In conversation with Plowden and Smith

By Camilla Hughes-Hunt
September 09, 2021 11:44am

For clients looking to get works of a considerable value restored, it’s clearly important to enlist the very best restorers and conservation specialists that are used to restoring such works on a regular basis. We recently spoke with specialists in the field, Plowden and Smith, to find out a little more about the process of restoring such works and to hear more about the works that they’ve restored recently.

Plowden & Smith are a large multi-disciplinary conservation and restoration studio based in Mitcham, South London. Their specialist restoration departments include Furniture, Paintings, Paper, Contemporary Art, Sculpture, Ceramics, Stone, Metal, Gilded, and Decorative Surfaces; as well as offering bespoke picture framing and object mounting services. Much like at Queen’s, their clients include private individuals, museums, galleries, fine art shippers, and auction houses.

To find out a little more, we asked a few questions. First up;

What process do you take when restoring a client’s work? Do clients ever ask you to get creative (brightening the sky, making facial features smaller, etc)?

All our painting restoration treatments are created around the specific requirements of each individual painting and are preceded by discreet testing. As no two paintings are the same, it could be said that no two painting restoration treatments are ever really the same. That said, regardless of the specific treatment being carried out, our painting conservators adhere to industry-recognised guidelines laid down by the European Confederation of Conservator-Restorers’ Organisations (E.C.C.O.) Our team works in a way that preserves the artist’s original intent, which is of critical importance, particularly when treating a work by a contemporary or living artist. Sometimes clients do want us to make historic items look brand new, for instance by completely re-gilding a piece of furniture. When the gilding is original and has a nice mellow look, we suggest they avoid regilding as it could potentially devalue the piece.

If you could only select one piece that you’ve restored recently, which would be your favourite?

Over the past few years, we have restored several bronze, Marc Quinn, Sphinx (Caryatid) editions, which was certainly enjoyable. The works are in a variety of finishes and typically require surface cleaning and retouching of minor abrasions. Although it’s always important to use an experienced art handler, such as Queen’s, to move such items, when dealing with valuable artworks or objects that are intrinsically more at risk (because of the design, materials, or methods of construction) this becomes even more important.

With sustainability continuing to be a hot topic (and rightly so!), how has Plowden and Smith adapted to become more sustainable?

Sustainability is certainly a huge topic for the art world, and as members of the Gallery Climate Coalition, one we take seriously. One of the great things about moving to our new state-of-the-art premises at the end of 2018, was the opportunity it gave us to operate in a far more sustainable way than if we had remained in our previous 19th Century building. For example, our new studios are lit by fully dimmable, low energy colour-corrected LED lighting; specialist equipment in individual departments also feature low energy colour-corrected LED lighting, and we use motion sensors throughout the building to ensure lights are only ever on when they are needed.

However, our bricks-and-mortar studio is only one aspect of operating more sustainably. Where possible, we source materials from sustainable and local sources; and over the years we have made various changes to help us reduce our company carbon footprint: using bamboo swab sticks as opposed to plastic swab sticks; starting to work with carbon-neutral delivery companies, and we are also currently trialing recyclable nitrile gloves.

For more information about Plowden & Smith’s restoration, picture framing and independent condition reporting services, please visit

If you require assistance with shipping, installing or storing your art? Your Queen’s contact remains at your disposal. Alternatively, you can contact the expert team at and we’d be happy to assist.

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