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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Reconstructing a Japanese Doll’s Tea Set

by Kelly Rectenwald, Associate Objects Conservator

12/28/2023

CAMConservation , objects conservation , tea set , Japan , Japanese Art , Miss Mariko Okinawa

These tiny ceramic fragments are part of a Japanese doll’s tea set. I am working on putting these pieces back together so that they can be displayed with their doll in the future. The first step in this process is cleaning each of the fragments and dissolving the old, degraded adhesive holding together a few of the pieces. Next is puzzling out how many different objects there are and which fragments go with which object. Though it may be difficult to tell from the photo here, there are a total of four separate objects. I was able to find locations for all the fragments, including the very tiny pieces. In the photo of the reconstructed objects, it’s clear from the large gaps that we don’t have all the pieces. For the large areas of loss, we will use a conservation grade filler to fill in the spaces. Filling these losses not only helps the object look more complete, but it also stabilizes the object making it stronger and less likely to break again in the future.