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Restoration lessons involve museum gel, storage

Laszlo Jajczay of Seattle Decorative Art Restoration treats each restoration project as an opportunity to learn. In his 20+ years of restoring fine objects, he's acquired quite a bit of knowledge.
Laszlo restoring a painting

Laszlo Jajczay, owner of Seattle Decorative Art Restoration, works on restoring a painting. (All photos courtesy Seattle Decorative Art Restoration)

There’s a lot to learn through experience, observing and learning from a pro, and listening to clients. If you ask Laszlo Jajczay, owner of Seattle Decorative Art Restoration, those three things are a recipe for successful restoration work, and not an a la carte menu.

Antique Trader sat down with Laszlo recently to ‘pick his brain.’ Below he shares valuable lessons he’s picked up with regard to the act and art of restoring objects. Furthermore, the items he restores is fine art, decorative art, and porcelain pottery.

Timeless Techniques

Antique Trader: What is one technique you use in your restoration work? Something people may not realize is part of the process? Why is it an important technique?

Laszlo Jajczay: There are some very difficult restorations on broken bronze objects when using welding techniques would destroy the patina of the piece. In cases like these, the reinforcement has to be built inside of the piece to support the broken parts. This is an important technique in order to save the original patina of a bronze object.

AT: What is one valuable piece of advice you took from your mentor, the late Robert Bernard Shaw? Working beside him and studying from him at the Carriage House Galleries, how is it helping you now?

LJ: Robert Bernard Shaw’s best advice to me was to put 100% effort into each restoration project to try to achieve the best outcome; regardless of the value of the piece. If the object to be restored is worth $50 or several thousand dollars, it does not make any difference to me. I handle them as if they were the same, each are like objects from a museum.

Preventing Damage

AT: What is the most common type of damage you see impacting items you restore?

Broken bronze figure

This bronze statue came to Seattle Decorative Art Restoration cracked and broken.

How can people avoid this from happening?

LJ: Breakage on porcelain pottery items is one of the most common damage I work with. People can prevent this by displaying their treasures in safe places, such as cabinets, and out of the reach of children and pets.

AT: What is the best bit of advice from a client about what they do to protect objects?

LJ: I have been told by some of my clients that using clear color museum gel under their fragile porcelain objects seems to be a good temporal way to keep the porcelain stable. Reducing the risk of breakage.

To Restore or Not to Restore?

AT: Is there anything you’ve been presented that is not salvageable through restoration and repair?

LJ: Often clients bring me severely damaged porcelain pottery items. Sometimes they have all the broken pieces — hundreds of small fragments in a bag. My first question to them before I start the process is: Does this object have sentimental value to you? If the answer is yes, I tell them it can be restored, but it is very time consuming and expensive. A good portion of the time the restoration is much more expensive than the value of the item, even in mint condition.

If they answer ‘no’ to my question, my honest advice is that it may not be worth the time and cost to restore the piece.

AT: What is one thing about the restoration process that continually surprises you?

LJ: I have been restoring a lot of antique paintings, so far this year I’ve done 19 restorations. Restoring antique paintings is like the world of surprises. Starting with the cleaning process, it surprises me to discover all the previous restorations and damages that were not visible before.

Advice to Live By

 After Laszlo provides his restoration touches, this figure now stands tall and secure.

After Laszlo provides his restoration touches, this figure now stands tall and secure.

AT: What is one piece of unique advice you have for protecting the various types of items you restore?

LJ: As I said, by keeping your porcelain pottery and marble objects in safe places for display is best. Paintings should not be kept in areas with high humidity or heat, and direct sunlight also will severely damage paintings.

Treasures will stay beautiful as far as you take care of them and keep them in a safe environment.

Finally, for more information, visit, email or call 206-313-0990.

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