Pair of Copper Plates by William Aiken Walker

These two great pieces of Americana are oil paintings done on copper plates by the artist William Aiken Walker (1839 – 1921). Copper has always been a great preserver of oil paint, and we’re glad to say that the foundational aspects for these two works are rather good. It’s likely that they have never been varnished and, as you can imagine, they are quite covered with surface contaminates. And due to the nature of copper and how it can corrode when contacted with cleaning solvents, we’ll have to be gentle in our approach and use a gel system. We can’t wait to see the natural colors and the clarity of the details that are already quite impressive. Stay tuned for more…

William Aiken Walker (1839-1921) was an American artist who was born to an Irish Protestant father and a mother of South Carolina background in Charleston, South Carolina in 1839.  In 1842, when his father died, Walker’s mother moved the family to Baltimore, Maryland, where they remained until returning to Charleston in 1848.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, Walker enlisted in the Confederate army and served under General Wade Hampton in the Hampton’s Legion.  He was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines (1862).  After recuperating, he was transferred back to Charleston, where he was assigned picket duty, which gave him time to paint.  For the next two years, he made maps and drawings of Charleston’s defenses.  He was separated from the military at the end of 1864.  After the Civil War, Walker moved to Baltimore, where he produced small paintings of the “Old South” to sell as tourist souvenirs.

He is best known for his paintings depicting the lives of poor black emancipated slaves, especially sharecroppers in the post-Reconstruction American South.  Two of his paintings were reproduced by Currier and Ives as chromolithographs.

Walker continued painting until his death on January 3, 1921 in Charleston, where he is buried in the family plot at Magnolia Cemetery.

Japanese Doll

This Japanese doll suffered from sun damage that had really effected the red colors making them a lighter shade. Adhering the kimono to the doll were pins, and to the pedestal were nails. There was also a stain on the pedestal.

The first approach to strengthen the color of the red fabric was less invasive and used dyes, but after tests it was determined this was not going to give the desired result. Period Japanese silk that was used for kimonos was then ordered from Japan. From the waist up all of the red fabric was replaced, and at the the bottom, where the kimono was attached to the pedestal by nails, it was determined that nail removal would be more damaging to the kimono than the fabric replacement, and therefore the original fabric was left.

The stain on the pedestal was tested with numerous solutions of different strengths. Unfortunately none of these was more effective than being able to lighten the color of the stain. In-painting was then used in the area to conceal the presence.

Tiger Stadium Peanut Vendor Apron

This is an apron from Tiger Stadium believed to have been worn by peanut vendors. Grease stains were along the front and part of the embroidery had been lost. We cleaned the apron and re-stitched some of lettering to match the original. Vintage postcards from Tiger Stadium were placed with the apron in a new maple shadow box frame with a fabric mount.

Eagle Wood Sculpture from Taiwan

This is an eagle carved from camphor wood, and was made and purchased in Taiwan. We believe it to be from the 1950’s-1970’s.

At some point the left wing suffered a complete break. Crude restoration attempts combined screw supports with adhesives. While this did at least reattach the wing, it left a sizable seam along the break, almost like a scar.

We have been able to detach the wing without causing any damage. This allowed us to see the internals and get a better understanding of the issues. We plan to remove all of the poor in-fill. With a clean wood surface, pegs and restorer’s adhesive will joint the wing back to the body. The restorer’s adhesive has properties that allows it to breath and move with the natural expansion and contraction of the wood. To hide the brake we’ll combine wood in-fills with finishing stains. Stay tuned for more…



Fernando Ramos Prida Collection

The 8 works by Fernando Ramos Prida (1937) are enroute to auction with a layover at our studio for a little restoration. Most need moderate cleaning, and some will require a little more. Typical of Prida’s style, seven of these are reliefs made from wood, giving them many nooks and crannies for dust and dirt to accumulate. The eighth work is an oil on canvas and is sizable at 47 1/4” x 39 1/2.” We due expect the removal of the dirt to have a significant impact on the colors.

Prida was born on January 2, 1937 in Mexico City. In the 1950s, he studied art at the National Academy of San Carlos and the Esmeralda school of painting and sculpture. A spot in the very prestigious Galeria de Arte Mexicano was offered to him after he graduated. In 1965, at the age of 28, he had a one man show that sold out; and across the United States, Europe, and Mexico, he has had 31 solo shows and 69 group exhibitions. Cuernavaca is now where he calls home, but he has worked and lived in Boston and Paris.

Prida’s work can be found in private and public collections all over the world. In Mexico, Latin America, America, and Europe, there are 36 museums exhibiting original Fernando Ramos Prida pieces. At age 43, he began to carve and paint wooden tablets left outside to crack in the scorching hot sun. This art is reminiscent of the Olmec and Mayan heritage of his youth. This has become the style that he is most well known for.

Ivory Sculptures Finished

Finishing touches to the ivory sculptures were made. We counted 37 broken flower leaves that were supported with tape while the Jade 403 hardened. For the pieces that suffered a rough shape from the fall, drilling was needed to smooth these areas and give a good fit. This was the same method of attachment the original artist would have used. We were pleasantly surprised by the wonderful and natural shine that came out from our careful cleaning. These statues are rather impressive pieces and were very rewarding objects to restore.

Ivory Sculptures Work in Progress

With a temporary base to fortify the Vase with Flowers we’ve started the delicate task of reattaching the broken pieces. We’re using two types of epoxies; one of which dries clear. Tape is being used to hold the delicate areas while we work in the chrysanthemum flower structure that is quite cramped. Still to come will be a new, sturdier base with matching wood. Also, at the midsection, the statue is in two pieces where the flowers meets the vase. These pieces sit freely on each other, and we’ll use restorer adhesives to adhere them and greatly improve the stability. The Dragon Holding Birdcage has been propped, and a few loose planks adhered and weighted down while they dry. Stay tuned for more. . .

Ivory Sculptures

A pair of very intricate and fascinating ivory sculptures came in. They were purchased a long time ago and are likely Chinese in origin. The chrysanthemum sculpture sits above a vase that actually contains fish and seaweed.

Trouble stemmed from the flower base and how it freely rests on the wooden base. It’s very top heavy and it fell over and hit the dragon sculpture, which stood nearby, cracking the base of the dragon and causing it to lean down, lowering the birdcage. There were also a “few” broken flower pieces.

An old restoration left epoxy glue that had turned brown. This will, however, offer some clues as to which pieces go where, but the puzzle aspect of the restoration will likely prove to be the most challenging part. To reattach the ivory we’ll use a pair of restorer-grade epoxies, one of which is a glass epoxy and will dry clear. And to protect the chrysanthemum sculpture for the future, we’ll fortify the base making it more sturdy.

The United States banned the sale of ivory objects in 2016. Exempt items include instruments and firearms containing less than 200 grams of ivory, and antiques professionally appraised to be at least a century old. The price per pound of ivory went as high as $1,500, and an estimated 100,000 elephants were poached between 2012-2014.

Willie the penguin, icon of KOOL

This iconic piece of history had cracked at the feet and in the paper mache along the front of the statue. Lost areas were rebuilt, redoing the paper mache in layers working from the interior, and the craquelures in-painted.

Willie the penguin was introduced in 1934 by The Ted Bates Advertising Agency. During the time there were several other cartoonish spokespersons like Kellog’s Snap, Crackle & Pop, Reddy Killowat, and the Campbell’s Kids. Willie’s product line included salt and pepper shakers, ash trays, holders for wooden matches, lighters, and when air-conditioning was introduced, a version was created to suggest customers to enter a storefront because it was “kool” inside. It has also been debated that a picture of Willie wearing a top hat was the inspiration for the Penguin character in Batman. Regardless, Willie appeared in his own comic books after he was licensed by Standard Comics for six issues, with the cigarette brand dropped from the title. By the ’60s, however, the company had shifted advertising focus and opted for wintry outdoor scenes to promote their business.