Is restoration art? Yes! - says Noemi Prazsmary, international restorer
Ever wondered what it takes to become a restorer, what skills are needed and what they actually do? Or ever wanted to learn some expert tips on how you can treat and protect your beloved old treasures? If yes, then meet Noémi who gives us some insight into her profession and work as well as shares some expert advice.
Noemi is not only a highly qualified and professional restorer/conservator but she is also a very talented artist. She takes just as much pride in her restoration works as in her own art creations. She has worked on several big EU and government funded conservation projects in her home country, Hungary as well as has helped many private clients from all over the world bring their old, faded or damaged antiques back to life. Her special niche lies in restoring antique Venetian mirrors. One of her probably most spectacular works is the beautiful mirror she worked on as her final university project.
And if it was not enough, she is blessed with artistic skills creating amazing figurines and sculptures looking like ancient findings. They are just perfect for decoration if you want to have something very special in your home or office.
She now is based in London offering her skills for any of us who needs a restorer or looks for some unique decoration or gift.
What do you do in your daily job as a restorer?
I have been working in the filed for more than two decades. I treat antique objects and archeological finds, such as porcelain, china, pottery, glass and metal objects from different historical times and artists, that are damaged, broken or are in the need of cleaning or completing. At the moment I am a freelancer working for art dealers, collectors, galleries, auctioners and other private clients.
What initially inspired you to become a restorer?
As a child I was interested in everything, but especially in history, hence my parents and I used to visit lots of old castles in Hungary. One day at school we learned about a historical story that really sparked my interest – it was a special story about the heroic battle between the Hungarian captain of Castle of Drégely, Szondi György and his 146 soldiers versus the enormous Turkish army. As the battle looked hopeless for the Hungarians, the captain decided to kill off all their horses and destroy all valuables in the fortress because he did not want the Turks to use them after their winning battle. I got really curious so I asked my parents to visit this castle where my curiousity resulted in searching and finding some teeth and potsherds. I was extremly excited thinking I had found the teeth of Szondi's horses and sherds of real potteries of the soldiers. Later on I was lucky, still as a child, to spend my summer holiday at an archaeological excavation because one of my schoolmates’ father worked there as an archaeologist. After this exceptional experience I decided to become an archaeologist, but years later I changed my mind to pursue a career as a conservator of archaeological finds. And I am lucky because it came true for me.
What is the most challenging part for you about being a restorer?
I think the most challenging part is to keep antique objects in a perfect shape and condition for the future. All the methods applied have to be reversible yet the best and the most suitable ones returning the objects to some previous state that is considered original. Not to mention that the final result has to look aesthetically good as well. It is a very complex and hard work.
What do you believe is a key element of becoming and being a great restorer?
The key element, to my opinion, is the love of this profession and antique objects. Without this a restorer never becomes good and successful enough. Obviously there are some ethic rules as well, that professional restorers have to follow and of course, an excellent restorer needs very good dexterity. But without heart no one can reach excellence.
You call yourself a restorer artist? Is restoration art for you?
Yes, I think so. Because I need an artistic mindset and conceptualization to follow and understand other people’s artistic mindset. I mean I have to make an artifact look complete and perfect in the original way and this means that I have to copy the original artist for the best result.
In what extend can you take your own personality and creativity into a restoration work? Or do you strictly need to stick with authenticity and recreate or restore the original features?
I need to be very obsequious. The restoration is not my art, this is an art of someone else’s. Because of this I never show my personality in the restoration work. To keep authenticity is the most important when I recreate the original features. Creativity is another question as sometimes I do have to be very creative and resourceful to achieve the possible best result. To find the best ways and solutions to recreate the original features and the original look I need to use my imagination and develop some original ideas.
What sort of techniques do you use? What is your favourite one and why?
It really depends on the work. I use a lot of original, authentical technics but also there is a wide range of new and modern technics to help our work. Maybe one of my favourites is airbrush for retouching when finilizing a work on an object. I also love raku technique but I only use it in my own artistic procejts. It is a pottery teqchique revolving around its firing process and you can create amazing patterns and colour schemes with it.
What was best or most enjoyable project you did so far?
I cannot tell you only one. I enjoyed a lot a rescue archeological excavation project where I also had the chance to organise conservation-restoration workshops and teach new conservator assistants. I worked for the Archaeological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for a while and this institute had more very important and famous excavations. This rescue project was one them, a huge work with thousends of finds, potteries, glasses, metals, bones, etc. Most of them were from the Neolithic Period, the Roman Age, and from the migration period. This project lasted for years and was very exciting.
The other thing I love is teaching. I used to teach restorer candidates at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts. In Hungary it is a 5 year-long training program running in conjunction with the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts and the Hungarian National Museum.
And the third one I love is to restore antique mirrors from Murano. This is a very challenging and complex work because of the added glass appliques or micro mosaics.
What is the coolest tip you have ever received as a restorer and would pass it onto our readers?
Water or hot water is the best solvent. Water is the universal solvent because of its ability to dissolve and dilute so many different substances. By soaking you can remove contaminations, polluton-formed crusts, old adhesives,Some things will dissolve better and faster in boiling water compared to cold water.
Any handy tips or hints to give away on how to deal with or treat an old or antique object in our home?
The best advice I can think of is to keep your antique objects away from anything hot: direct or strong sunlight, big lamp light, heater, etc. Similarly, keep them away from anything wet and humid. I cannot stress this enough. Also, some objects after renovation or restoration cannot be used in the same way as previously. For instance a broken but restored antique bowl or a vintage mug cannot come in contact with water or any liquid any more, they can be only used as a decorative object but not for serving soup in it or drinking your tea from it and then wash them in the dishwasher. Always ask for instructions from the expert who has treated your antiques to avoid any unwanted damage in the future.
There has been a trend for a while suggesting leaving old objects as they are and not to renovte or restore them. I personally love this old-time glamour but as an expert, what is your take on this? Should we update granny’s old mirror or should we leave it and enjoy the time-worn charm?
I think it is just a trend because lots of people are afraid of conservation-restoration methods, they can hardly find a restorer who does an excellent job or people do not know how to do simple restorations. So they just go down the easiest path leaving their antiques without conservation or restoration. But without proper conservation/restoration these objects will gradually deteriorate and disappear. The reversible conservation-restoration keeps our antiques in a good shape and condition so we can enjoy them not only in the now but also in the future.
How expensive a restoration work might be?
It depends on many factors: the shape and the size of an object, how serious the damage is, what kind of materials are needed and how long it takes to complete the restoration. Quality materials are expensive and a well executed restoration work needs more time. Clients have to understand and accept this. Restoration is not cheap. But once an item is restored it will last longer, not to mention the added value: the better shape and condition your antiques are in the more valuable they are.
You work as an artist as well creating amazing fine art objects, artistic copies and other fantasy creations. Who dou you consider you primarly are: a restorer or an artist? And what give you the most satisfaction: restoring or creating?
I consider myself a restorer in the first place. That is my qualification and I have been working in the industry for long years. But I love my artistic side as well and enjoy creating something new. It does give me lots of satisfaction, however when I see the amazement and happines of my clients when first seeing their restored and rescued antiques – well, that moment is priceless.
What are you currently working on?
Porcelains: one is a meissen porcelain figurine, the other one is fruit plate. And there is antique glass from the Secession and a nice oriental bed with beautiful carved and gilded decoration. And I just finished not long ago a small silver box with micro mosaic inlay.
What are your plans as a restorer and as an artis for the future?
I would fancy to work for museums again to conserve and restore arcaeological finds. I really miss those times. As an artist I have load of ideas in my mind: ceramic and glass objects or maybe combining the two. And decorative mirrors with glass appliques.
Scroll down to see Noemi's amazing works or visit her website:
Feel free to leave comment and if you like this post and the magazine, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter for regualr updates. Alternatively subscribe with your email address to get my blogs and extra special stuff delivered directly to your inbox!
Noemi's own artworks: