Real estate broker Barry Woltag was waiting for me to return from a 5-week trip this spring. I did not know Barry at that time. It turns out that he had contacted art restoration expert Sandra Heiser in Austin, Texas, who in turn received my
name from Jonestown sculptor Jim Thomas. Barry needed some stone work done and found out that I was the one he needed to speak with.
One of Barry's aunts was a carver. She had created many stone sculptures over the years. After she laid down her chisels for the last time, Barry received several of these artworks for his own collection. Unfortunately, an alabaster sculpture of an arching fish did not arrive in good condition. The head had snapped off. The body had various bruises in the stone from getting pummeled by the steel rod in the base that held the fish up. It had been packed incorrectly.
Barry, Sandra, and I met in Austin to evaluate the broken artwork. I had never done a restoration of a stone carving before, so was understandably nervous. But after realizing that I did not need to find a matching stone, I accepted the job.
Alabaster is a soft stone and bruises fairly easily. That is not necessarily a bad thing, depending on the intent of the artist. So I showed Barry the difference between the marks of the artist and the marks from damage.
I explained my approach - that I would have to carve deeper into the stone to remove the damaged areas and then blend the shapes, trying to emulate the original form. I explained how I would glue the head back on and what he might expect the finished piece to look like.
I also gave him an estimated price. He agreed to it all and I went home that afternoon and got to work. He had waited long enough.
Damaged Sculpture - Incorrectly Packaged for Shipping:
After Stone Sculpture Restoration:
One other note: The original base for Barry's fish was a wide band of Plexiglas that formed a flat arch. A small clear column rose from the middle with the metal pin sticking out of it to hold the fish.
Knowing that art is subjective and that Barry was very sentimental about this artwork, I tentatively suggested that he change the base. I felt the base would have been more complimentary to the idea behind the arching fish if it was a warm-colored wood or stone
that drew attention to some of the subtle gold veining in the otherwise grey and white alabaster.
Instead of repeating the curve of the fish, I suggested a contrasting elongated pyramid form for the base. The four wide sides at the bottom would give stability, while the tapering height would lift up the fish
for more action and elegance. It would also allow the fish to be turned, because part of the restoration effort was to glue a stainless steel tube inside the existing mounting hole at the bottom center of the fish. Since alabaster is a soft stone,
the original hole had widened with every movement against the metal pin and had too much play in it. It was not the best solution for a safe display.
In another vein, I would like to recommend Sandra Heiser in Austin, Texas, if you have need of conservation work. She specializes in objects' conservation and restoration from paintings to "pottery to the finest porcelain, from ancient to modern."
Her portfolio was very impressive and I can tell by speaking with her several times now that she truly cares about art. She followed the progress of Barry's stone restoration all the way through.
You may reach Sandra at 512.453.8861.
If you would like more information about the conservation of art, please visit my site at:
Kelly's Note: I apologize for the poor quality of these "after" images taken in the early morning with not enough light. I was in a hurry to get into Austin, but wanted Barry to see the finished works because I knew
he was anxiously awaiting the outcome of this restoration project.
I would like to tell you a few things about shipping sculpture so that you will never experience the many negative emotions that Barry felt.
Sculpture is heavy, especially compared to bubble-wrap. That means that during travel, it is likely to shift inside of a box, unless you insure that it does not. If the package is dropped, the artwork is likely to push past the packaging materials and impact the ground almost directly. That means that you will NOT:
- Pack an unprotected sculpture in loose shipping noodles, foam, or newspaper.
- Use a box that is barely larger than the artwork itself.
What you should do to ship small sculptures (150 pounds or less):
Please note: This works for solid, one-piece bronze and stone sculptures. It will also work for bronze sculptures with a slab (of stone or wood) for a base. Make sure that the screws that attach the base to the artwork are snug (do not tighten too much or you may crack the stone slab).
Make sure that any packing foam that you use is stiff. The kind that protects a boxed computer is usually good stuff.
Also, for bas reliefs (such as Ten and Valentine),
I like to wrap the bundled sculpture in between two sturdy pieces of cardboard whose edges stick out beyond the sculpture in all directions. In case of a drop, the cardboard takes the impact, not the stone base. Tape tightly on all sides so that the sculpture will not slip out of the "cardboard sandwich."
- Wrap the artwork in something soft that will not scratch the surface or patina of the artwork. Then wrap the artwork in bubble wrap or other soft padding. Build a nice cushion all the way around the art, especially on corners. [On certain pieces, such as my bronze Torsione, I gave extra protection to the extended parts (arms and legs). This artwork was safely shipped to The Netherlands.]
- Place the bundled sculpture inside a box or use cardboard or some other heavy material to create a stronger buffer against shock. The fit should be snug, so use bubble wrap to fill holes as necessary.
- Place the bundled artwork inside another large box that has plenty of non-shifting, well-padded packing, especially in the corners. You may use newspaper here if wadded up tightly. Also, instead of those annoying loose foam pellets, fill small plastic bags with pellets, close, and then pack the bags in tightly.
Ship Large Sculpture Works (over 150 pounds, but not monumental):
Usually larger sculptures are crated. Using a wood box costs more, but it allows you to secure the larger works better. Often you will see solid wood supports being screwed into the insides of the crate - specifically made to fit around each artwork. These support bars are place around the sculpture in such a way that no matter how the crate is oriented, the sculpture stays in place. The bars replace foam-packaging materials and generally require a screwdriver to undo.
How to Ship Artworks Made of Combined materials:
My limited edition bronze and stone sculpture Sea Turtles I consists of a tall airy bronze section of turtles and kelp and a unique hand-carved limestone base
that is about one-third the height of the total artwork. For display, a hole is drilled in the stone with a recessed wider hole for the nut at the bottom of the piece.
Because limestone is softer than the bronze and the stainless steel pin that comes out of the bottom of the bronze, I ship this sculpture disassembled. This eliminates any vibration the pin will create inside the stone, widening the hole (as with Barry's alabaster fish).
Each piece is kept separate from the other during travel, so that they will refrain from beating each other up (like seat-belting kids in the car?).
In some cases, I have shipped this piece in two boxes - as far away as Hawaii. And, of course, I always include clear instructions on reassembling the artwork and have never had a problem.
If you would like to see how this sculpture was crated, please click here:
Your cargo is precious, so why stress over shipping? If you are in doubt about shipping art (2-D or 3-D), please contact a professional shipper that works with fine art. And do not be afraid to ask questions about how your art will be packed, transported, and insured.
[But also, do not believe all responses. I shipped a crated stone carving Brian to Massachusetts via Fedex many years ago.
Based on my crate's proportions, they assured me that the box would remain vertical. Instead, it arrived on its side, making room for other people's packages.
Because of my husband John's great crating skills, the stone was in perfect condition and my new collector was ecstatic.]
One of my favorite collectors requested that I make a series of three diamond-shaped tiles of the male figure for an interior design project for a bathroom. It sounded fun and I soon found a great model to work with. Perhaps you would enjoy arranging these new fine art soon-to-be-bronze pieces into your own wall compositions.
Introducing three bas relief sculptures titled Peace, Tranquillity, and Vivacity.
And until August 31, these babies will be offered at one-time pre-casting savings:
New Art - Tiles & Painting:
10% off each or add all three to your collection (or as a gift) and save 12%.
As usual, a one-third deposit reserves your bronze(s).
Click here to get a preview:
---------------Another little gem that I forgot to tell you about (and he is on exhibit at the Franklin Barry Gallery in Indianapolis, US) is the original oil painting, Earth and Sky.
Here he is (well, almost as good as the real thing):
After creating several stone compositions for my "Lips Series", I began to see many other forms in human lips. One of the most frequent was a flying bird. So, when I discovered the personality of this beautiful brown patterned marble, a vision of pelicans emerged.
I hope that you enjoy this new stone sculpture, Peclican Lips:
"Become the Master of Your Domain" received such a good response this June that Donna Wetegrove of Tips on Art and I decided to repeat the class at her location in Southwest Austin, Texas.
I teach step by step how to create, upload, and manage your very own Web site, using real sites online as teaching aids. Site organization, marketing tips, and search engine tips are all part of the course, with an emphasis on using as much free software as possible. Geared towards artists (who prefer to spend more time making art than Web pages), this class has been appreciated by non-artists as well.
Dates are 8 & 9 September 2006.
Cost is $135.31 (includes 35-page text and sales tax).
Pre-registration required (so that I have your text ready for you).
For more information, please visit:
For those of you who are able to visit perhaps the largest gathering of sculptors in one weekend, I hope to see you at the Sculpture in the Park juried exhibit inside the Benson Sculpture Park in Loveland, Colorado, one hour north of Denver. The show is the weekend of 12 - 13 August and features a variety of sculptors and sculpture.
For more info., click here.
I will have my one-of-a-kind marble carving Stargazer, among other popular works. Travel safely and please come by to say hello!
In closing, I hope to hear from you soon. I enjoy your feedback.
You may always check my Web site for the gallery nearest you:
Thank you for reading.
4 August 2006
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If you enjoy Borsheim Art News, please forward it to friends and colleagues. It comes to you about 6-8 times a year from Cedar Creek, Texas-based artist Kelly Borsheim.