In 2012 a team was set up within ExeDFAS of members interested in textile conservation. Currently there are 5 members in the team with further members waiting to join when a further project becomes available.
Our first project was conserving an altar frontal for St Margaret’s Church, Topsham with the help of conservator Nicola Gentle. The frontal was dedicated at a service in June 2014 and can be seen on the altar in St Margaret’s.
Our next project was conserving a banner and stole for St Peter’s Church, Budleigh Salterton where we worked fortnightly under the guidance of Morwena Stephens, a professional conservator.
An ongoing project where we meet fortnightly, is working with Anne Amosford at the RAMM stores making supports and wrappings for items in the textile stores. This has included beaded dresses of 1920-30’s period, RAMM’s wonderful collection of 18th and 19th C dresses, the interesting corset collection and for the beaded bags.
Members joining the group need to have some knowledge of hand sewing skills but there is training and information available about conservation techniques and the specific skills for each project.
Securing gold work and conserving shattered fabrics while not disturbing the original integrity of an item is meticulous and interesting work. Supporting the fragile fabrics with specifically made hangers, padding and wrappers needs care and an appreciation of the item. We also try to establish the history of the item and its context in social history of the period.
In 2020, the Society is embarking on a research project on art and artists of Topsham and the Exe Estuary. This is a joint project with Topsham Museum, which will lead to the publication of a book and an exhibition at the museum.