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Sculpture Restoration Portland Oregon

outdoor sculpture with oxidation

Sculpture Repair Portland Oregon

Where the material ends, art begins

Sculpture is an extremely versatile form of expression, and sculpture restoration is some of the most satisfying work we do. It can entail so many materials, methods, and techniques, the potential aesthetic qualities of sculpture can hardly be encapsulated.

Most often, the sculptures brought to us are some variety of stone or metal, though we also work with concrete, wood, glass, lucite, plastic, and other materials.

Restoring stone sculptures

We restore and repair all stone statues and bases. This may include turned alabaster or marble bowls, vases, candles, or even fine stone mantle clocks. We can replace missing fingers, feet, heads, or any other part,  sculpting or casting new replicas.

We have clients of all kinds coming to us with all varieties of needed sculpture repair services:

  • public entities and public artwork
  • Public monuments
  • Churches
  • Corporate art
  • Collectible buddha and Quain yin figurines
  • Fountains
  • Inherited statuary
  • Small collectible stone carvings

Metal sculpture restoration

We work with sculptures made out of a variety of metals:

  • Bronze
  • Brass
  • Spelter
  • Tin
  • Pewter
  • Cast iron
  • Steel / stainless steel

Other metal items that may not be thought of as sculptures, but apply just the same, include:

  • Clocks
  • Swords
  • Trivets
  • Antique metal pieces

We can braze and weld nearly any alloy and repair the damage without the work showing for anyone:

  • Art dealers
  • Galleries
  • Movers
  • Collectors
  • Inheritance
  • Buyers and sellers
  • Shipping damage claims
  • Public Artwork
  • Monuments

Even stone and metal deteriorate

While most people think of stone and metal as some of the most durable materials to possibly sculpt with, there are plenty of situations in which damage can occur. Moving is the most common culprit for damage to stone and concrete sculptures because the material is so heavy.  Fingers and noses on stone sculptures are surprisingly fragile and should never be touched by an admirer.

While more robust than other materials, prolonged exposure to outdoor weather is hard on every material, even stone and concrete. It can be stained or discolored. Some climates, though less of an issue in Portland, can also etch the finish on some materials when acid rain interacts with calcium carbonate.

Just as much, various metals will withstand and interact with moisture and oxidation differently.

Damage to metal sculptures is usually in one of three forms:

1) Major trauma

Metal statues are difficult to break, so when they are damaged it is typically because of something severe like dropping out of a truck or off a loading dock. This usually results in dents, bent parts, and scratches.

Small spelter (a zinc alloy) statuary often gets damaged in shipping. It’s not uncommon to arrive with broken fingers and small projecting parts.

The primary major damages that are not accident-caused with metal sculptures is fire and water damage. Bronze, for example, can suffer from bronze disease caused by exposure to salt air and humidity.

2) Botched Repair

That's right, art restoration gone wrong is more common than you may think. It’s not uncommon to treat a metal sculpture that has damage directly related to a previous attempt at cleaning or repair. We find major damage to clients’ metal statuary from using over the counter cleaners or abrasives to remove unwanted patina, inadvertently damaging the piece, which sometimes takes time to reveal.

3) Vandalism

Unfortunately, this is simply a fact of life. Sometimes the harm is intentional. This is most common in public art, but the variety of repairs can cover anything from cleaning and resurfacing to replacing missing parts. As this is most common in damage to monuments, the repairs often must be addressed on-site.

While not intentional, it’s a lack of knowledge leading to art restoration failure that often brings stone sculptures to our studio. The misuse of adhesives often stains marble sculptures. Pressure washing can damage the exterior of a statue or monument to the point where the polish will have to be redone, an error we’ve seen performed by the collector, public parks workers, and masonry restoration companies alike. For public art, dealing with this type of damage is some of the most common sculpture restoration we deal with.

When it comes to metal, there is regular confusion about patina that results in unintentional damage. There are several varieties of patina. On the one hand, there is the artist-applied patina to metal hot or cold: blue, red, rich brown, black even silver. Then there is the patina that comes from age and outdoor exposure: white, green, and grey, etc. When you attempt to remove weather-based patina with an over the counter cleaner it is easy to inadvertently remove the artist patina. If you have a piece that falls under this category, with luck it's not so bad that previous attempts at art restoration ruined the piece irretrievably.

Full-service restoration of statues

Because stone sculptures are so often large and heavy, we often do on-site work for stone sculpture restoration.  We can clean marble statues, seal them, and apply weather protection to help them last for generations.  Broken heads, hands, and fingers can be repaired or remade.

For smaller pieces that can come to the studio, they are given a full photo survey, cleaned where appropriate, and repaired to provide years of durability and enjoyment.

For metal sculptures, we will identify the alloy, makers marks, foundry, and explore the options for restoration with you. We will talk through the possible changes to the color after restoration and how that can be minimized or remedied.

Outdoor statuary is treated differently as it is exposed to the elements, and different considerations must be made about the conditions that it lives in.

With stone repairs, we strive to get the repairs done without seams and without staining the original statue with the adhesives. Antique stonework is very delicate, and we treat it as such.
We are careful to maintain the original artist's patina work when repairing metal. Since most artist-applied patinas are accomplished with heat, welding must be done with care, as the heat the welding creates naturally tries to alter the color of the whole statue. While working, we isolate the heat as much as possible to the area of the repair. After the bonding process, we file welds down and blend them with the work to improve the look of the repair.

Stonework is particularly enjoyable because it is so beautiful and lasts forever. The replication of missing pieces by hand sculpting from another block, fitting the repair seamlessly to the damaged artwork, and sanding the repair to a polish is very rewarding. Years of practice and training make us uniquely qualified to address any type of fine art restoration.
Having worked with metals from a very young age, we never tire of how many unique and wonderful properties they possess. Whether fusing a bronze back together at 2000F or welding steel at 6000F the end-result is always a good one. Working with low melt alloys like spelter that can melt under 900F, we love the challenge of employing low-melt allow brazing rods and using micro torches to slowly monitor the heat as we maintain a safe margin.

Restoration services in-studio or on-site

We can help you with bases and installation and any scale. If your metal statuary is large and heavy but requires the specialties that the studio affords, we can come to you and pick it up with the necessary equipment to bring it back to the studio for work. After a sculpture restoration is complete we will arrange its return it to you.

If your artwork is monumental or public work we can set up on-site for the restoration. We have experience doing work on many of Oregon's important outdoor statuary in the Capitol Mall.

Trusted experience

Stone and monument restoration is a particular specialty. We have been working with hundreds of species of rare and exotic stones and sculptures for over two decades. So much time in this field has produced close relationships with the world stone market to source the appropriate materials, fabricate them, and properly install them.  I can transport, relocate, install, repair, and fabricate stones of nearly any size in any location—from 100 pounds to 40,000 pounds and up.

Metal sculpture repair is so varied, it takes a vast depth of knowledge to draw from to understand how best to treat the repairs. Based on what processes are best-suited for the material and circumstance, we can weld, solder, and braze, similar to any fabrication shop. However,  we also replicate the missing art details, repair associated stone and porcelain bases and ornaments, and manage the hot or cold patinas. These skills are specific to an art specialist.

For pieces that have more delicate parts, such as clock movements within metal sculptures or minute handling of silver and brass plating, we manage the repair to avoid heat damage, and repair dents and deep scratches on fine silver

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