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Icon Furniture & Wood Group Museum Tours to coincide with the 13th International Symposium on Wood and Furniture, Amsterdam

Thursday 17th November 2016

10am - 2pm

As a run-up to the Stichting Ebenist event, the symposium attendees were invited to partake in a day of additional learning experience. A guided visit around the Arts Conservation Studios of the Rijks Museum was followed by an optional visit to the museum galleries. After lunch, the day commenced with a visit to the conservation stores of the Amsterdam Historisch Museum. This event costed £25 per person. 

Review: "Seeing Stars: Behind the Scenes at The Museums" by Rachel Dealey

The Night Watch may be considered one of Rembrandt’s greatest works, but look up to the ceiling in the rooms to either side of it in the Rijksmuseum and you will see a glorious 21st Century galaxy of 47,130 hand painted stars by Turner prizewinner Richard Wright, commissioned to celebrate the building’s astonishing renovation.

This was a day of counterpoints and contrasts.

Huddled outside a building behind one of the world’s greatest museums on a cold, wet and blustery November day in Amsterdam, our small group of conservators gathered and the tour began.

The traditional exterior of the ‘Ateliergebouw’, home to the Rijksmuseum Conservation Centre, gave way to an ultra-modern interior, where the decor and furnishings are pristine and white.

In the light, bright furniture conservation studio, Senior Conservator Iskander Breebaart, our host for the morning, introduced us to their current projects:

An imposing carved early-17th Century cabinet attributed to Herman Doomer, partially stripped and re-polished; intricate filigree carved wood, with newly-fashioned pieces inserted seamlessly; scale ship models with new stringers and rigging; and a gold-and-black fragment of aventurine awaiting analysis.


Iskander Breebaart talking us through the current projects being worked on in the Rijkmuseum's furniture conservation studio

In the window a graduated stack of apparently gift-wrapped boxes - actually an artwork by a living artist - prompted a lively discussion about the ethics of conservation, restoration and enhancements to contemporary pieces.

At the end of the morning tour, Iskander led us to the Rijksmuseum itself where we spent an all-too-short hour in the 17th Century galleries, just enough time to walk around and absorb the soul-soothing beauty of the place.

At the medieval heart of Amsterdam’s UNESCO listed 17th century canal ring, the double-fronted  townhouse of museum Willet-Holthuysen, was full of surprises. Thanks to conservators Jaap Boonstra and Paul Born of the Amsterdam Historisch Museum, we were able to explore every inch of this character-full building, up into the eaves and out onto the rooftop. 


Jap Boonstra descirbes work to uncover original wall paintings in the conservatory of the Museum Willet-Holthuysen

From the intriguing gentleman’s parlour, to the mezzanine pantry with its chic dinner service and silverware, this museum was a real gem. We were privileged to have access to these areas accompanied by expert guidance.  

If you are ever fortunate enough to visit, be sure to look up into the octagonal conservatory - you may not see stars here, but recent research has uncovered an original ceiling painting with grapes, leaves, butterflies and flowers, in delicious pale yellows, greens and blues. Perfect.


French Upholstery with Laurent Laine

July 2016
9am - 5pm
The Wooburn Craft School​​, Wooburn Town, Buckinghamshire

The furniture and wood group have successfully run another of its French upholstery courses with Laurent Laine, from Ecole Boulle in Paris.  Two enthusiastic students, Kathryn Nisbet and Hannah Thompson received almost undivided attention from Laurent, resulting in a very intensive and fulfilling course.

img_6016.jpgThe French Upholstery Class and the objects produced.  Laurent Laine, Hannah Thompson and Kathryn Nisbet.

As both students were new to French Upholstery, the starting project was a buttoned square footstool (for more advanced students, the project takes the form of a Louis XVI style chair).

Each of the students finished their buttoned footstool as well as one extra project.  While Kathryn chose an oval back, Hannah chose to make a cushion to hold her upholstery tools.


The French approach to webbing with no gaps


Hannah tying down the springs, with David James who stopped by for a visit.

Whilst the techniques for English and French upholstery are very similar, one of the key differences is the stitching - both Kathryn and Hannah were excited to learn about these differences, for example the very tightly stitched base on which the horsehair is placed, in preparation for the French style of buttoning.


A finished stitched base on to which the hair for buttoning would be added.


Placing the hair and tying the button cords.

Although the turn out was less than anticipated, it turned out to be a great week;  intensive, fun, smooth running and in a fantastic location.

“I thought that the course was good value for money – an intensive short course is a great way to learn, as you can immerse yourself without distraction, and get good continuous hours in the workshop. I would love to do another course here, and would happily recommend it to anyone either beginner or expert. The course has inspired me to continue pursuing a career in upholstery, particularly working with antiques and upholstery conservation.” 

- Hannah Thompson, July 2016.

“I have spent my week here learning French upholstery from a Master Upholsterer/craftsman (Laurent Laine), who in my opinion is the 'guru' of the upholstery world. Laurent is an excellent teacher, you learn at your own pace he will demonstrate every process for you and repeat it time and time again if necessary. I have learnt many new skills from Laurent and am looking forward to practicing them in all my future work. If you have never done any upholstery before or if you are an accomplished upholsterer and have never practiced French upholstery technics, then this is the course for you. I loved every second of this course :) 5 stars “

- Kathryn Nisbet  July, 2016.

Notes about the Students:

Hannah Thompson runs her upholstery business in the West Sussex area near Petsworth.  She has a level 2 diploma in Upholstery from Chichester College and a BSc Hons in Conservation and Restoration from London Metropolitan University.

Kathryn Nisbet operates in the South Oxfordshire area, she has both a level 2 and a Level 3 diploma  from The Association of Master Upholsterers in Hertfordshire where she past with distinction.,


Workshop on the use of synthetic resins in the conservation of furniture and objects

Saturday 19th September 2015
9:30am - 5pm
Buckinghamshire New University​

This one-day workshop focused on the use of synthetic resins as coatings for use in the conservation of furniture and other related objects. Participants learned how to mix and apply a range of coatings and will work on preparing their own sample boards for future reference.

Icon Member: £115
Student Member: £105
Non members: £135


Tristram Bainbridge is a furniture conservator & lecturer working at the Victoria & Albert Museum and in private practice. He is Associate Tutor in furniture conservation at West Dean College.

Areas covered:

The use of synthetic resins as varnishes including Paraloid B-72, Regalrez 1126 and Laropal A81. Discussion of criteria for selecting appropriate resins.

Practical methods of application: choosing appropriate solvents, additives and stabilisers to create different varnish properties. Participants made sample boards using the materials discussed.

A presentation of case studies, historical use, comparison with shellac and other natural resins. Participants experimented with Gamblin Conservation Colours and received a small sample set. 



French Upholstery Class

Monday 20 July - Friday 24 July 2015
Buckinghamshire New University​​

The former head of the upholstery programme at Ecolle Boule in Paris taught a week-long course in French upholstery techniques. Laurent Lainé, former head tutor at the leading school of furniture related skills - Ecole Boulle in Paris - currently teaches design at Ecolle Boulle and he works for many of the leading museums in France including Versailles and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Laurent gave a one-hour lecture each day on a related topic then guided each participant in completing their chosen upholstery project.


Icon Member: £350
​Student Member: £300
Non member: £385



Furniture and Wooden Objects Group Annual Symposium, 2015

Friday 15 May 2015
12:00pm – 5:30pm

Freemasons’ Hall London, 60 Great Queen Street, WC2B 5AZ


Icon Member: £20
Student Member: £10
Non members: £25


  • Zoe Allen and Phil James (Victoria and Albert Museum)  “Non-intrusive upholstery techniques for a Maire Antoinette chair”
  • Hugh Harrison (Hugh Harrison Conservation) “The recent conservation of the sixteenth century choir stalls at the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester”
  • Chloe Head and Dr Christina Young (Courtauld Institute of Art) “A model and methodology for the assessment of filing materials for insect damaged wood”
  • Jonathan Santa Maria Bouquet (Musical Instrument Museums Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh) “Self-destructive elements in the construction of guitars in the nineteenth century)
  • Amy Henderson (Plowden and Smith) “From Tender to Treatment: Conservation of a seventeenth century carved oak figure from Norfolk Museums’ Collection”
  • Alex Owen (Private Practice) “Preliminary investigations into the impact of alcohol on the strength of high molecular weight collagen glues”