What could be more fun than looking at tapestries with a textile conservator? I visited Beth McLaughlin in her conservation lab at the Midwest Art Conservation Center recently, ostensibly to write an article about her for the Weavers Guild newsletter, the DRAFT. But really, it was such a great excuse for a fabulous morning of learning. Read the article I wrote, “Beth McLaughlin and the Best Job in the World.” I apologized to Beth for the lame title, and she wrote, “Oh no, it’s true!”
In the article I mentioned hand-woven galloons. They are the strips around the edges of tapestries. Traditionally tapestries were just tacked or nailed to the wall, and when the galloons became too damaged, new ones were woven and sewn to the tapestry. It was especially fun to see the ones that Beth uses on the large tapestries owned by MIA, because they were woven by people I know, including Phyllis Waggoner, who accompanied me on the magic interview day. Here is a photo showing, from the back of the tapestry, the damaged galloons that needed to be covered by newly-woven ones.
Here is the front side, showing the newly-woven galloon.
When we went to the gallery with Beth and neared the edge of a giant tapestry, Beth hailed the nearby guard with her arm raised up. “I’m going to be touching this!” Hmmmm….. maybe I could just try that the next time I am crazy to look at the back of a textile? It probably wouldn’t work.
Here are Beth and Phyllis in front of another fabulous tapestry.
The college where I taught had one of the nation’s top art conservation programs so I got to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes work they were doing. I think, in my next life, I’d like to come back as Beth McLaughlin!
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