Basketry Repairs in Conservation

Basketry Repairs in Conservation

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Image 1: Japanese tissue paper, rolled into "stitch-shaped" Frankenstein mends, prior to application


Image 2: Wheat starch paste, prior to straining for use


Image 3: Shows the two tears repaired using Frankenstein mends on the interior of the Salish basket

Frankenstein Mends

Basketry repairs, commonly called “Frankenstein mends,” involve the application of a supportive element perpendicular to a tear.  Generally, the mends are made of small pieces of rolled up Japanese tissue paper, a thin material made of plant fibers (Image 1).  While Japanese tissue paper is white, mends that are present or visible on the external surface of the basket may be toned with paint to match the basket surface, while those on the interior are often untoned so that they can be easily identified.

Adhesives Commonly Used for Basketry Repairs

Basketry repairs are often adhered with wheat starch paste or methylcellulose.  These natural polymer pastes are used because they have an organic, cellulosic structure that is very similar to and compatible with basketry materials (Image 2).  If these pastes do not have strong enough tack, polyvinyl acetate emulsions may also be used, although these are not as easily reversible.

Repairs on a Salish Basket

For the Salish basket from the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum collections, Frankenstein mends were applied to the damaged corners and the torn right side of the basket.  Japanese tissue paper was adhered with a mixture of wheat starch paste and methylcellulose in a 1:1 ratio in deionized water.  Mends were left untoned for easy identification of the repairs.