From Historic Pullman to the UIC Campus:
Re-purposing Memorable Stained Glass Windows
Bernacki & Associates, Inc. was privileged to fabricate display frames for beautiful historic stained glass windows and install the windows in the John Paul II Chapel at the Newman Center at 700 S. Morgan St., the spiritual home of students and faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago. The interior of the chapel with newly installed stained glass can be viewed directly on the Newman Center’s website, www.jp2newman.org.
The original windows came from the Holy Rosary Church in the Chicago’s historic Roseland area. According to the Archdiocese of Chicago Archives & Records, the beginnings of the parish date back to the times of the Pullman Car Company which manufactured railroad cars in the mid-to-late 19th century through the first half of the 20th century, during the industrial explosion of railroads in the United States.
“Patty Diffusa” Chair
“Patty Diffusa” armchair, designed by William Sawaya, circa 1993 for Sawaya & Moroni, Italy
Features: Mahogany solid wood, mahogany veneer, bent/molded plywood, green leather upholstered seat
The “Patty Diffusa” chair is known for its sculptural three-dimensional curvature in molded plywood. The wide curved armrests extend to legs toward the front and create loops toward the back and downwards to smoothly disappear under the seat. The chair’s back rest is made of molded plywood as well. The material is manufactured from thin layers of wood veneer or "plies" that are glued together through heat and pressure…
The Conservation of Chinese Rosewood Mother-of-Pearl Inlay Console Table
This elegant rosewood table with mother-of-pearl inlay exemplifies traditional Chinese design. For centuries, solid rosewood furniture has been treasured both in exquisite homes in China and around the world for its distinct aesthetic style and durability.
The properties of Hongmu Rosewood (meaning red wood in Chinese), are similar to those of ebony and other finest hardwoods. The wood is finely grained and denser than water, (it would not float but sink in water), and it is high in oils and resins. These properties of material make furniture structurally stable, hard wearing, and fairly resistant to warping or cracking in tropical conditions due to expansion and contraction. The density and strength of rosewood allow oriental furniture to be built without the use of glue and nails, but rather being constructed using joinery and doweling alone…
Case Study: Addressing Transport Damage
19th Century Gilt Framed Mirror
Monumental 19th century French water gilt mirror with arched beveled plate features an ornamental female face at top central crest medallion flanked on both sides by laurel leaf and berry branches. The upper edge of the frame is adorned with various guilloche, beading, floral and foliage ornamentation. Two human figures sculpted in gesso beautifully flank the mirror on the sides.
Overall Dimensions: 42.5”W x 4.5”D x 67”H
Mirror Slot: 36.5”W x 57”H
Condition & Treatment
The gilded frame sustained severe impact damage in transport resulting in disfiguring losses to the elaborate ornamentation. The original beveled mirror was completely shattered and at the time of inspection and the pieces of glass were retained with no glass remnants within the frame. There were detached pieces of gilded ornamentation mixed in with the shattered glass…
Welded Art Frames:
A Distinct Statement in Steel
Rust and oxidation stained industrial ingredients of our world have a seductive beauty. Leached onto the surfaces of concrete or stone of our dwellings, they speak about the presence of concealed steel frames that provide the structure to our homes. This hidden provenance becomes evident wherever we move. Why not bring this structure to the forefront, and make it a distinct statement?
Welded steel frames have become more prominent of our contemporary tastes over the past two decades. The strong and barren character of steel itself adds an interesting industrial contrast to the traditional approach of custom framing one thinks of with finished wood or refined gold frames. Steel frames can come in the infinite profiles, joining styles, and surface treatments to either obscure or add to their industrial appeal…
Looking Beyond the Portrait:
The Art of Gilded Frames
Bernacki & Associates Lecture at Chicago’s Driehaus Museum
Introduction to historical ornamentation and frame styles, and their relationship to the artistic influences of their respective time periods
Wednesday, November 7
Not all frames are created equal. Join Bernacki & Associates for an investigation of the extraordinary craftsmanship and specialized techniques of hand carved and gilded frames. Learn the precious artistic merit of frames themselves and their crucial complementary relationship to artwork.
Using antique frame examples, enjoy a live demonstration of the gilding craft and process and learn how to identify authentic gold leaf versus metal leaf, and other applications used for a variety of finishes. Learn how to properly care and maintain your own precious frames to ensure that they can be appreciated well into the future.
Bernacki & Associates Inc. is one of Chicago’s most respected conservation and restoration firms specializing in period and contemporary fine furniture, objects, historic millwork and architectural elements. Established 30 years ago, Bernacki & Associates has become renowned both locally and nationwide as a comprehensive conservation and restoration resource. Clients include museums, antique and art dealers, private collectors, designers, insurance claims specialists, and discerning art-owners. Bernacki & Associates, Inc. is a founding member of Conservation & Design International and active part of DPR Art Rescue a 24-hour nationwide emergency service for artwork, sculpture, works on paper, murals, objects, gilt objects and frames, antique and fine furniture.
Addressing Insect Infestation in Wooden Artifacts
What do antique frames, ethnographic items, and furniture all have in common? They are made of wood and can become good places for shelter and food sources for insects. The most common culprit for wood infestation is the powderpost beetle.
Signs of an Infestation
Search atop and beneath wooden objects for “frass” – a powdery substance left by burrowing pests. Powderpost beetles bore in wood to lay eggs and - when they hatch – the grubs develop to pupae and then when mature the beetles bore out, leaving exit holes, a crisp hole with a delicate layer of frass along the perimeter.
Opening November of 2018
Museum Quality Custom Framing, Fabrication and Display
We are passionate about the care and display of art, photographs, works on paper, textiles, and sculpture. Framing and display options are designed to ensure the longevity of the pieces we frame through the use of archival mats, mounts, reversible mounting methods including handmade wheat paste and Asian tissue hinges. Also offered are a variety of UV filtering glazing and housing options to protect from environmental and exposure as well as fading.
Our experienced artisans combine the best in old-world craftsmanship with modern techniques to create museum quality framing and displays that not only protect, but are also designed to complement the work for display. While designing framing and presentation options, we reference the piece’s historical context, and work with our clients’ vision to create frames that are works of art in their own right. An archival frame is built to last for generations, collaborate with our designers for that special piece; and create a lasting legacy.
Eames Lounge Chair Set (670/671) Restoration
The Chair of the Century and Its Challenges
The commonly called Eames Lounge Chair set (670/671) was introduced in 1956 and has been since one of the most significant furniture designs of the 20th century. Engineered by the American design couple Charles and Ray Eames, the set is often called “the chair of the century” and is still received with enthusiasm for the beauty of the design and exceptional comfort.
From the fabrication perspective, the famous chair combines modern technology with intricate traditional hand craftsmanship. The signature curved plywood components are made of several layers of glued together wood veneer and shaped under high pressure in industrial molding press. After the basic molds are made, the excess wood is trimmed to the desired shapes and the edges are smoothed. The plywood parts are then treated with a finish that enhances the depth of the outer veneer wood grain…
Chicago business marks 30th anniversary of building heirlooms, restoring antique furniture
Antique Trader | July 9, 2018
CHICAGO – The City of Chicago is home to many specialty businesses, but few businesses are as specialized as Bernacki & Associates, Inc. Founded by owner Stan Bernacki on July 4, 1988, the company’s focus is squarely centered upon the restoration and conservation offine antique furniture, upholstery, artwork, clocks, artifacts, sculpture, frames, family heirlooms, and historic millwork.
Serving a Varied Clientele
Bernacki and his team of specialists also design and build custom furniture and interiors. His variety of clients include museums, antique and art dealers, interior designers, architects, insurance claims specialists and private collectors. From its humble beginnings in a garage near the corners of Ogden and Grand Avenues, Bernacki & Associates quickly flourished and just four years later relocated operations to a larger and more modern facility at 424 North Oakley Boulevard in Chicago. Over 20,000 square feet of modern space comfortably accommodates ample workspace for his skilled artisans, conservators, gilders, upholsterers, framers, and wood carvers.
Conserving Form and Function
The Treatment of Antique Klismos Chairs
There are times when antiques require the attention of conservators. An interior designer or architect are often asked for a resource of whom they would feel best qualified for a particular piece.
The striking set of antique klismos chairs were part of a collection belonging to a client of Denise Antonucci, ASID, of ASI Interiors. She contacted Bernacki & Associates to care for the chairs. The chairs were not only beautiful to look at, but were also regularly used in her client’s home.
Mother-of-pearl is a beautiful naturally forming material that has been used as a decorative inlay for centuries. More properly known as nacre, it is a calcium and protein composite substance that is only produced by certain mollusks as an inner shell layer and is the outer layer of pearls. It is very strong and resilient due to its structure which consists of overlapping sheets of brittle aragonite separated by more elastic biopolymers. The thickness of the aragonite leads to the beautiful iridescence and structural colors that seem to change and flow as your viewing angle shifts. It has been used in the design of jewelry, decorative objects such as furniture and musical instruments, and architecture. In furniture, mother-of-pearl has mostly been applied in graceful, distinctive inlays to contrast with surrounding wood or other surrounding surfaces or as a complete overlay to add beauty to a less distinctive substrate.
Meet the Experts: Art Rescue 911
Thursday, April 26, 6:30 - 8 p.m.
The Richard H. Driehaus Museum
40 East Erie Street | Chicago, Illinois 60611
Bernacki & Associates is one of Chicago’s premier conservation & restoration firms specializing in “saving” period furniture, objects, historic millwork and architectural elements. This event, featuring founder Stan Bernacki, will include live demonstrations of the work the group is known for as well as an account of some of their favorite “cases.”
Considerations in the Cleaning of Fine Art and Frames
We often see artwork come to our studio for treatment that has damage from improper cleaning attempts. While a caretaker has the best of intentions, sometimes their cleaning can do more harm than good. It should be noted that one should not be afraid to allow a little dust to accumulate on a piece. Even the most gentle cleaning processes involve some friction, which can lead to eventual abrasion of the surface. Sometimes, it is more prudent to have a little dust accumulation rather than inadvertently risk the cumulative effects of regular cleaning or potentially damaging the surface through improper care. If it is determined that the piece warrants cleaning, you must first confirm the item is stable enough to be cleaned. The surface should be assessed for evidence of instability such as paint craquelure, delamination of decorative films, etc. If there are any signs of instability or damage, the condition should be documented prior to stabilization and commencement of any further treatment.
Modern Day Monuments Women Share Tips For Saving Your Art Collection From Natural Disasters
The Conservation of Historic Irish Harps
By Barton Bjorneberg, Conservator, Bernacki & Associates, Inc.
...This article is going to center on the question of conservation of musical instruments, specifically harps. The primary purpose of creating a musical instrument is to fabricate a tool that will be used to make the art of music. The initial importance and quality of the instrument is primarily determined by the quality of the sounds it can create and the ease with which it can make those sounds. Instruments are made of differing types and qualities of materials and craftsmanship. The quality of the sound does not necessarily have anything to do with the quality of manufacture or the beauty of its visual appearance. Anyone who has been involved in the creating of musical instruments has had the experience of a beautifully crafted and exquisitely detailed instrument that always sounds dead and lifeless. This is often contrasted by an instrument whose finish turned out horribly, the joinery does not match accurately, and the figuring of the wood is dull, but when put in the hands of a true musician comes alive and makes sounds that are so beautiful, they make people cry.
But what happens when an old instrument can no longer make the sounds it was created to make due to failure of structural material? When the only way to return that instrument to working condition is to replace large sections of original material? When does that mass of metal and wood move from a sound making machine to a sculptural and historic artifact? Harps are extreme examples of the question and it affects how rare completely original harps are and how important those few then become....
Historical Resonance: Playing an Antique Egan Harp
By Nancy Hurrell, Harp Consultant, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The highly decorative Portable Irish Harp, with delicate strands of gilt shamrocks and ornate swirling acanthus on a colored ground, is collected as an art object and examples are displayed in museums worldwide - but what does it sound like? Produced in the early 1800s by Ireland’s leading harp maker John Egan (fl.1803-1829), the harps were touted in newspaper adverts as having ‘great brilliancy’ and ‘sweetness of tone’. The instruments gained widespread notoriety for their splendid appearance and sound, and Egan harps graced the music rooms of the great houses of Ireland and were also played by members of the Royal Family in England. In 1821 John Egan was bestowed the prestigious Royal Warrant by the King along with the title of ‘Harp Maker to George IV and the Royal Family’, and the Royal Crest is etched on the brass plates of harps produced after this date. A century later, several harp makers imitated Egan’s Irish harp model, and it became the prototype for today’s popular Celtic harp. By the early 1900s, most extant Egan Irish harps were no longer playable, but were sold and collected as rare artifacts.
As antiques, Egan Portable Irish Harps are valued for their attractive sculptural qualities, handsome neo-classical decoration and Irish symbolism, and examples are preserved in several major museum collections around the world: Metropolitan (New York), MFA (Boston), National Museum of Ireland (Dublin), V&A and Horniman (London), Musikmuseet (Sweden), as well as significant instrument collections in France, Italy and Belgium and also Japan. Typically Egan harps in museums are cosmetically strung, having the appearance of being playable, but in fact the strings are kept slack. Although wood gives the instrument its characteristic sound, the constant stress of string tension on wood over time tends to pull up the thin soundboard, and the neck twists, bringing the harp’s playing days to an end. Real horror stories are known in which fragile antique harps simply collapsed as the strings were brought up to tension. Still, with modern techniques of historical restoration, it is now possible for a few Egan harps to be made playable again.
Art & Furniture Care: Safe Handling
One of the greatest risk exposures for damage of items is from improper handling.
The first step in the safe handling of an item is to assess whether it is stable enough to be moved. Awareness of the inherent structure of the piece, along with its current condition issues are paramount in reducing the risk of damage. Once the condition issues have been identified, you can then strategize on how to best accommodate any compromised areas and safeguard the item to avoid further damage during handling and transport. Depending on the condition issues, you may need to consult a specialist to assess and stabilize areas of concern first.