Patricia was hired to spend a week in Milwaukee, cleaning and remounting a tapestry for St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The church had just installed a new organ and done a big remodeling job along with that. The tapestry was removed during all the construction, and so this seemed a great time to do an assessment, spiff it up, hang it according to more modern techniques, etc.
Since Patricia's usual assistant was not available for a couple of those days, she called on me. How wonderful! So I read up on tapestry construction, and then had two days of vacuuming and stitching and learning way a lot more about tapestry and about being a conservator. And we were set up in a lovely hotel with a delicious restaurant to boot!
The tapestry has been dated to the early 1500s, probably made in Belgium, which was the capital of the tapestry industry at that time. Patricia says that at least half of it, if not more, has been repaired over the centuries. That is what has kept it alive for such a long, long time. It is certainly much, much older than the quilts that come my way! Even so, Patricia talked about the colors and their effect on the longevity of the fibers, and she told the same stories I know about the old dyes in antique quilts.
Here's the tapestry ready for it's overhaul. It is 10' x 12 1/2'.
... the front
Vacuuming the tapestry was very interesting. It was soooo dirty! No one had done a thing to it for decades. I could literally see the colors brightening with every pass of the vacuum nozzle. The church was left with instructions for periodic vacuuming.
Here are some of the lovely people who inhabit this tapestry scene.
And here are some of the lovely plant and garland designs.
After I left, and Patricia's assistant came to help, they continued the job by adding a new lining/dust cover on the back, and a velcro strip across the top. Up until now, the tapestry had been hung from a row of hooks, which does not support the top edge safely. So this was a very good step to take.
A few days later, construction workers brought in a couple of lifts and raised the tapestry back into its place on the wall.
I'll be driving through Milwaukee again in a couple of weeks, and will visit the tapestry and take some pix. Then we can all see the finished effect.
It was such a joy and honor to be able to work on this lovely old piece. And also, the church building itself is a lovely antique, and with marvelous Tiffany stained glass windows. I totally enjoyed being a textile tourist. Thanks, Pat, Patricia, and St. Paul's!