Preservation and Conservation of art or craft media start with the artist. Yes, before work leaves the studio for a show, gallery, or exhibition I think artists and makers should take concrete actions by including care, display, and maintenance instructions with their work.
For less expensive items, care instructions may be on a hangtag or a sheet of paper included with the bill of sale. Issues may be whether the work is dishwasher safe, ovenproof, washable, fade-resistant, proper cleaning methods, recommended waxes, or best framing methods for the media, etc. This can protect the artist or maker from dissatisfied customers that did not know how to care for the work properly.
For one-of-a-kind work, I write complete instructions and glue them to my interior shipping box, and include an additional copy in the box. Informing the future owner or exhibition sponsor how to properly care for your work may help protect your work.
Include disposable gloves in every box. While museum professionals would normally wear gloves when handling artwork or craft, not every exhibition situation is in a museum. Protect your work from fingerprints. Acid and oils from hands can damage wood, metal, fiber, and paper. Fingerprints look unattractive on glass, ceramics, or metal.
Consider the life expectancy of the materials, archival options, and maintenance issues.
For example, tin cans (my primary materials for the past 23 years) rust and fade. While I can not prevent this I provide instructions including:
- Avoid display away from windows, or strong sunlight.
- Wax artwork for protection from moisture and fingerprints.
While there is no assurance that the collector will be able to protect your work, it does protect the artist from accusations. If your work fades and the owner complains, at least you can demonstrate that the owner was informed.
The use of unproven or experimental materials presents some unpredictable outcomes, both good and bad. As an artist, try to think ahead for twenty to 200 years. Think about the future of your work and your reputation.
Do you have any ideas for archival options and maintenance issues for protecting the work that you can share? Please leave a comment.
Below is an image of the recently finished seder plate Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Assiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah followed by an example - a complete set of instructions for Unpacking, Display, Functional Use, Maintenance, and Packing.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Assiyah, Yetzirah, Beriyah
A Seder Plate for TuBishvat by Harriete Estel Berman
Constructed from recycled tin cans, 10k gold, and s/silver rivets.
This post was updated on February 18, 2022.