After much consideration and a LOT of discussion, I recently decided to hand make some buckram costume mounts for an upcoming touring exhibition of swimwear called ‘Beauty and the Beach’. This exhibition will be on display at the new Beecroft Art Gallery this summer so stay tuned for more details!
Hand making 10 custom fit bathing suit mounts will not be the easiest or the quickest task I have ever undertaken, but I am hoping it will be one of the most rewarding. As well as being shaped specifically to each garment, buckram mounts are very cheap to make which means museums with small budgets can still indulge in custom-made mannequins.
Costume mounting is a form of preventative conservation to ensure that mounted garments on display are properly supported and protected from any unnecessary strain. In most cases we would buy a generic mannequin or bust figure that we pad with polyester wadding to create the most suitable size and shape for the garment.
In order to save money and try something slightly more creative, I decided to make buckram mounts by hand. These types of mounts will enable me to display the garments we are exhibiting on totally invisible figures. This form of mounting allows you to create the illusion that the items of clothing are simply floating in the case.
I was very generously taught how to make these buckram mounts at the V&A museum where they make these figures on a regular basis.
The process of making buckram is very similar to papier mâché but instead of using paper you use squares of linen scrim. To protect the bust or mannequin you are using as a base, you must entirely cover the bust figure in cling film…this sounds easier than it is!
Regardless of how irregular and untidy this layer of cling film will inevitably be, if every inch of the mannequin beneath is covered and protected it really doesn’t matter how awful it looks!
The paste I am using is made from wheat starch powder that is mixed and heated with water. This is the glue that holds all the strips of linen scrim together and sets to form a really hard but flexible figure.
Once your paste is ready and your squares of scrim are to hand, cover the squares of fabric in the paste as you go. Ensure the fabric is saturated as this guarantees all the scrim squares are tightly held together once the form dries.
Simply start layering the squares of linen scrim onto the bust in different directions so each edge layers up with another square.
You will need to cut all the squares of linen scrim up by hand, as it usually comes on a large roll. Do not underestimate the time and manpower it will take to cut up enough squares of fabric to make 10 figures!
Each figure will need 3 layers of buckram and each layer takes about 2 days to dry. It is a time consuming process but the results will be worth it… I hope!
Next time I will introduce phase 2 of the process, which will involve cutting the dried buckram mount off the bust figure… prepare to flex those muscles!