Yanchyshyn is provides an eloquent chronicle of projects on which he has worked at his Long Island City studio - from Chippendale chairs to marquetry screens to oriental lacquered tables. His clientele includes world renowned institutions and serious investors in antiques.
Built in various periods, each furnishing Yanchyshyn addresses brings with it unique challenges, a product of the technology and techniques of its day. In restoring a mid-20th Century veneered liquor cabinet, Yanchyshyn provides an articulate depiction with illuminating detail. Here's an excerpt:
Perhaps the greatest conservation challenge associated with 20th Century furniture is the panoply of materials – often nontraditional in nature – employed in its construction. Here is an example of an outstanding 20 century furniture object that exhibits both normal wear and previous restoration, particularly affecting nontraditional materials incorporated into its construction.
Consisting of a liquor cabinet, condiments compartments, ice drawer, regular drawers, pull out serving tray and countertop, this sideboard incorporates three materials first introduced into widespread use in the 20th Century: an early dark red plastic, found on the countertop, the interior of the liquor cabinet and on the pull out tray; chromed steel legs; and aluminum trim bordering the countertop. The construction is also unique because it incorporates both traditional techniques and modern materials. The joinery includes beautifully-crafted examples of both dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. However, the rosewood veneer conceals plywood structural elements.
The plastic countertop presented the most immediate conservation issues. It showed evidence of extensive wear, and was scratched and blanched in several places. In addition, a previous restoration coating had been unevenly applied. This coating had visible brushstrokes and was delaminating in sections. . . . Overall, the sideboard had a matte and lifeless appearance. The interior surfaces, on the other hand, protected from unusual wear and sunlight, were in lustrous and stable condition.
The first step was to remove the rapidly-degrading coating left from a previous restoration. After performing initial solvent testing, we decided to use a specially formulated solvent gel that would remove the coating without affecting the plastic underneath. We suspended the gel over the surface so that only the solvent's vapor would affect the restoration coating, thereby giving us complete control over the removal process. . . . the veneered surfaces, which were dull and lifeless, received a coating of a specially prepared wax made of shellac, restoring a high luster, while leaving the original coating intact.
This sideboard – and a similar piece in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art – are prime examples of early 20th Century American furniture making, incorporating new materials while retaining vestiges of traditional craft. (Read the full account)
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