A bisque restorers point of view

A bisque restorers point of view

BY PETER STRANGE.child with broken doll

At the risk of boring your readers by continuing the discussion of the pros and cons of bisque restoration, I feel I must write to make one or two points arising from the article by David Barrington in Issue No 6 of your magazine.

It is interesting that there should be such strong opposition to restoration of damaged bisque dolls. After all, the restoration and conservation of antique furniture, oil paintings and fine china pieces of all ages, is not only universally accepted but indeed expected.

One is tempted to believe that what is good enough for some of the world's finest porcelain pieces, may also be considered to be good enough for dolls' heads,
the majority of which were manufactured by mass production methods.  Why, therefore, should there be a widespread belief that a damaged doll ought not to
be restored?



dollyThe regrettable conclusion can only be that such a large amount of work executed on dolls in the past, has been of particularly poor quality. This is not altogether surprising. After all, it is only in relatively recent years that dolls have acquired real monetary value, rendering proper restoration economically viable.

Whilst agreeing entirely with Mr. Barrington's view that it is often unnecessary and inadvisable to restore small hairline cracks, (with the possible exception of those occurring in the necks of socket heads which may have a tendency to 'run'), I assertion that it is bisque colour exactly different". I would have to disagree with his impossible to match the original because the "colour pigments are different"

Both colour and texture can indeed be matched exactly though the work is complex. When a restorer refers to the 'glaze' used for restoration, he is simply referring to the chemical medium used to re-touch the damaged area. The medium is coloured by the addition of small quantities of dried oil paints, and this is applied in a series of thin layers to the damaged area reducing the content of pigments at each application until the 'mend' is blended with the whole. The colour and shade can thus be altered at will until an exact match is obtained. Texture can be similarly dealt with although this would have to be regarded as a 'trade secret''  What cannot be disguised 100% is the point at which the retouched finally blends into the original. This is due to a thixotropic effect of the glaze and is an insoluble problem. Even this, however, can be minimized and should be detect able only upon the very closest scrutiny.  The chemical composition of the 'glaze' is of the utmost importance since the use of an incorrect medium will result in the discolouration referred to in Mr. Barrington's article.

The popular misconception that heads are ever 're-fired' almost certainly arises from the restorer's use of 'ovenbaked glazes'. These are mediums as described which are 'cured' by warming in an oven at low temperatures. Any discolouration which the pigment may undergo, will occur during this heating. On cooling, the discolouration will be corrected and the head returned to the oven.

It may be necessary to repeat this process many times in order to achieve the perfect match but the retouch will then be permanent and there should be no danger of discolouration at a later stage providing that the doll is not exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight.

Finally, it must be noted that proper restoration of bisque is as complex as the restoration of painting or any other work of art. The finish of the original will not be spoilt, the area of the re-touch being kept to the practical minimum.

As with all serious conservation work, despite the fact that the repair should be regarded as permanent, the processes I have discussed are, in fact, reversible and we are not, therefore, interfering with the inheritance of future generations.

Sorry - but like David Barrington, I felt it had to be said!


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