RestART

Art conservation-restoration workshop

RestART is a multidisciplinary workshop run by a team of university-educated professional conservators-restorers specialising in different fields of restoration.

Our goal? Improving the readability, as well as the aesthetic and historical integrity of objects and making them usable again all the while guaranteeing they are passed on to the present and future generations.

Our areas of expertise The workshop

Our areas of expertise

The workshop offers professional solutions adapted to and respectful of artwork preservation, in accordance with the international and professional deontological regulations.

  • Easel paintings

  • Icons

  • Traditional and contemporary gilding

  • Wall decorations

  • Ceramics and glass

  • Sculptures

  • Graphic arts, books

  • Technological study of the works

The materials paintings are made up of deteriorate over time, either naturally or accidentally, or due to wear and tear. The main aim of every restorer is to detect the most appropriate treatment, just like a doctor faced with a sick patient. The main issues are a support that has become fragile or infested with micro-organisms or wood-eating insects, lacunae or bulges in the paint layer, and oxidised varnish.

For restorers to do their work properly, they need to literally immerse themselves into the material. They need to understand how the artist applied the different layers of paint, which type of medium and brushes were used, and so on. They must also keep in mind that the work was created in a certain era and style, with a technique that might have been established by other artists in that same era, who may have inspired the artist in question.

The different interventions:

  • Condition reports
  • Preventive and remedial conservation
  • Conservation and restoration treatments based on modern restoration techniques (solvent gels, resin soaps, buffer solutions, etc).

Are they cult objects or works of art? That is the question. Icons are first and foremost sacred objects with spiritual value. They are dedicated to liturgy and an expression of faith, and their main purpose is to serve as tokens of the presence of God. Originally, they were not conceived as objects with a merely artistic value. Today, there is increasing interest in icon art in the West. Icons are now essentially appreciated as works of art.

With time, they have become museum artefacts, but at the end of the day, they maintain their original status, namely that of cult objects. This ambiguity has a major impact on the approach of art conservators-restorers, who may face ethical problems in the restoration of these objects.

The different interventions (various mediums):

  • Condition reports
  • Preventive and remedial conservation
  • Conservation and restoration treatments based on modern restoration techniques (solvent gels, resin soaps, buffer solutions, etc).

Gold, silver or copper... Frames are available in a variety of materials. The eye is usually drawn to the subject represented, but the frame is also a work of art in itself, which demands particular attention.

The frame may present several lacunae, either in the support - the assembly - or in the first layers of primer coat. The profiles and ornaments are the first elements of the frame to be damaged over time.

These changes occur due to ageing or as a result of resizing or accidents. Once a condition report has been drawn up, the conservators-restorers look for the best treatment method for this particular object, in the right conditions and using adequate materials. Two different techniques are used for gilding, one is a traditional technique and the other is mordant gilding.

The traditional technique, which has been used for centuries, is based on recipes which have withstood the test of time, and ensures an art object lives on. The materials used are always of natural origin. This technique is suitable for objects that will be displayed indoors, while mordant gilding is used more for exterior and/interior works (with a support made of wood, stone, metal and so on), where particular attention is also paid to the architecture of the building.

The steps in the traditional wood gilding process are very similar for both new gilding and restoration.

The different interventions:

  • Treatment of the support (wood, stone or metal)
  • Preparation of the support with bondings made of animal glue
  • Preparation of the support with layers of primer
  • Sanding of the material
  • Placing of metallic sheets
  • Burnishing with agate - this final step fixes the gold onto the support and gives the material its shine.

Works like paintings, stuccos and mosaics are often very complex. They are made up of several layers: the wall or floor, and multiple layers of mortar covered by paint, tiles or stucco decorations.

Each layer plays a role in the condition of the object and when problems arise on the surface, the restorer should check each layer to detect where the problem originated before solving it with a specific treatment.

Once the treatment has been administered, the restorer can propose measures to guarantee the work is properly preserved in the future, such as focusing on environmental parameters (humidity, temperature) or applying protective products onto the surface.

The different interventions:

  • Condition reports
  • Photographic evidence
  • Preventive and remedial conservation
  • Conservation treatments (surface consolidation, cleaning, protection)
  • Proposal of long-term conservation solutions

"... the inseparable link between restoration and the work of art (is) that the work of art conditions the restoration and not vice versa" C. Brandi, Theory of Restoration, Monum, Editions Patrimoine, p. 29 

All conservation-restoration interventions call for a number of parameters linked to the artefact to be taken into account, where ‘artefact’ refers to any object created by man. Examples are the material, the initial development and the changes it has undergone throughout the years. The object also needs to be placed in its historical and aesthetic context.

When a piece arrives in our workshop, we take account of all these elements when seeking the most appropriate treatment method. The main focus is on preserving the object’s integrity. Therefore, the interventions are reduced to a minimum and the products used are always reversible.

Materials

Ceramics, glass, stone materials and plaster all have one thing in common: essentially, they are composed of minerals.

These minerals are characterised by:

  • unique physical and chemical properties: they are both solid (according to the hardness index) and fragile (they are at risk of shattering/chipping).
  • very diverse optical properties, such as textures, colours, sheen, transparency, opacity, brightness/matteness.
  • molecular bonds that give them a range of different density levels, from porous to glassy.

Development

  • The artist/artisan chooses a raw material based on its specific properties to create an object, sculpture or vessel for functional, aesthetic or ceremonial purposes.
  • The stone is sculpted or carved.
  • The clay and silica are sculpted/moulded/cast/poured and chemically transformed during the baking process.
  • The plaster is moulded or sculpted.

Alterations:

With time, the artefact undergoes changes that may:

  • sometimes create a patina that sublimates the materiale
  • be structural in nature (in that case, conservation treatment is necessary)
  • be aesthetic in nature (this requires an intervention to increase the readability or comprehension of the material)

Every type of stone is different and has specific characteristics (chemical and mineral composition, structure), which the restorer must be well aware of to be able to intervene efficiently. Moreover, stone sculptures often present traces of polychromy, which must be preserved and integrated so as to maintain the appearance the artist had originally intended to create. Sculptures displayed outdoors pose an even greater challenge, because not only does the restorer need to propose an adequate treatment, solutions also need to be devised allowing the work to be displayed outdoors even in the future.

The different interventions:

  • Condition reports
  • Photographic evidence
  • Preventive and remedial conservation
  • Conservation treatments (surface consolidation, cleaning) 
  • Proposal of long-term conservation solutions

Writing long preceded books, yet today, books are our primary source of writing. Books are, in essence, complex cultural objects which serve to pass on knowledge, ideologies, thoughts and know-how. They also act as objects that protect and preserve their precious contents.

In the West, the materials used to make books have evolved. From thick wooden covers for parchments to cardboard and paper, book covers can be wrapped with a variety of materials, from gold leaf to textile, parchment, leather and paper. Depending on the commissioner, the target audience of the book and its intended use, these materials are decorated and treated more or less intensively.

Today, the conservation of cultural heritage, which includes books, aims to preserve the significance of the object and respect its usage. Therefore, treatment processes are aimed at serving the object’s functional purpose and significance, all the while considering its material properties. 

This premise calls for certain criteria to be taken into account:

  • Respect for the object as a whole
  • Accessible consulting, both at the level of the book and the reader
  • Flexible materials, allowing for the book mechanisms to work
  • Long-lasting materials and mechanisms
  • Good-quality support and media, allowing for the text and images to be appreciated
  • Optimal protection of the object and its contents

Do you own a work that you would like to submit for technological analysis rather than conservation-restoration treatments? We can help!

A meticulous analysis, coupled with comprehensive documentation based on a range of scientific methods, including photography, examination under visible light, low-angled light, fluorescent UV light, a binocular microscope, macro USB or a light table, also helps preserve works and often reveals precious information that may be useful for future restoring.

The workshop

RestART opened its doors in March 2017 as a multidisciplinary workshop run by a team of professionals with a range of different competences and specialising in different disciplines. After all, being a conservator-restorer requires constant reflection and collaboration with one or more expert colleagues. Assistance is often also key in successfully tackling the technical aspects of the job.

After an initial meeting at the workshop or at the premises of the owner of the work to be restored, we draw up a condition report. Once we have thoroughly studied the object, we can decide upon the steps to be taken. Based on this detailed analysis, we draw up a quotation, which includes the cost and timeframes of the required interventions. Upon request, we can also take photographs and draw up a process report.

Art conservation and restoration are inextricably linked. We consider all the preventive and remedial conservation options. If it turns out an object needs to be restored, we only carry out the strictly required work.

We treat both ancient and contemporary works, for private and public collections, private individuals, professionals, conservators, museums, foundations and church administrations.

The RestART workshop is centrally located in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, which offers plenty of advantages. This large, functional space (over 100 m2) is equipped with all the latest technologies and has a professional, secured storage room for artworks and selected materials.

Our team

  • Alexandra Louis

    Founder of RestART. Conservator-restorer of paintings specialised in Byzantine and Russian icons

  • Laura Porcu

    Conservator-restorer of sculptures and wall decorations

  • Sandrine de la Kethulle

    Conservator-restorer of ceramics, glass, stone materials and plaster

  • Sophie Genin

    Conservator-restorer of ceramics and glass

  • Angeli Bodson

    Conservator-restorer specialised in traditional and new gilding techniques

  • Elena Benazet

    Conservator-restorer specialising in graphic arts and old books

  • Alexia Melianou

    Conservator-restorer specialising in graphic arts and old books

I studied at visual arts at St Luc, in the old abbey of Tournai, and then attended the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre in Brussels. It was in this art mecca that I discovered what the conservation-restoration of artworks entails. It is being an artist, scientist and doctor all at once.

The main aim of this profession is to safeguard the material cultural heritage, while guaranteeing it is passed on to the present and future generations in a world that is increasingly forgetting the value of things. With that in mind, I felt I wanted to contribute to something constructive.

During my studies, I had the opportunity to complete a placement in Qara, Syria, about 100 km north of Damascus. That was in 2007, just before war broke out in the country. I stayed at the Monastery of Saint James the Mutilated, which dates back to the 6th century, and participated in the restoration of Melkite icons and a fresco from the 11th and 13th century. It was an unforgettable experience, which inspired me to write my thesis on Byzantine and Russian icons.

Once I had graduated, I completed a one-year teaching course in visual arts at La Cambre, which allows me to teach visual arts alongside my career in conservation-restoration. In October 2015 I joined the painting workshop at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage, which is managed by Livia Depuydt, as a trainee. This traineeship at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels allowed me to considerably enrich my knowledge and skills in the conservation-restoration of paintings.

It also gave me the push I needed to become self-employed. One of my long-time goals had been to set up my very own art conservation-restoration workshop. RestART has now become a reality.

I started my conservation studies in Florence, where I obtained my diploma in the restoration of paintings on fabric and canvas, and polychrome wood sculptures in 2009.


Subsequently, I completed a five-year Master’s course in conservation-restoration at the University of Turin, specialising in stone materials (stone, mosaics, plaster and mural paintings).

At the end of my studies, I discovered a fascinating topic, which I also wrote my final dissertation on, as well as several publications, namely the reassembly of a marble sculpture from the Museum of Archaeology in Turin.

When I arrived in Brussels, I decided to specialise and I was accepted for a placement at the stone workshop of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage.

This very enriching experience inspired me to launch my career as a self-employed at the RestART workshop.

Since January 2018, the RestART workshop has entrusted Sandrine de la Kathulle with the restoration of ceramics, glass, stone materials and plasters. She has a Master’s degree from the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre in Brussels and completed her rigorous academic journey with a final dissertation on maritime archaeology ("Conservation-restauration de grès verts et de verres islamiques du 10ème siècle trouvés en Mer de Java", ENSAV, Brussels, 2006).

Part of her dissertation was published in the quarterly journal of the Professional Association of Art Conservators-Restorers (Gentbrugge, Belgium, December 2006).

After spending a few semesters as a teacher of visual arts in Belgian secondary education (from November 2008 to June 2010), she decided to focus exclusively on conservation-restoration, either independently or at renowned workshops, including the Laboratoire Arc’Antique (Nantes, France), Atelier Céladon (Genval), Atelier de Conservation-Restauration de Dorure (Brussels) and the Royal Museum of Mariemont (Morlanwelz). She has worked with countless Belgian and French private clients and antiquarians.

TEL: +32 473 552 917 | +33 629 636 862

I have been passionate about art and technique since a very young age, which inspired me to become a conservator-restorer. I studied at ENSAV-La Cambre, specialising in ceramics and glass, two materials whose properties inspired me. During my training, I wanted to get a taste of professional life through internships.

I worked at the Sèvres National Ceramics Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum (London) and the Laboratoire Arc’Antique (Nantes), among others. I also took part in the Belgian archaeological mission to the Valley of the Nobles in Egypt in collaboration with ULB and Ulg. Following my studies, I spent a month in Kinshasa as part of a collaboration agreement between the Academy of Fine Arts of the city and ENSAV-La Cambre. There, I helped improve the conditions for the conservation of the museum collections. I really enjoy giving a contribution to safeguarding the artistic and cultural heritage, no matter how small.

After this experience, I pursued a second Master’s degree in Art History and Archaeology at ULB. I specialised in contemporary art, museum management and conservation of movable heritage. Today’s art will become part of tomorrow's heritage and I think it is important to consider it as such.

I have been working as a self-employed restorer since 2018. I specialise in ceramics (unbaked clay, terracotta, faience, gres, bisque, porcelain), glass (and crystal), as well as some stone materials like alabaster and small marble creations. I also draw up condition reports for stained glass, enamelled and plaster objects.

Gilding is a skill you cannot learn overnight. I started my studies at the Institut des Arts et Métiers in Brussels. Slowly but surely, I learned to work with gold leaf, after having spent a year in woodworking, because I wanted to gain some basic knowledge in the manufacturing of frames, which would later prove useful.

My training took me from the Ecole d’Art Mural de Versailles to the Palazzo Spinelli in Florence, and I also worked as a gilding trainee at a private workshop. Along the way, I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people who have secured me assignments on site for major clients, surrounded by a small team with highly complementary skills.

I currently divide my time between restoration in the workshop and on site, which require two entirely different approaches and have allowed me to develop a comprehensive skills set in gilding.

Gilding can be done on a range of different materials, which allows for a highly creative approach in art projects or in the restoration of ancient buildings, like the façade of a monument facing the Galeries de la Reine.

She took her first steps in the world of art in 2011, during the preparatory year for the fine arts college entrance exams.
 In 2012, she was admitted to the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre in Brussels, in the art conservation-restoration department. From the second year onwards, she specialised in the conservation-restoration of books. She went on to complete more specialised training in this field, including a book binding course. In 2014 she obtained her Bachelor’s degree and she started her Master’s course.

In the two last years of her studies, she continued to refine her skills and completed a placement at the Sorbonne University in Paris, in the books and graphic documents conservation-restoration workshop. A placement in Luxor in the framework of an archaeology mission gave her the opportunity to broaden her field of expertise by treating papyri dating back to the 18th Egyptian dynasty.

During the first year of her Master’s course, she decided to specialise in textile book covers, which also became the topic of her final dissertation. To enrich her research and practical skills, she attended a one-year double course at the Anderlecht Academy (Brussels), at the textile restoration workshop.

In 2017, she obtained her Master’s degree in Plastic, Visual and Spatial Arts, specialising in the conservation and restoration of artworks (paper, books).
She then completed a one-year placement at the manuscript conservation-restoration workshop of the Royal Library of Belgium. At the same time, she started working as a self-employed and joined forces with another book restorer to work on a restoration project focusing on manuscripts from the extensive library of the Dukes of Burgundy.

In 2019, she opened her own workshop specialising in the restoration of books and graphic documents.

Alexia Melianou has been a conservator-restorer of books and graphic documents based in Brussels since 2014. She studied conservation-restoration of ecclesiastic works in Thessaloniki (Greece) and then moved to Brussels to specialise in books. She obtained a Bachelor's and a Master's degree from the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre, specialising in this field. Since obtaining her Master’s degree in 2017, she has been working as a self-employed and she has completed projects for libraries in Belgium (the Royal Library of Belgium) and Greece (the Library of Saint John the Theologian in Patmos), as well as for private libraries in Belgium, Greece and England.

Contact

The RestART workshop is centrally located in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, which offers plenty of advantages. This large, functional space (over 100 m2) is equipped with all the latest technologies and has a professional, secured storage room for artworks and selected materials.

    If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

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