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The conservation of Burmese lacquerware

The hsun-ok (a lacquer container for offerings to the Buddha) had been broken into five pieces and significant areas of modelled and moulded decoration had been lost. It was treated using traditional Oriental techniques and materials based on urushi mixtures. An adhesive mixture with rice flour paste was used to refix detached parts and stabilize flaking surfaces. A paste made of teak-wood saw dust, urushi and rice flour was used to restore missing areas of thick modelling. A ground-clay paste was used as a final undercoating and to restore missing areas of applied decoration. The restored areas were painted with urushi mixed with red iron oxide, which acted as a size for the gilt finish.

Burmese lacquerware is a strong and durable material but normal use and the processes of ageing can cause a variety of problems. The conservator's aim is to stabilize the object and, where desirable, return the object to as near its original appearance whilst retaining any significant patination. Objects are cleaned with distilled water or appropriate organic solvents. Repairs may be carried out using traditional lacquer-based materials or modern synthetics. The intention is to reinforce damaged areas and restore the appearance of the object. The object is finished so that the repairs and restorations are not obvious but can be detected on close examination.