Every week is different at the studio, and the end of summer usually brings some crazy projects. But a baby alligator lamp? Really?
This piece of vintage taxidermy came in with lots of problems. One leg was coming off, the coconut shell was peeling, various parts were missing, and it was leaking sawdust. Happily I have had similar things through the studio (like a diorama of a roadside saloon with 23 stuffed animals – voles, squirrels, etc. – dancing and drinking at the bar!). So I knew how to make strong but simple repairs without getting carried away.
I started by taking some Jade glue, thinning it a little with water, and painting it into all the areas where the sawdust was leaking. Jade is a great adhesive – like a conservator’s version of Elmer’s – that won’t yellow and is easily reversible. In this case the Jade worked to hold the sawdust in place and stop it from leaking. I also used Jade to glue down pieces of alligator hide that were lifting up or flaking. Jade is a very good consolidant. I use it often on the edges of a canvas where it is meets the stretcher and is worn and flaking.
The taxidermist used a metal armature to give the alligator form. I used Devcon 5-minute Epoxy mixed with wood dust to cement the broken leg back in place. First I cleaned the exposed metal with a little acetone to insure a good joint. Then I filled the gaps on either side of the break with epoxy and brought the pieces into position. After five minutes the epoxy hardened and the leg was strong again. I used another epoxy product, plumber’s epoxy, to fill gaps and make the missing parts. Plumber’s epoxy (available in most hardware stores) is a two-part putty that hardens in about ten minutes. This gives you time to model shapes (like alligator toes). Finally I used Japanese mulberry paper and Jade glue to cover joints and parts made from epoxy. After the repairs were finished I inpainted where needed with Gamblin conservation colors.
Now the little guy is free to run through the streets of Manhattan like a Japanese movie from the 1950s (see picture). Have a great Labor Day and check back soon for our next post.