Mixed Media Textiles

18th Century Bead Work Picture

Probably 18th century beaded picture, the lady and gentleman are exchanging love tokens, the landscape is both na´ve and charming with great importance given to a rather over sized tulip in the centre of the piece.

Bead work picture

Generally in good condition but beading threads were found to be very fragile, particularly on the left hand side in the grey beads of the tree trunk. Surface dirt had ingressed through  from gaps in the back of the frame and the particulate dirt was noticeable.

The shape and size of the beads may help to indicate the production period of a piece and the colour reflects the chemical constituents; opaque white beads may contain tin, blue beads cobalt. The most common type of bead is a seed bead (also known as pound bead, rocaille or charlotte). It is 3-5mm in diameter with a perforation of 2mm or less.

Bead work picture

Removed from the frame to identify materials (where possible) and cleaned with vacuum suction and solvent. Extremely fragile bead work was stabilized using a net covering coated in an adhesive. Adhesion was activated using a solvent. The picture was reframed to include a plastazote (inert foam) cushioning to protect beadwork from compression around the outer edges.

General soiling was successfully removed using a combination of dry and wet treatments. For dry cleaning; low suction and small attachments were used to dislodge dirt.  The vacuum nozzle was covered with net.

The use of brushes for vacuum cleaning should be left to an expert, especially on bead work; because without the correct methods and equipment, damage can easily be caused.

Bead work picture

Treatment detail
For wet/solvent cleaning an area was wet-tested and a few detached beads soaked and dried to check for no cracking or colour loss. A suitable solvent mixture was chosen and the beads swabbed in a spinning action.

When cleaning beads, cleaning can be carried out using compressed air and/or vacuum suction, but extreme care must be taken not to dislodge beads. The nozzle should be covered with gauze to allow bead recovery and only a small vacuum cleaner with variable suction should be used.

Wet cleaning is always a little more risky because swelling and evaporation can cause beads to crack and threads to break.
A rolling cleaning action is important when solvent cleaning because the resulting turbulence cleans better. Blotting paper and swabs need to be changed regularly so that gritty dirt does not abrade the surface of the beads.

Bead work picture

Treatment detail
Due to the extremely fragile state of the beads on the left hand side, in the tree trunk, localized consolidation was required. A cellulose based adhesive/consolidant with the trade name Klucel G was employed. The photograph shows an absorbent swab, lightly coated with acetone, under a polythene tent. The evaporation of the acetone from the swab activated the adhesive, which was cast onto a silk crepeline shape.

Bead work, like any mixed media object, can be susceptible to vibration and changing environments. Fluctuating humidity will produce different swelling rates in the different component materials. Light, particularly ultra violet, weakens organic material.

Bead work picture

Treatment detail
The silk overlay activated and in place over the extremely weak bead work. The net overlay was cut to a shape and size that allowed for the edge of the frame to hold the net in place.

Beads that are crazed with internal or external cracking, or which have powdery or sticky surfaces are deteriorating and professional advice is needed.

Bead work picture

After conservation
The piece returned to its frame; and a cushioning fillet of plastazote lodged in place between the textile and frame rebate. The picture was noticeably cleaner and the beadwork more stable where vulnerability was an issue.

Clients was advised to handle bead work with extreme care and to position the frame on an internal wall in a more environmentally stable and darker environment.