Aankomend symposium


18 & 19 November 2016
Amsterdam, the Netherlands


Material imitation and imitation materials
in furniture and conservation


Professionals and students in conservation and restoration, art history and materials science are invited to submit an abstract for a presentation at the upcoming symposium on material imitation in furniture and interiors.

The imitation of materials in artefacts appears to be as old as mankind, and the motives for disguising one material as another can be very different. The absence of a particular raw material or the lack of technical knowledge has made people look for alternative ways to come up with similar products. This, for example, has long been the case with Asian lacquerware in the West. As a consequence, for centuries Western craftsmen have been producing japanned artefacts. Gold, precious stones and marble, exotic woods and other materials that were the exclusive preserve of kings and other rulers have been produced by local artisans using nothing more than paint, stained local wood species and the not so noble metals provided by their own local surroundings.
The 19th- and early 20th-century discoveries in materials chemistry brought a flood of new materials to the disposal of artists and craftsmen. Even today these new synthetic materials are posing serious problems for conservators.

Some materials that start out as an imitation of an expensive or otherwise unavailable material have successfully lost their initial second-class status and made it into a proper material in itself. Due to this emancipation we no longer regard a colourfully printed vinyl fabric as an imitation of leather, or cheap laminate flooring in our homes as an imitation of real wood. The recent discoveries in computerised production techniques have also changed our use of materials, and already seem to present a class of their own.

Among the many topics to consider are:

– Production and analysis of imitation materials, such as European ‘lacquerware’ for urushi, stained wood species for ebony, marbling and graining, printed oil cloth and vinyl for leather, varnished brass and tin for gold and silver, horn or celluloid for tortoiseshell etc.

– Treatment techniques and the use of imitation materials to restore banned materials such as tortoiseshell and ivory.

– Development of new imitation materials and techniques: 3D scanning technology, plastics and metals for 3D printing, computerised woodcarving.

– History of imitation materials: cellulose nitrate, Bakelite, high pressure laminates in furniture and interior design.

– Art history and sociology of material imitation: faux bamboo, gilders compo, papier-mâché.

In addition to the 20-minute presentations we also welcome flash talks of no more than 5 minutes, and posters. Please submit your 300-word abstract to info@ebenist.org. Abstracts are accepted until May 1st 2016. Successful applicants will be required to submit the full text and presentation by November 15th.