‘Tijou’ gates in the sun.

'Tijou' gates in the evening sun, nearly complete, just the overthrow to be installed.

‘Tijou’ gates in the evening sun, nearly complete, just the overthrow to be installed.

Late Friday afternoon 9th August 2013 and the sun is still shining.

Today was the last ‘hand’ painting day (final coat is hand painted with a brush) and Lee the painter has gone off on holiday. The site is clear of scaffold and the enclosure covering, all the major work is complete on the ‘Tijou’ gates.

There are still a few little snags to sort out and the overthrow to be lifted into position, but that’s it. All the new and repaired work fitting went without a hitch and it is very difficult to tell the new work from the originals the discrete ID stamps are the only clue. The replicas (reproductions) are accurate and of similar character, without any embellishment or improvement in design or their manufacture. The repair work is the same, this is the result we aim for; it is so important in conservation and restoration to have minimum impact, not only on the physical structure but also the aesthetic appearance.

Reproduction 'Tijou' gates lock plates x 4 in brass copying exactly one surviving but damaged.

Reproduction ‘Tijou’ gates lock plates x 4 in brass copying exactly one surviving but damaged.

Asides, we can all improve upon our work, today, tomorrow, certainly years down the line and sometimes without check. I was advised as an apprentice that “a true craftsman’s most severe critic should be himself (herself)”. An Artisan, in the interests of economics, has to know when to call it a day and stop making. On occasion I reflect on work I’ve made and feel there are elements I’d perhaps change, omit, improve or do differently, but out of time and context any alterations or improvement would count for and achieve nothing. In the case of other peoples work, everyone can be a critic and some are quick to suggest ‘improvement’. The latter will always be subjective and inevitably very rude! So with this in mind if you are in a situation where you could physically alter or ‘improve’ (in your opinion) another craftsman’s work, to do so would be rude and I believe, unprofessional.

From a conservation perspective, there is an issue of historical accountability regards to reproduction and repair, however from a craftsman standpoint, to change or improve an existing, tangible design(s) is plain wrong. It works both ways too, you need to work to the exact standard that the original craftsman worked to, not less to make the job potentially easier and not more to satisfy your ego. You may have a reason to offer subjective comment in your report, but not to mess with the physical artifact you are being paid to replicate or repair.

'Tijou' gates, Andy and Ben fitting one of the last forged collars to a pre-painted reproduction acanthus decoration on the gate frame.

‘Tijou’ gates, Andy and Ben fitting one of the last forged collars to a pre-painted reproduction acanthus decoration on the gate frame.

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Last leaf.

 

Large gate acanthus leaves, last ones!

Large gate acanthus leaves in the raw, last ones!

Last leaves made! Well here’s the beginning of the end, the last of all the new leaves have been offered up and painted ready for fitting later this week. The last of the repairs were completed a few weeks ago.

The crane’s been booked to fit the Overthrow mid August, as have the scaffolders and labour to dismantle our site at Petworth House. The Tijou Gates are painted in their final colour and the last leaves are being fitted as I type. I’d like to have time to reflect on the last months of intensive work, but its not over yet.

There is still snagging and paint touching up to be carried out not to mention all the clearing up and break down of the site not to mention the eventual report handover. That reminds me I need to get on……

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Assembly.

Gate piers scrolls, leaves and collars.

Gate piers scrolls, leaves and collars.

Its so good to see it all come together. There are times on large projects you begin to wonder if it ever will….. but it always does!

The picture above is looking up at the gate pier scrolls and is an excellent example of the work done by the blacksmiths on this project. nearly all the leaves and most or the collars on this one section alone needed repair or replacement. the close proximity of the symmetrical forms meant that the work was a real test for their reproduction skills, because any less than perfect will be obvious to everyone.

New and repaired waterleaves on the lower part of the 'Tijou' gates

New and repaired waterleaves on the lower part of the ‘Tijou’ gates

The photo of the gates above is another good example of the importance of getting it right. Many of the leaves were in a terrible state if they were there at all. It is important as I have stated in previous Blogs not to over restore and to hold back replacing components just because they look a bit old or worn. These gates are old and should retain an aged dignity, so it a component is fit for the purpose it was intended for…. it stays! If you look carefully the lowest leaf in the foreground has a corrosion hole in it. The decision to leave in situ, with no patch repair and only to clean it, was because it was strong enough for service and more importantly it was one of the few originals left on this part of the gate that still maintained its original form. The rest on the leaves you see are for the most part are reproductions or partial repair.

In an ideal world you would intend to use all the original material and componets, but thats not always possible. So the philosophy and policy where you retain of at least one original, in-situ component (when possible) is vital for accountable Conservation, even if they are a bit rough. In some situations one leaf or a scroll end can be the indicator of the original craftman’s skill and designers intention.

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