Monday, October 29, 2012

The Totem Pole Is Visited By Artists

The finishing touches were starting to be applied to the Totem Pole this past weekend. Lots of consolidation work and a few more holes to fill.
Andrew and Totem Pole also got a visit from a group of children participating in a workshop at the Benaki Museum   The kids, and their parents, had the opportunity to learn about the Totem Pole from Andrew.  He explained a little bit about Aboriginal history, what the Totem Pole represented, and how he was fixing it.
The kids were able to watch Andrew at work and ask him any questions.
They also had an opportunity to come up close and see the Totem Pole from all angles.
After they visited the Totem Pole, the kids got together to build a Totem Pole of their own.
After each portion of their Totem Pole was assembled.
The kids got to present their Totem Pole and hung it next to the Chief's Crest Pole.  Everyone was very impressed.
Not only did we get a visit from the kids, but we also got a visit from Βασιλική Γεροκώστα a Greek visual artist here in Athens.  She was sketching some fantastic renditions of the Totem Pole in her sketch book.  You can check out some of her other art on her website here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What Goes In The Gaps

When repairing the holes in the Chief's Crest Pole, Andrew uses two different types of fillers.  The one above is an epoxy based filler.  The epoxy is used in areas that carry a big load and require a great deal of strength.
The other kind of filler he uses is a PH balanced glue filler.  The glue is used in smaller less structurally important areas.
Both of the fillers contain a mix of powders used to give the glue extra strength.
The epoxy filler also contains sawdust used to give it even more strength.  The sawdust used was brought over from Canada and is Red Cedar, the same type of wood that the Totem Pole was carved from.
Mixing the epoxy is very tricky work.  It's made up of two parts that must be mixed perfectly.  Even the temperature outside can affect the speed the epoxy will dry and how strong it will be when it dries.  It's very precis work that takes years of experience to perfect.
After the powder, sawdust, and epoxy are mixed, it must be used immediately   It takes only a short time for it to dry and becomes very difficult to work with.
The filler made from the PF balanced glue is a little more forgiving, since it doesn't dry as quickly, but it's not as strong as the epoxy.
When applying the epoxy, Andrew works very hard to mold it too the contours of the Totem Pole.  When it fully dries, about 24 hours after it's applied, he can carve it, but the idea is to apply it perfectly with as little carving as possible.
After the fillers dry, and any carving is done, Andrew can apply the consolidant and paint to these areas.  Once it's covered up it blends into the Totem Pole virtually flawlessly.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Did You Miss The Andrew Todd Lecture?

If you couldn't make it to the Andrew Todd Lecture at the Canadian Institute in Greece last week, don't despair   We've just posted the whole thing (in 6 parts) on You Tube.  You can watch the first part above, and check out the rest of the episodes on our You Tube channel.

Also, this is just a reminder that the Benaki museum is hosting a workshop this Saturday.  If you want a chance to learn a little bit about the Totem Pole and participate in some fun workshops make sure to stop by.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Consolidation, Visitors, and a Whales Head

While it looks like Andrew is simply painting the Totem Pole in this photos, there's a lot more going on.  Andrew is using something called a consolidant to repair the old paint as well.  The product does have pigment mixed in, but it's much more than that.  Consolidant protects the original paint on the Totem Pole by helping it bond to the wood and adding a layer of protection on top.  This technique allows the spaces where the paint is too damaged and had to be removed to be filled in with colour, as well as protects the original paint that remains.
If you haven't had time to visit Andrew at the Benaki museum, you might want to make arrangements soon.  He's only here till the end of the month (Here's some more information about visiting the Totem Pole).  Already hundreds of people have stopped by to say hello to Andrew and the Chief's Crest Pole.  Hopefully a few people have left with a better understanding of Canadian culture and history as well.
Some people have commented that the base of the Totem Pole seems like it's in really rough shape.  As you can see, Andrew has been doing some serious work here.  It's probably the most challenging part of the repair, with a great deal of detail missing on this side.
Fortunately the other side of the Totem Pole seems to be in better condition, and this gives Andrew many clues as to how the other side should look.  Andrew has even sketched the details from this side of the Totem Pole to help him work out how to fix the other side.
This Saturday (October 27th) the Benaki museum is putting on an educational program all about the Totem Pole:

Totem: a gift of friendship
Two unique visitors from the other side of the world are eager to reveal their secrets!
How will you reciprocate this gift?

If you want to be a part of this wonderful program click here.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Busy Friday for Andrew and The Chief's Crest Pole

 Yesterday was a really busy day for Andrew and the Chief's Crest Pole.
The progression on filling in the holes and damaged areas is moving along as usual.  Andrew has started to use epoxy to fill in the cracks along with the pieces of Red Cedar that he brought over from Canada.  Andrew tells me that after the epoxy is painted you'll hardly be able to see the epoxy at all.
A new mystery was uncovered recently in the blowhole of the whale.  It appears that there used to be a red stripe around the top of the blowhole that was painted over in white.  The problem is we're not really sure when it was painted over and why.  Andrew will have to do some research and some thinking to make his decision as to how to paint this portion of the Totem Pole.
The other big news was the removal of the fin from the whale.  There has been some speculation that the fin was in fact re-installed upside down at one point.  The decision seems to be that reversing the fin is the correct thing to do.
 Here's the first photo of the Totem Pole with the fin reversed.  At this point the fin is not permanently fixed as Andrew has more repair work to do before it can be permanently installed.
 Not only was there some monumental work done on the Totem Pole today, but we also had some special guests come to visit from the Lady Ambassadors and Ambassador Spouses in Athens.
 Andrew gave them a short lecture about the Chief's Crest Pole as well as Aboriginal culture.
It seems as if everybody had a really good time and learned a little bit about Canada's culture and art history.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lecture At The Canadian Institute In Greece

Last night Andrew Todd gave a very interesting lecture at the Canadian Institute in Greece. The topic of the lecture was on Andrew's specialty, the restoration of Canadian Aboriginal art, with a focus on Totem Poles.  Andrew went over such topics as Aboriginal culture, Totem Pole history, as well as giving some great examples of the challenges he's faced conserving these pieces of Canadian heritage.
After the lecture there was time to answer a few questions from the audience.
Then there was a short reception.
It was a very interesting lecture with a wonderful crowd in attendance   If you couldn't make it to the lecture yourself, make sure that you stop by the Benaki museum and say hello to Andrew, he'll be available regularly to answer any questions you might have.  Click here for his hours and more information about the events at the Benaki museum.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reminder Of Andrew Todd's Lecture At The CIG

This is just a reminder that tomorrow night, Andrew Todd will be giving a lecture at the Canadian Institute In Greece.  Here's more information about the lecture:

"The totem pole that has stood since 1975 in the gardens of the Residency of the Ambassador of Canada in Filothei is now undergoing restoration. The totem pole was built by the renowned First Nation artist Chief Tony Hunt and his relatives of Kwakwaka’waka ancestry in the 1960s. The conservator Andrew Todd from Bowen Island, BC is in Athens for the month of October working at the Benaki Museum under the sponsorship of the Canadian Embassy and generous donors to restore it to its former glory. On Wednesday, October 17th at 7:30 pm Mr. Todd will talk about this restoration project and the others he has participated in the Pacific northwest."

The lecture will take place on October 17th at 7:30 in the Canadian Institute's library.

The Canadian Institute is located at:

Dionysiou Aiginitou 7
GR-115 28 Athens

Click here for a map.

We hope to see you all there."

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Detailed Work Pays Off

At this point signs of how the Chief's Crest Pole is going to look is starting to become apparent.  The details that may have been lost or obscured are coming back to life in vivid colour.
Andrew is continuing to slowly and meticulously fill in the cracks with his collection of wood pieces sent to Greece from Canada.  After the pieces are securely filling the cracks, Andrew is ever so carefully carving them to match the contours of the Pole.  As more and more of this work gets done, the details of the Pole come out.
At the same time, Andrew has started to repair the paint.  He is both covering the areas where the cracks had once been, and also covering areas where the paint has chipped away completely.  The Pole is truly coming to life a little bit every day with these fixes.
Andrew has also started to fill in the areas near the base.  This, along with the top of the Pole, are the most damaged parts and require a great deal of filler and careful reconstruction.  Wherever possible Andrew is using wood to fill in the gaps, but later this week he plans to use some epoxy to fill in more of the holes that are too difficult to fill with pieces of wood.  Fortunately the Chief's Crest Pole, appears to be very solid and strong int he middle and these large outer repairs might be our biggest challenge.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Filling in Small Spaces

Repairing a piece, like the Chief's Crest Pole, is not as simple as re-painting it.  The first step is to clean out all of the dirt and debris from the cracks and crevasse   The second step, the one Andrew is facing now, is all about filling in the holes and cracks that appear once the Pole has been cleaned up.  This is where Andrew's skills as a woodcarver come into play.
After the cracks are free of any loose debris, Andrew pants on a thin layer of glue.  The glue is an acid free, PH balanced glue specially designed for restoration work.
He also applies a thin layer to a sliver of wood.  These slivers are cut from pieces that Andrew had flown in from Canada especially for this project.  The idea is to keep the wood as close to the original as possible and that even means collecting it from the same region that the Chief's Crest Pole was made.
Once the two pieces are covered in glue, Andrew carefully holds it in place until the glue sets.
At this point the wooden sliver can sit in place without falling out, but it is far from being ready for the next step.  For that, the glue must dry overnight.
Once the glue is totally dry, the next step is to carve this sliver down to match the area around it.
Here's a wonderful example of an area where Andrew as already carved his slivers down.  Not only has Andrew followed the contour of the frogs face, but he's also made sure to carve in the small details, like the frogs nose, into his replacement slivers.  This process is very detailed work, and with the dozens of cracks in the Pole, Andrew must work with great patience to make sure that all of the details remain in the Chief's Crest Pole.
While many of the cracks are small and narrow, there are also some larger areas of damage on the Pole as well.  Most notably are the base and top.  Andrew has already started to work out how he plans to fix these areas, including this new top that he's started to work on.
While working on repairing the cracks and crevasses Andrew has also started to experiment with colour.  There are many areas of the Pole that won't require any crack repairs, but will need a great deal of paint repair.  The goal of restoring this piece is to try to keep as much of the original colour as possible, and only re-paint when necessary   It's also important that where the Pole is re-painted that the colours match perfectly.  As you can see by the photo above the paint is chipped a great deal in some portions of the Pole.
Andrew has already started to re-paint some areas, and the results are fantastic and bright.  With just a little bit of paint, portions of the Chief's Crest Pole are really coming back to life.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Metal Base

As you can see from this photo, the Chief's Crest Pole has a bit of support in the back to help keep it standing.
The metal base consists of two small spikes in the back of the pole covered in some kind of plaster and attached to a tower in the back.
There is also a large metal base designed to keep the Chief's Crest Pole off of the ground and away from excess moisture.
I managed to find several sketches of this structure in the Embassy of Canada's archives.
It appears that there are the two spikes in the back, and one larger one in the base.  While this base provided much need support while it was up in the garden, it's now creating a bit of a problem in restoration. To repair the Pole properly it must be lying down, this creates a great deal of stress on the two bolts in the back, and made it much more difficult to rest on the work benches.  This base may also create problems when the Pole has to be moved later on.  There are several ideas about what can be done, and how this will affect the future of the Chief's Crest Pole.