Our Approach

Plowden and Smith are committed to the highest of standards in craft skills, conservation and material knowledge. This is upheld through continuous learning, conservation ethics and a deep understanding and appreciation of art and history. The company supports education and academic research training through regular placements with students and interns and when necessary the scientific analysis of artefacts.

Conservation mounting a large cartoon

Conservation mounting a large cartoon

Conservation and Restoration

Our conservation and restoration practice aims to:

  • Adhere to ethical guidelines such as the European Confederation of Conservators-Restorers Organisations (ECCO) code of ethics
  • Ensure consultation with the owner/interested party regarding the desired outcome of conservation/restoration treatments and at key stages throughout treatment
  • Document all work undertaken on objects and maintain conservation archives for future reference
  • Provide advice on suitable conservation treatments and the care of objects and collections through condition and environmental surveys
  • Encourage senior conservators to become accredited, as recognised by the Institute of Conservation (ICON)

Exhibition Installation and Bespoke Mount Design and Manufacture

Plowden and Smith have developed their services to offer a dedicated exhibitions team of conservators and mount making technicians. The combination of museum training and traditional bench skills allow the exhibitions team to work independently, producing mounts to the highest standard. All materials used by the exhibitions department are of conservation standard, and materials are endorsed through accelerated aging tests (Oddy test).

Aims and objectives for exhibition work:

  • To develop mounting techniques that are aesthetically pleasing, discreet and functional
  • To consult with the owner/interested party in regards to the display methods for an object and the aesthetics and “house style” of an exhibition
  • To use materials that are of a high quality and where necessary of conservation standard

Modern and Contemporary Art

Was Machen by Mario Merz

Detail of "Was Machen" by Mario Merz

It is felt that with the ever increasing creativity of artists and their experimental use of materials that a statement of approach to the conservation and restoration of modern and contemporary art should be made. Plowden and Smith are familiar with the Copyright Law and the Moral Rights of the artist. However, ethical conflicts will arise when inherently unstable works of art require conservation and restoration to preserve the artwork’s integrity and the artist’s original intentions. This is often of great concern to the collector, artist and art historian. Some works of art are intentionally made to be ephemeral but once they are in an art collection there is a natural desire to invest in and preserve the artwork. Other conservation problems arise when they are made from new and untested materials, which turn out to be dramatically unstable.

Common dilemmas with modern art are:

  • Should the preservation of such works focus on maintaining the original materials, or place more emphasis on the work’s original appearance?
  • Does interference with the purpose to preserve the piece compromise the artists’ original intention?

Many objects that enter Plowden and Smith’s workshop have in the past lacked consistent counsel and often enter the care of our conservators without documentation of previous conservation or restoration. It is recognised that it is difficult to maintain continuity of care and treatment when artworks are not in permanent collections. This is why we put great emphasis on consultation, material knowledge, research and documentation.