It's just an old painting, but it's MY old painting. Please help me save it.
February 17, 2012 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I know it's not worth anything, but the sentimental value is through the roof. Is there any way I can restore a black velvet painting I have that's in pretty bad shape?

Okay, my mom bought this very simple painting of a white horse on black velvet way back when I was ten. I still remember her stopping dead in the store (Kresge's -- that'll tell you how old it is) to admire it before buying it. She gave it to me as a wedding present for my first marriage because I've always loved the simplicity of it.

Well, some time over the years and the 32 addresses, I took it out of the frame and rolled it for easy transport. One of my daughters snatched it and stuffed it somewhere and I thought it lost forever. I recovered it earlier this year just before I moved to New Mexico and I really really want to restore it. But it's not in good condition. It's wrinkled from being stuffed in a corner, the paint is starting to flake off, and there's a tear in the fabric.

So, is there any way I can restore this painting? Reframe it? Make it in any way presentable without ruining it completely? My moving days are over so I would really like to have this painting hanging in my permanent home, maybe pass it on to the daughter who loved it so much she swiped it. If I can do it myself, that would be great -- because I'm poor as dirt, but I'm willing to save and have it done if that's what it takes. Right now, it's rolled in paper and stored in a poster tube. Any suggestions for storing it if that's not sufficient?

posted by patheral to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
If I were in your shoes and it was a simple painting, I would see about having it reproduced.
posted by Jairus at 8:10 AM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: I think the point is not the image, but the history; reproduction would not serve the purpose.

OP, my SO used to work in conservation at a museum. It's painstaking stuff, and apt to get costly. You could, perhaps, find a student in a conservation program who might have the training and be willing to do this on the side for some pocket money, but I'm not sure there is such a program in NM (but there may be).

For something like this, I'd just take it to a VERY GOOD framer to have the piece archivally mounted and framed. Depending on where you take it, they may be able to do some minor mending (or have someone they can recommend to do some small touch ups). That way, the piece will be protected from further damage. The scars are part of the history; for something like this that has only sentimental value, I'd just leave most of it be.

Again, only accept very good framer. I would not take this to the monkeys in the mall. I don't know what the dimensions are, but just good framing behind museum (UV safe) glass on archival mounting is likely to be a few hundred dollars.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:25 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, so it looks like I'll have to save up and have it worked on (even a couple of hundred will take me months to save up for). So, I have it rolled in postal paper (the brown stuff ya buy at any department store) and stored in a tube. It's how I shipped it to New Mexico. Will it keep there without further damage until I can have it reframed? or is there another way I should be storing it?
posted by patheral at 12:48 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: If you have the space available, it would be better to store it flat. Just get two pieces of illustration board, or any heavier grade, acid-free paper and make a black velvet painting sandwich.

You can tape the paper together around the outside, and it will store (and transport) perfectly until you can get it to a pro.
posted by Kronur at 1:01 PM on February 17, 2012

I'm a professional archivist, so I may have a few tips for you.

Storing it flat is a good idea. However, don't just unroll it, as the paper is likely to be quite brittle now and is susceptible to cracking, tearing, etc. If you can find a large container (just a regular plastic storage bin with a lid will work), put the rolled painting in- keep it rolled- and put a few moist sponges inside the box with it, and seal it up. In doing this, you will make a small "humidifier", which will make the paper easier to unroll and will prevent the potential damage. Leave the painting in the bin, sealed, overnight. Be careful not to have the sponges touch the painting itself- you don't want to get it wet.

The next day, carefully unroll the painting and weigh it down with something sturdy- books should work just fine. I would unroll the painting face down on top of another piece of paper or a poster-board so that the books themselves aren't touching the actual surface of the painting (they might be dirty and you don't want to soil the painting). Leave it to flatten for several days- anywhere from 3 days to a week should do a good job so that the painting doesn't just curl back up on itself when you remove the weights.

When your painting is flat and ready to go, you will need to frame it in archival materials. I don't know if most framers (even good ones) have these, so be careful. If the materials you use are not archival quality (acid-free and lignin-free), they will eventually corrode the paper. I have used Light Impressions in the past- they are an excellent resource for archival materials- and yes, they have framing supplies! I'm sure if you want to work with a local framer to do the work, you can supply them with the necessities, and they can assist you.

If you have a University library nearby, you might ask them if they have any other suggestions. I used to work in one of these and they have all kinds of ideas to help with preservation/conservation techniques in situations like yours.

Best of luck!
posted by chatelaine at 2:34 PM on February 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

You might want to contact the Velvet Painting Museum in Portland, OR, to see if they have any tips for you.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:57 PM on February 17, 2012

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