MA Conservation student appointed to key industry role

The Art School was delighted to find out recently that MA Conservation student, Louise Davison, has been appointed to the Board of Trustees of The Institute of Conservation (Icon) as an emerging professional. Congratulations Louise!

Icon brings together people with a passion for the care of cultural heritage and champions excellence in the profession, promoting the value of heritage. Trustees of the charity support Icon to achieve their strategic aims and deliver public benefit, having an impact on the conservation profession and on society as a whole.

Louise told us that as an emerging professional, she is keen to use her Trusteeship to ensure the perspectives of those entering the profession and in the early stages of their career, are voiced and shared.  She also plans to use this opportunity to promote diversity and inclusion in the conservation sector, raising awareness of the profession and opening opportunities to a wider audience.

Louise completed the BA (Hons) Conservation: Stone, Wood & Decorative Surfaces in 2021 and is currently studying on our MA Conservation course. One of her BA final year projects was to carry out repairs and conservation works on Thomas Brock’s bust of Frederic Leighton, part of the collection at Leighton House. The plaster bust was discoloured and the surface layer had deteriorated. A large corner of the socle (the base of the sculpture) had also broken off and a wire fixing tied around the base needed to be carefully removed.

Thomas Brock’s bust of Frederic Leighton, Leighton House. Image credit: Leighton House

In order to fully assess the deterioration and damage on the bust, Louise carried out in-depth analysis including examination under ultraviolent light, testing of fluorescence and microscopy. Before re-attaching the piece of broken base, Louise thoroughly tested various fill materials and types of adhesion to best mimic the original materials used, and concluded that a mould of the detached piece should be cast with plaster of Paris, and rabbit skin glue used as an adhesive agent. The meticulous process of cleaning and stain removal from the surface followed and a carefully considered and tested collection of washes and paints used to bring overall cohesion to the colour of the surface.

A full interview with Louise about the conservation process carried out can be read on the Leighton House website. Leighton House reopens in the summer and the restored bust will be proudly exhibited in the new reception space.

During her MA Conservation, Louise is conserving an exquisite fireplace at the Jacobean Charlton House in London. The Vulcan and Venus fireplace is one of the oldest and grandest fireplaces in the House. Dating from around 1630, it is attributed to the sculptor Nicholas Stone who was appointed Master Mason to King James.

Little is known of any restorative or conservation treatments the fireplace has undergone over the years, except that the two figures of Vulcan and Venus were put back on their plinths after becoming dislodged during a bomb explosion in World War II.

Louise has conducted an initial condition assessment concluding that the fireplace is structurally sound but it exhibits a litany of damage and deterioration including losses, failed fills, discolouration, loose parts and additions of coloured paint.

Using mobile scaffolding to gain full access to the fireplace, Louise is initially treating the overmantel and then the lower part of the fireplace, mechanically removing additions, dirt, and failing fills and joints. She will stabilise mobile components, reattach losses, including Vulcan’s thumb, and dry clean the sculptures.

As well as carrying out this detailed conservation treatment plan, Louise will draw up a proposal for the ongoing care of the fireplace, with carefully curated instructions for appropriate house keeping, and hopes to be able to involve the local community in the long-term care and conservation of this stunning, historical piece.

Since graduating in the summer, Louise has been working on a variety of conservation projects with the conservation firm Taylor Pearce, including undertaking work at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Alongside the MA Conservation, Louise will continue with a paid internship at Maison Dieu in Dover, with Bainbridge Conservation and Icon, where she is working on the conservation of a nationally significant collection of civic furniture designed by acclaimed Victorian neo-gothic architect, William Burges. During the internship, Louise will be taking part in a series of pop-up workshops that will be open to the public.

Louise Davison on ITV Meridian News talking about her internship at the Maison Dieu

Louise said: “I am so excited to be working at the Maison Dieu. It’s a fascinating building and a great opportunity to work on William Burges’ furniture collection, and some really interesting paintings too.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting local people at the pop-up workshops which will give them an insight into how we conserve these incredibly significant items of furniture.”

We wish Louise every success in her Trusteeship at Icon and are looking forward to following her progress at Charlton House and the Maison Dieu.


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