Art restoration is the process of reconstructing a work of art to its original state or condition. Art restorers, also known as conservators, are in charge of this process. They use their mastery of art restoration techniques to ensure damaged artifacts regain their value. If you have a background in fine art and excellent practical skills, you could become a successful art restorer.
What Do Art Restorers Do?
The typical duties of art restorers include:
- Assess objects lined up for restoration to identify the extent of damage
- Determining the restoration or preservation technique to be used in repairing a given artefact
- Operating and maintaining a variety of art restoration equipment
- Advising curators and other museum workers on how to safely exhibit cultural materials
- Maintaining art restoration records
- Ensuring chemicals used to restore or clean artefacts are stored safely.
Art restorers typically work 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. Self-employed restorers often set their work hours.
Many art restores work from a laboratory or workshop. Others spend their work hours in museums, galleries and other historical sites.
The work can be physically demanding, as it may involve lifting heavy objects.
The annual income for art restorers or conservators is:
Level of Experience
£20,000 - £35,000.
Source: National Careers Service
So, what are the educational qualifications for joining this profession? First, you should earn a bachelor’s degree in any of the following fields:
- Fine art
- Conservation and restoration
- Ceramics and glass
- Textile technology
For more information on these courses, visit the Institute of Conservation.
You can then pursue a postgraduate qualification, which will allow you to specialize in restoring specific items, such as wall paintings or stained glass.
It is also possible to get started through a cultural and heritage venue operation apprenticeship program.
Since, many employers prefer art restorers with some relevant work experience, you can volunteer at a local museum. Visit the Museums Association for volunteering and internship opportunities.
To be an effective art restorer you should have:
- Strong artistic skills
- Practical skills
- Good technical skills
- A passion for art
- A high level of attention to detail
- Physical stamina
- The ability to read and understand scientific procedures
After gaining the required qualifications, you will need to gain more experience before you can be hired as a restorer or a conservator. As such, the best way forward is to look for a junior position – such as museum technician, and keep working until an opening for restorers is available.
However, if you wish to be self-employed, you can start an art restoration conservation and begin looking for clients.
To boost your credibility and career progression chances you can:
- Join professional associations, such as the British Association of Paintings Conservators-Restorers, the Institute of Conservation or the Guild of Master Craftsmen to network with other industry professionals, as well as gain access to seminars and conferences
- Gain professional accreditation though the Institute of Conservation’s Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers
- Pursue a master’s degree in restoration and conservation.
As a qualified art restorer you can find full-time employment opportunities in:
- Art galleries
- Heritage institutions
- Private conservation companies
With vast restoration or conservation experience, you can progress to become a curator, a senior position that manages museums and other organisations that store various artifacts.
From 2012 through 2020, the UK’s public and media industry will be thriving. According to the National Careers Service, the industry will create over 180,000 new jobs. Although only a small portion of this will go to art restorers, you can still expect to land a job after gaining the required experience. Importantly, put more focus on networking with other industry professionals so that you can get word on job openings that may not be advertised.
Image: David Stein & Co