When selecting a specialisation for her master’s in conservation, Céline Bonnot-Diconne made a decision to connect it with her other academic passion – archaeology – and chose to work with leather. She is particularly interested in the personal effects, so often made from animal skins, of humans who lived long ago. “No one was interested in the little leather shoe,” she tells us, “but I thought it was fascinating.” Bonnot-Diconne’s Grenoble workshop restores and conserves historical objects and leather art for France’s many museums including gilt leather, archaeological and ethnographic leather, and upholstery. Each type of leather requires its own approach and specific skills.Read the full interview
There’s no routine in our work or our workshop. Every object is different, every object comes with its own story – a wall decoration from a castle or a sandal that’s been buried for 800 years – and we have to adapt and discover each process.What inspires you?
I’m inspired by research. It’s vital that my work to restore an object does not reinterpret what it was meant to be used for and so I must research historical manufacturing techniques to understand how an object was created; it’s something I love.
Our first step is always cleaning, which is time-consuming. Although I still often use cotton swabs and cloths, we can now sometimes use modern techniques to speed up and improve our process. I recently used a laser to clean a 17th century altar frontal.Can you reveal a little known fact about leather restoration?
Before wallpapers were used for wall coverings, walls were covered in leather. These were real works of art – painted and gilded. France had a long tradition of decorative leathers, which we also restore at the workshop.