Furniture and wooden artifacts conservator Shane Wiechnik was awarded a 2021 International Specialised Skills Institute Fellowship for his ambitious project to undertake a 'Journeyman Trip'.
Earlier this year, Shane set off on his travels, roaming the United States and Europe to work with and learn from conservators, restorers, and craftspeople with various training backgrounds and ethical approaches.
Working with these experts, Shane has gained first-hand experience in both up to date and traditional skill-based conservation techniques to bring back to Australia, where the conservation skill pool is limited.
We caught up with Shane at the beginning of his journey to find out about one of his development experiences learning from conservator F. Carey Howlett in Virginia, USA.
“I started working with F. Carey Howlett in Montross, VA at the beginning of January. This is the first of the workshops I will be spending time in this year. Carey is the former head of conservation at Colonial Williamsburg (the largest open-air museum in the world) here in Virginia. Part of the purpose of my fellowship is to get hands-on experience in different workshops learning about the local materials and objects they work with as well as the techniques they have acquired and developed in their careers. This has proven to be exactly the case here, where Carey really specialises in furniture of the American South and Virginia pieces in particular.”
“I've been able to talk to him about the myriad pieces in his workshop as well as those in local museums and get a real insider's perspective on what makes them unique and what it is like to work on them. We've been working together on a local 18th-century walnut desk and bookcase, working with American walnut to undo some previous restoration work that changed the aesthetic of the piece, trying to understand and match the original design of the era.”
“We've also been spending our time in a local Victorian house still owned by the family of its original residents. We've been peeling back paint layers to discover the original surfaces and trying to conserve it accordingly. It has been a busy month, and at times I wasn't sure if these projects individually justified this trip, but the level of immersion awarded by this project has proved invaluable to my understanding and experience.”
Constantly on the move, Shane is currently in the Netherlands on another leg of his Journeyman travels.