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Historical Society Hosts Ceramics Workshop

It was a refresher course on the art of ceramics at the Oyster Bay Historical Society last Wednesday night. Everything from the preservation, cleaning, handling and displaying of fine ceramic pieces was covered at the workshop, which was part of the American Library Association’s Preservation Week. OBHS archivist and librarian Nicole Menchise gave a detailed presentation to the small crowd on hand.

“This is not a workshop for everyday ceramics,” said Menchise. “This is for people who own particular types of ceramics, including family heirlooms and treasured keepsakes that must be handled with extreme care.”

Menchise started off the presentation by explaining the basics of ceramics, from how they’re made to the chemical process that is used to make them. She spoke about different types of ceramics from stoneware, porcelain and other glassware. She then gave a detailed description on the cleaning process, handling and repairs, storage and moving and displaying of fine ceramics.

“When cleaning ceramics you must never use bleach or products containing bleach on fine china,” said Menchise. “The chlorine gets under the glaze and reacts with both the glaze and the porcelain to ruin the piece.”

Menchise added that routine cleaning of ceramics is not recommended because regular housekeeping is potentially damaging to pieces and that when cleaning it is best to use natural bristle brushes or a low suction vacuum with a hose wrapped in nylon to bring out their natural shine.

When repairing a damaged piece, Menchise said that clean, dry hands or fitted, Nitrile gloves with textured fingertips are best to use. She said that with porcelain pieces, Elmer’s glue can be used on pieces that won’t see the inside of the dishwasher because the glue dries clear, is non-toxic and is water soluble. If you’re going to store your ceramic pieces, it is best not to use newspaper because the ink can run off on the object. Acid-free and lignin-free tissue and acid-free boxes are the best method of storage.

For displaying your ceramic pieces it is best to have a level surface, plenty of space away from other objects and preferably within a closed cabinet. Using museum putty is the best method to secure objects to shelving and lids to their vessels.

“This workshop gives owners a particular skill set to help them take care of their precious keepsakes and heirlooms,” said Menchise.