Packing & shipping cause more damage than you can imagine. Our friend Gloria O’Quinn, of Le Visage Salon & Gallery on Grand Ave, local Shona sculpture purveyor, received a beautiful three-foot tall carving of a woman, who lost her feet in transit from Zimbabwe.
‘Shona’ describes much of the population of the Bantu Nation living in Zimbabwe as well as the sculpture they create. The Shona have been sculpting stone for nearly a thousand years. Traditionally, items were produced for utilitarian purposes such as headrests, household items, and musical instruments. Then in the mid 20th Century, a new style emerged which was purely for artistic purposes; characterized by highly polished shapes sometimes offset by rough-hewn areas. The stone is serpentine or verdite, which ranges in color from black & green to yellow, orange, grey, red, and even purple. It is considered a semi-precious stone and is extremely hard. Before work begins, the sculptor must find the stone and explore its character. The stone tells the artist what shape it must have, and the artist can only work as long as they carry the image in their mind that the stone has conveyed.
Gloria’s sculpture had an unfortunate accident on the way to Oakland. So, the first step was to assess the damage.
Then we had to determine the composition of the sculpture. In this case, the stone had missing areas around the broken parts that needed to be recreated. Both raw surfaces at the break were sealed to prevent further damage and to prime them to accept the adherent.
Then both pieces were supported by custom devised sandbags and blocks, in preparation for the gluing. The adherent was a tinted epoxy that was then applied to both surfaces. The pieces were put together and left to dry in the custom-made support system. After the basic parts were back together, the missing areas were filled with more epoxy to build up to the final elevation.
When those layers were dry, the epoxy was smoothed and sanded to imitate the surrounding surfaces. To unify the entire repair, we mixed pigment matching the color and applied it with an airbrush. Then the surface sheen was replicated by fine polishing. A sealant was applied at the end to preserve the work.
This stone restoration was difficult to execute, due to the asymmetrical weight of the object. Very often the reason why articles break is a function of their original construction. If you have sculpture that is not able to rest evenly on the surface where it’s displayed, it could be worth remedying the problem before it causes the piece to fall. Some ways of accomplishing this is with build-ups on the item or on the display base using felt or museum gel. If there are any cracks, fissures, or particles around the piece, it is wise to attend to the problem before it gets worse.
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