Wojnarowicz. It made me dizzy. I hadn’t realised that death looks the same worn by most. The image led me stumbling from the room, propelled backwards again. For weeks, the photograph bounced around my consciousness, the face of its subject interchangeable.

The more I learnt about him, the more my interest grew. He was a writer, a painter, an activist. He died of AIDS. Also, he was sexy; in his descriptions of cruising the Hudson River piers, in the fury of his writing, in the cigarette dangling from his lips and the drawl of his voice. I thought about him incessantly and wrote about him sporadically. I still do.

His archive at Fales is extensive. It includes phone logs, letters, photography, video and reams of journals which he kept predominately in blue linen books with black spines, worn from hundreds of hands like mine. These journals were digitised in 2013 and so I have already scrutinised them from a distance, trying to work him out. But now I am here with dozens laid out before me, my skin reddening despite the snow outside. My ears are hot and I’m aware of a bead of sweat making its way down my arm. It’s a feeling I’ve never had without a man sitting across from me.

Often writing without punctuation, there is an urgency to Wojnarowicz’s words; onomatopoeia for his activism. But the journals are also eccentric and eclectic. Full of drawings; receipts; an old menu from a Chinese takeaway. And here is the magic of the archive. Touching his pages, seeing the way his pen has dented the paper, pulling out the menus, the receipts… Turning over a letter from Peter Hujar’s doctor with his AIDS diagnosis that Wojnarowicz has illustrated with a drawing of two men kissing, to see that his pen has bled through to the other side – the lasting image an intimate embrace.

The main thing I am here to see is the Magic Box. Found under his bed after his death, the Magic Box, an old wooden fruit box with ‘Magic Box’ written on masking tape on its exterior, houses fifty eight objects. According to his biographer, Cynthia Carr, no one knew of the box’s existence while he was alive and it is only once alluded to in his journals. The objects themselves seem disparate, ranging from rosaries and crucifixes to toy insects and miniature globes; dried flowers and photographs to a Buddha sculpture and a skull, but they are the roots of the cosmic symbology that crops up in Wojnarowicz’s work again and again. The snake in Junk Diptych; the maps that appear throughout his work; the ants in The Ant Series, to name a few.

Taking the lid off the box, the musty smell hits my nostrils and I envisage him performing the same action. When was the last time? And what did he retrieve, or deposit? How did he touch these things? Did he sift his fingers through, pulling out a necklace or a toy, or did he close his palms around each object individually, dividing his attention between them. And why? To collect and store these things, to weave them into his work, into his language. They must be significant. And what came first, the objects or the work? The box defines enigma.

I wonder if there’s any of his skin left on the objects, or if its all been rubbed away through years of handling. Fales provide white cotton gloves but don’t insist that they are worn apart from in handling photographs. I am acutely aware that this is the closest I’ll ever come to touching him. My skin on his skin, the object as the medium between us. One by one I lay the ephemera out on a piece of grey foam. They don’t all fit but that’s the fun of it. I can play around as I imagine he used to. Grouping different objects, arranging and re-arranging them, choosing a key player and the supporting roles. My favourite is the cobalt blue skull, the chalkiness of its surface not evident in photographs. Months later, I remember how I was struck by the intensity of its pigment. A similar vividity that sings out from Wojnarowicz’s paintings, blues and reds.

I leave the archive feeling empty in some way, familiar grief inching into my periphery. I want to tell him how I feel, how his work and his words have transformed me but there is a finality in a person’s archive – in seeing once and for all that all is left of a person’s trace is paper and things, flat screens with flickering images, crackling audio recordings that surely can’t come close to the real thing. Even if all of this is housed in one place they only produce a hum of the person, that you’ll chase for hours and never quite locate.

Tess Charnley 2019

Tess Charnley is an independent writer and curator based in London. She has recently curated a group exhibition, Experiment | Control at Blyth Gallery.’ Instagram – @tesscharnley


The Art Histories Department is delighted to announce the inaugural awarding of the CGLAS Art Monthly Prize for Critical Writing.

The prize is unique within the UK and judged by Chris McCormack Associate Editor and Production Manager of the highly influential journal Art Monthly who this year selected three outstanding theses from the BA (Fine Art) third year and one overall winner.

Chris commented on the ‘depth of research’ and ‘freshness of voice’ in the theses he read and remarked on their incredibly high level of critical thinking.

Nell Nicholas’ Exploring the Significance of Site in Michael Rakowitz’s “The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist”, and Cora Sehgal-Cuthbert’s  The Space Beneath: The Unintended Consequences of the Underpass, in Tallow by Joseph Beuys, This is England by Shane Meadows and Affect Bridge Age Regression by Mark Leckey were selected as the the runners-up, and Megan Elliot’s On Being Human:How is the body represented in Cécile B Evans’ What the Heart Wants was the 2018 overall winner.



Tom Groves, Head of the Art Histories Department has invited artist Corey Bartle-Sanderson to produce a series of photographic works inspired by the creative environment of the art school. Corey spent several days in the school closely observing the objects and materials in our wood and stone workshops, fine art studios, and conservation labs. In keeping with his own fascination with the juxtapositions between traditional materials and the aesthetics and values of today’s consumer culture, Bartle-Sanderson’s highly sensitive response unearths the ways in which certain histories, ideologies, agencies and affects play themselves out through the material environment of the school.


In a brilliant lecture about her creative practice and research platform Tenderfoot, Artist and writer Laura White introduces our Fine Art students to a range of strategies to rethink and reimagine the stuff of our material world.

Laura’s work revolves around a ‘negotiation with the world of STUFF’, and seeks to examine our interactions with materials and objects and ask critical questions about their ‘value, profile, association, meaning and behavior’.  Laura is fascinated with the ways Things act as both material stuff and anthropological signifiers, that are capable of revealing the human condition – vulnerabilities and capabilities, value systems affected by consumerism and material status, and objects/human dependencies.

During the workshop, our students asked all manner of questions including ‘how might sound enable us to describe what a hole feels like‘, ‘why a thin film of plastic, frustrates the hands’ desire to touch and be touched‘ and ‘what does the internet weigh? ‘. In a discussion around one of the workshop activities, Fine Art Student Amelie Peace described watching her blindfolded classmate Rose Shuckburgh work out what she was holding as an ‘almost sensuous experience’.

At CGLAS the essential properties of all things, whether they are paper-thin, hard as nails, soft to the touch, sticky, slimy or digitalized, fascinate us. Laura’s lecture and workshop gave us an inspired insight into how such research preoccupations can be made manifest in material things.

On 10th December, from 6-9pm CGLAS Art Histories lecturer Oriana Fox will present The O Show  at Block 336.

Be part of a live audience and join Oriana, a professional artist and doctor of philosophy who hosts the kind of chat show you’ve always wanted to see.The O Show provides fresh inspiration and straight talk from the mouths of artists, psychologists and activists who, like mainstream TV chat show guests, have little to no difficulty ‘spilling the beans’, even when their lives and opinions defy expectations and convention.


Oil on canvas, 100x250cm

John Moores Painting Prize UK & China Prize Winners Show is an exhibition of paintings by Martin Greenland, winner of the John Moores Painting Prize in 2006, Nicholas Middleton, twice winner of the John Moore’s Visitors Choice Prize 2006 and 2010, showing alongside Xueqing Zhong, JMPP China winner 2018, Duan Xiaogang and Huo Xumin, JMPP China prizewinners 2018. Part of the Liverpool Independents Biennial 2018.

Corke Gallery, 296-298 Aigburth Road, Liverpool, L17 9PW

Private view: Friday 12 October, 6pm – 8.30pm
The exhibition runs until Friday 30 November 2018 and is open 10am – 2pm from Thursday to Saturday.

Jeanne Callanan, who recently received her MA (Distinction) in Conservation, travelled to Paris earlier in September, to give a paper at the LACONA XII conference.


The LACONA conference (Lasers in the Conservation of Artworks) is a series of congresses begun in 1995 which are devoted to the application of lasers for cleaning artworks,  the use of lasers as analytical tools and achieving a better understanding of the impact of lasers.

Jeanne’s paper, “Lasers and Ivory: An Analysis and Case Study”, presented the results of her conservation treatment of a nineteenth century Chinese ivory lidded basket and of her research on the effects of the Nd:YAG Q-switched (1064 nm) and Er:YAG (2940 nm) laser systems on ivory.


The conference was an excellent opportunity for Jeanne to showcase her work and to meet other conservators from Europe and America who are using lasers in their practices. It was also a chance to showcase the important work being undertaken at the Art School on an international stage.

Commenting on her experience at the conference, Jeanne says, “When I was asked to present a paper at LACONA XII I was thrilled to be part of such an influential event, attended by conservation professionals from around the world. My research findings were very well received by the conference attendees, and I had the opportunity to network with many conservators and scientists in the heritage sector.”

Jeanne was our very first MA Conservation student, and came to the Art School with an impressive academic and professional portfolio. She already has an MA (Distinction) in History of Art and Archaeology from SOAS, University of London  and has worked for Sotheby’s New York as a Specialist in the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art Department, the National Gallery and the V&A Museum.

The research Jeanne undertook for her MA Conservation focused on comparing the effects of different laser systems for cleaning ivory. She used Time of Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) in the Materials Science Department, Imperial College, to analyse changes to the surface chemistry of the ivory after irradiation and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) as a complementary analytical technique.

The Art School acquired the state-of-the-art Nd:YAG Q-switched (1064 nm) laser in 2008, and is the only UK conservation teaching institution enabling students to investigate important new cleaning techniques using this technology.

The exquisite, Chinese, nineteenth century ivory basket used in Jeanne’s research project is from the Portland Collection, and is just one of the historical objects loaned to our Conservation Department for conservation projects. We have built up an impressive list of collaborators, both public institutions and private collectors, who regularly loan objects on this basis. Many collaborators also offer internships, work placements and live commissions, which provide essential professional experience for our students.

We’re very proud of Jeanne’s impressive achievements and will follow her career with interest as she continues to excel in the heritage sector.

Akira Inman recently graduated from our Diploma in Architectural Stone Carving course in June 2017. He has started working on a conservation project at Stavanger Domkirke in Norway, and here he writes about his experience of this fascinating programme. His account has also been printed in Forum, the journal of the Letter Exchange.

“I am very fortunate to be the first permanent stone carver on-site in a long-term conservation project on the 900-year-old cathedral, Stavanger Domkirke in the coastal city of Stavanger, Norway. Scheduled to be completed by 2025, it is commissioned by the Municipality of Stavanger with the Archeological Museum of Stavanger (University of Stavanger), my employers, who were awarded with the contract. The museum’s role is to restore and conserve all of the stone elements, both the exterior envelope and the building interior.

Cathedral of Stavanger, Norway. Own photography. {{cc-by-sa-2.5}}

Stavanger Cathedral, dated from 1125, is a Romanesque structure but was rebuilt and ‘modernised’ with a Gothic choir in the 1300’s after a fire in 1272. At the time of construction, Stavanger was a very small community with no history of erecting large stone structures: it is thought that the presiding bishop imported stonemasons from his hometown of Winchester. Perhaps through me they are following the tradition of hiring out some of the stonework to a non-Norwegian.

My background is in creative new-builds and heritage stone masonry, dry stone walling, and plaster conservation. Most recently I completed a three-year stone carving diploma program at City & Guilds of London Art School. While at C&G I was awarded the Idun Ravndal work/travel grant to Norway. This is how I met the Norwegian carving community and was introduced to two of their more well-known stone cathedrals; Nidaros Domkirke in Trondheim and Stavanger Domkirke. Both are undergoing significant restoration.

My responsibilities include carving stone mouldings and gothic ornamental carvings that have been included in the scope of the repair works. We are currently working on the East elevation of the building where most of the work involves correcting the previous restorations (1867, 1920, and 1984). As is often the case with ancient buildings that have evolved since their original construction, Stavanger Domkirke is a palimpsest of past architectural styles and conservation interventions: the cathedral displays a variety of techniques and approaches to conservation and the decorative arts. These past interventions, using modern materials such as ferrous dowels, cement and synthetic resins, are the direct causes of damage. Additionally the prosperous 19th century fish canning industry’s smoke from the smoking of the fish added to the air pollution, along with sea mist and the weather.

The cathedral is predominantly built with Gneiss, granite and greenschist but the east elevation, decorations, doorjambs and quoins are carved from soapstone (called kleberstein) which is quarried locally in Norway. The stone I am working with is the kleberstein: it is a dense, low porosity metamorphic with a high talc content making it soft and easily workable, at least when there are no inclusions of dolomite interfering with my chisel. It is also very resistant to heat – a valuable trait utilized from ancient times as cooking vessels and used for trade throughout the Viking and Medieval periods. Although there were many quarries available in the past, a significant proportion of them are now protected heritage sites; currently only one of them, Målselv, (also protected), supplies
carving-grade kleberstein to both Nidaros and our cathedral. Fortunately it possesses a large quantity of stone that has already been extracted and Nidaros’ workshop, being a larger operation than ours, can process the stones for us. With similar interests, conservation ethics and principles to Nidaros Domkirke we have been able to share knowledge and expertise along with our most basic natural resource.

Our approach to this project is not only to physically restore the domkirken but to encourage and preserve the traditional crafts and techniques required for authenticity in the process. In the case of Stavanger, all stone carving is by hand and we are using only lime-based mortars for our construction. In the past, considerable efforts were made on construction work for log houses and stave churches, through the Riksantikvaren (Directorate of Cultural History in Norway) Middle Ages Program and later through the Stavkirke (Stavechurch) program. For these decades-long initiatives, carpenters and joiners were trained in medieval craftsmanship and material understanding. A similar effort has not until now been seen for traditional masonry and stonework.

At Stavanger Domkirke, there is great care taken in the documentation of all aspects of this project and fortunately we have the capacity to save and store all the stones being replaced. It is too often the case that when a building is restored most of the stone elements removed are destroyed in the process, usually for budgetary or logistical constraints or both. In our case, the size of the cathedral and therefore the quantity of disturbed materials allows for a reasonably-sized safe space for storage for the benefit of future interests and investigations into our own historical moment in time, heritage and craftsmanship. Another unique aspect of this project is the use of the archaeological museum’s scientific resources to test materials in order to explore traditional techniques. Specifically,
the kleberstein used extensively in our cathedral is little known outside Norway and rarely used for carved ornament or masonry building. It is therefore something of a renewed field of study.


I work in a small and diverse team made up of fixer masons, conservators and researchers, all from different backgrounds, education and countries: four of whom are graduates of C&G. The size of the team facilitates a healthy sharing of knowledge. I am nowhere near fluent in speaking and reading Norwegian yet, but I look forward to learning more in order to delve into their literature and research surrounding Stavanger Domkirke and Norway’s heritage history.”



Our 3rd year students are working hard to finish their Conservation projects before the degree show in June 2018. Colour matching, gilding, reconstructing missing parts, removing old paint, gluing, laser cleaning, filling, reinforcing, cutting brass or using the Shimbari box… our Conservation studios are buzzing with skills and creativity.

Laser cleaning on ivory movie


Co-Edited by Art Histories Tutor and Lecturer Jon Shaw, Fiction As Method published by Sternberg Press 2018 is a brilliant illustration of the fact that ‘Fictions, by definition, are works that present us with unreal stories and situations. And yet, these fictions – novels- sings, pictures, theories and so on – are themselves actual things in the world. They are processes, performances, and objects. They portray unrealities, but they themselves are real. The essays in this volume, from a wide variety of points of view, all consider the reality of avowed fictions; their powers and effects, both for good and ill’ (Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English, Wayne State University)

Fiction As Method is available in all good bookshops and of course for loan in the City and Guilds of London Art School Library.

Early November is always eagerly anticipated by second year carvers and conservators ; the annual study trip to Venice is one of the highlights of the course. We get to stay on the beautiful island of San Giorgio Maggiore, just across the lagoon from St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace. San Giorgio is the home of the Cini Foundation, an educational and cultural institute located within the old Benedictine monastery there, and the site of our accommodation.

The island of San Giorgio Maggiore, seen from St.Mark’s Square, and home of the Cini Institute, where we stay

The trip is an intensive 5 days of visits to the churches and monuments of the city, prefaced by an hour of lectures each morning, and accompanied by tutors who lead guided walking tours around the main sites, as well as seeking out the lesser known cultural gems that are off the tourist trail. It’s the perfect location for our purposes, with a wealth of stone and wood carving of all periods to see, as well as a myriad of conservation problems, given the extraordinary location of the city.

A group shot below the famous Colleen Statue by Verocchio

Every year there are new things to discover. As well as the Venice Biennale of contemporary art, this year there was also the huge Damien Hirst exhibition, itself featuring many highly crafted pieces in all kinds of precious materials. However you value Hirst’s work, the quality of the craftsmanship and the technical brilliance of many of the pieces was striking. Another highlight of the trip was a transport strike on the day we were due to leave. This necessitated a return to the airport by water taxi, rather than the public bus we normally take through the mainland suburbs – a really memorable way to leave the city!

Art Histories tutor Sue Jenkins discussing the Carpaccio paintings in the Scuola San Giorgio

Woodcarving Tutor Peter Thuring discovering something new in San Pietro Martire on the island of Murano

Some bling dredged up by Damien Hirst from the wreck of the Unbelievable


Art Histories tutor Dr Rachel Warriner has curated the show Vox Materia with new work by Alice Maher as part of curatorial partnership Pluck Projects. The exhibition draws on ideas examined in the Fine Art undergraduate Art Histories lectures Bodies in Context and Representations and CGLAS MA course in Critical Aesthetics that Rachel contributes to, looking at themes of the representation of women, the abstract representation of the bodily and the ways in which these connect to contemporary gender politics. Launching at the Source Arts Centre on the 29th March, 2018 the show includes new work from this important feminist artist and key figure for Irish art. It will move in September 2018 to the Crawford Art Galley, Cork and is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue of the work produced by the Source Arts Centre to which Rachel has co-written an essay with art historian and critic Sarah Kelleher.

For more information see Pluck Projects’ blog at and Alice Maher’s website

Kim Amis teaches Modeling in relief to the Conservation students in Year 1.

The purpose of this modelling exercise is to gain an experience of transcribing a two-dimensional image into relief form. The depth of the relief will be decided by the peer group. The casting process learned in the first term should be sufficient to enable students to produce a plaster positive cast in self-directed time. Students have been supplied with an image from the pictorial archive of Historic Ornament


Alex Owen graduated from our BA (Hons) Conservation Studies course in 2014. Here he tells us about his inspirational journey from Conservation Studies undergrad to Wooden Objects Conservator at the British Museum…

On my first day at City & Guilds I can remember feeling a little lost and incredibly curious. On campus you are always very aware that most of what City & Guilds does is teach the creative arts. I just remember wanting to spend time in historic stone and wood carving, in the wood shop, and the sculpture and fine art studios. Conservation felt like a complication – a behemoth of unknowns keeping me from exploring the labyrinthine site and getting to know all its inhabitants and learning about what they did.

From the outset I wanted to focus on Wood and Furniture conservation and was particularly interested in developing craft skills. However I soon developed a fascination with science spurred on by the practical way it is taught and applied at City & Guilds. I also paid full attention to anything the tutors would impart, from Pigments to History of Art, the Lime Cycle to the use of gels for cleaning. This gregarious approach to the diverse curriculum at City & Guilds has held me in good stead as it has allowed me to, for example, work as a stone conservator for Taylor Pearce between contracts at the Victoria and Albert museum’s Furniture Conservation Department.

19th Century export lacquer tea caddy

In fact since graduating I’ve had to be very versatile. Among other roles I’ve worked as a stone conservator in private practice and as a furniture conservator in a museum environment as mentioned above, I’ve worked as a preventive conservator seconded to Westminster Abbey, and as a frames and gilded furniture conservator at a small private studio. I’ve taken on private conservation, gilding, and restoration work. I also busied myself with being on the committee, and ultimately chairing, the Icon Furniture and Wooden Object Group.

Oil gilding in the Sovereign's Robing Room at the Palace of Westminster.

I am certain that this plurality of post-graduate experience played a large part in my being offered a permanent position as Wooden Objects Conservator at the British Museum, a dream job for me. However, I think the biggest single reason for my success was a placement at the V&A during my studies, facilitated by one of my tutors. The opportunity to work in a museum environment allowed me to prove myself in that immediate context. Then when temporary contracts came up at the V&A, I was a known and proven entity. Having then secured that experience, when applying for the position at the British Museum I was able to demonstrate an ability to deliver results at a large national museum.

Carrying out veneer replacements on a long case clock

Now I am beginning my career at the British Museum. I have been made section lead for Japanese and Korean objects with a focus on lacquer, and for large archaeological wooden objects. I also have responsibility for the Organics section’s machine tools and woodworking room. But what I really love about working here is the diversity of challenging objects we get to work on – my first object was a Haitian Voodoo drum!



Frame and Furniture Conservation projects with Tutor Gerry Alabone

Historic Crafts: Gilding & Japanning



BA (Hons) Conservation

MA Conservation



  1. Consolidating a C19th export lacquer tea caddy for my 3rd year practical project at City & Guilds
  2. Oil gilding in the Sovereign’s Robing Room at the Palace of Westminster.
  3. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence. Carrying out veneer replacements on a long case clock.

There is lots of exciting new work being produced in Part 2 of the Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.


Part 2 of the course is called “Development and Progression” and you can see that the students are certainly exploring a range of approaches and learning about new materials and processes. They are also being kept very busy building portfolios that will secure places on courses next year.


Vasari Digital Animation Series: Joey Holder and Candida Powell-Williams

Friday 2 February 6:30 – 9:00

In collaboration with the Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology

Artists Joey Holder and Candida Powell-Williams both use animation to explore the relationship between digital and biological forms. Holder’s work considers the structures and hierarchies of the technological and natural worlds, and how these systems are constantly abstracted. Powell-Williams’ practice merges sculptural installations, performance and GIFs, using them to address the construction of identity through objects and memory.

Following screenings of work by both artists, Holder and Powell-Williams will discuss hybrids, molluscs, fantasy and the interplay between the digital and the corporeal in their work.

Joey Holder is a London based artist who received her BA from Kingston University (2001) and her MFA from Goldsmiths (2010). Her artistic practice and research spans video and multimedia installations both online and offline. Her work raises philosophical questions of our universe and things yet unknown, regarding the future of science, medicine, biology and human-machine interactions. Working with scientific and technical experts she makes immersive, multi-media installations that explore the limits of the human and how we experience non-human, natural and technological forms. Mixing elements of biology, nanotechnology and natural history against computer programme interfaces, screen savers and measuring devices, she suggests the impermanence and inter-changeability of these apparently contrasting and oppositional worlds: ‘everything is a mutant and a hybrid’. Connecting forms which have emerged through our human taste, culture and industrial processes she investigates complex systems that dissolve notions of the ‘natural’ and the ‘artificial’. GM products, virtual biology and aquatic creatures are incorporated into an extended web; challenging our perception of evolution, adaptation and change. By contrasting so-called ‘organic’ and ‘man-made’ substances and surfaces through a series of abstractions, she creates a world of manifold layers, none more unified or natural than the next. These hybridities may suggest a particular function or natural form but remain elusive through their odd displacement.


solo/duo exhibitions include ‘SELACHIMORPHA’, Photographers Gallery, London (2017), ‘Ophiux’, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridge (2016), ‘TETRAGRAMMATON’, LD50, London (duo w/ John Russell) (2016), ‘Lament of Ur’, Karst, Plymouth (duo w/ Viktor Timofeev) (2015);

‘BioStat.’, Project Native Informant, London (2015) and ‘HYDROZOAN’, The Royal Standard, Liverpool (2014). Recent group exhibitions include ‘HYDROZOAN’ at the 7th Moscow International Biennale Of Contemporary Art, Russia (2017), ‘WALLPAPERS’ at New Forms

Festival, Canada (2017), ‘Designing Desire’ at FACT, Liverpool, UK (2017), ‘Alien Matter’, Transmediale, Berlin (2017), The Noise of Being, Sonic Acts, Amsterdam (2017), ‘Winter is Coming’, Georg Kargl, Vienna (2016), ‘The Uncanny Valley’, Wysing Arts Centre,

Cambridge (2015); BODY HOLES, New Scenario, online exhibition at the 9th Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany (2016), ‘Sunscreen’, online and at Venice Biennale (2015); ‘A Plague of Diagrams’, ICA, London, UK (2015), ‘#WEC- Whole Earth Catalyst’, The Composing

Rooms, Berlin, Germany (2015); ‘h y p e r s a l o n’, Art Basel Miami, USA (2014); ‘Vestige: The Future is Here’, Design Museum, London (2013) and ‘Multinatural Histories’, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Massachusetts, USA (2013).

Candida Powell-Williams lives and works in London. She graduated from the RCA, London in 2011. Selected exhibitions include: ‘Boredom and its Acid Touch’, Frieze Live (2017); ‘Tongue Town’, Museum of Modern Art, São Paulo; ‘Cache’, Art Night, London (2017); and ‘Coade’s Elixir’, Hayward Gallery, London (2014). In 2013 Powell-Williams was awarded the Sainsbury Scholarship at BSR, Rome. She is currently artist in residence the Warburg Institute London.

Elizabeth Johnson is an Art Histories lecturer at City and Guilds Art School and is an Associate Research Fellow in the Vasari Centre for Art and Technology, Birkbeck 


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