Online Exhibitions

Washoe Basket: Conservation Treatment

Image 1: Local humidification of fibers

Image 2: Joining broken fiber elements

Image 3:  Weaving Tyvek replacement stitching

Image 4:  One portion of basket rim, before treatment

Image 5:  Same area of broken rim, after treatment

The rim of this basket has suffered structural damage in the past, including breaks and losses to both the foundation rods (horizontal elements) and stitching fibers. The aim of the conservation treatment was to stabilize the damaged areas to prevent further breaks and losses from occurring.

In many of the damaged areas, foundation rods and stitching fibers were warped and misaligned. In order to repair these broken elements, local humidification was necessary to impart flexibility to the fibers. Moisture was applied using damp blotter paper through a barrier of Gore-tex, which allows only vapors to pass through. These materials were held in place using hair pins (Image 1).

Once the break ends were realigned, they were adhered together using wheat starch paste. This adhesive was chosen for its strength, reversibility, and compatibility with basketry fibers. Joins were clamped in place as they set using padded metal clips (Image 2).

One area of the rim was missing portions of two foundation rods and had lost much of the surrounding stitching (Image 4). This made the rim susceptible to further damage. Stabilization of this area required the addition of replacement stitches to secure the rods. Narrow strips of Tyvek, a synthetic material with good long-term ageing properties, were toned with acrylic paints to nearly match the original fiber color. These strips were then woven through the existing basket structure to replicate the original stitch pattern where the additional support was needed (Images 3 and 5).

– Nicole Ledoux

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