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Thursday, May 31 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Objects) Loss Compensation on Ceramics using Photogrammetry, Digital Modeling and 3D Printing

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This paper will describe some tools for producing detailed, 3D printed restorations for ceramics that may also be applicable to other areas of conservation. Photogrammetry is a 3D imaging process that is relatively easy to do with standard photography equipment in the conservation lab, provided one has a computer with a sufficient processing capability. Agisoft PhotoScan was used to create three dimensional mesh models of several different ceramics that were in need of restoration. The project involved experimentation with available 3D modeling and sculpting programs. Autodesk Meshmixer, a free software system, was selected to digitally ”sculpt” and process the meshes for a 3D print in resin. The finished resin parts were then easily attached to the body of the ceramic and painted using conventional methods. The ceramics in this study include a small Meissen porcelain with a missing right hand and eyeglass lens, a 12th century Persian ceramic with a missing handle, and an 18th century English delftware posset pot lacking sculptural elements on the lid. The use of 3D printed parts resolved a variety of problems commonly found in ceramic restoration, such as complex and simple modeling, shiny glazed surfaces, achieving fine detail on very small elements, mirroring of meshes to create a right hand from a digital model of the left, and the need for precise joins on complex break edges. While the learning curve for using these programs is steep, familiarity makes the operator more efficient, and there are a number of advantages to printing these restorations instead of using conventional techniques. First of all, handling of the artifact is dramatically reduced, an important safety factor. Conventional modeling and casting of very small detailed parts, such as a missing porcelain hand, is challenging for many, and may require some creative interpretation by the conservator. However, with digital models, it is possible to provide a more “authentic” restoration. For example, a missing left hand can be created and articulated from a digital mesh model of the right hand. Thus, the restored right hand, as a mirror image of the original left hand, could be considered a closer iteration of the artist’s intent. It is also very easy to create a digital mesh of the “stump” or break edges of the ceramic and use this to make a nearly perfect match in the printed restoration. One practical and timesaving advantage is that much of the imaging and printing work can be subcontracted to volunteers, students or contractors who have specialized digital skills. Sharing the highly accurate digital models based on laser scanning or photogrammetry will also make similar examples by the same artist or workshop easier to share, either for the purpose of loss compensation or study. The digital files are also available for future research. Finally, the use of 3D digital models allows for experimentation that is helpful in discussing positioning and articulation of restorations with curators. The techniques discussed here are likely to have applications beyond ceramic restoration.

avatar for Kathleen Garland-[Fellow]

Kathleen Garland-[Fellow]

Conservator, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Kathleen M. Garland received her BA in Art History from Brown University, and her MA in Art Conservation from the State University of New York, Cooperstown. She completed her internship in the Sculpture Conservation Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. From 1986-89... Read More →
avatar for Stephanie Spence

Stephanie Spence

Conservation Fellow, Toledo Museum of Art
Stephanie Spence received her M.A. and Certificate of Advanced Study from the Art Conservation Program at Buffalo State College, State University of New York where she specialized in objects conservation, with interests in Asian lacquer and metals. Stephanie received her B.A. in Art... Read More →


R. Bruce North

Conservation Department Volunteer, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
R. Bruce North received his BS in Ocean Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology and his MS in Civil Engineering from the University of Houston. He retired from a career in Structural Engineering and Project Management and is currently providing volunteer assistance to the... Read More →

Thursday May 31, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom B Marriott Marquis Houston
  6. Specialty Session, Objects