This week I thought I would post an article about cleaning animal sculptures. This probably won’t be high on your list of priorities when you first acquire an animal sculpture. But dust and dirt will inevitably settle on the piece over time and sooner or later it will need cleaning. I actually get a lot of enquiries about this, which suggests a lot of you are unsure how to go about it. So without further ado, here’s a quick primer on cleaning animal sculptures.
For occasional dusting, all you need to do is gently tickle the dust off with a dry paintbrush. A large paintbrush (at least two inches wide) is good for getting into crevices. A smaller bristly paintbrush or toothbrush is useful for cleaning areas of fine detail.
When a more thorough cleaning is required, you’ll need your paintbrushes and a large sponge or a cushion you don’t mind getting dirty. This needs to be large enough for your animal sculpture to stand on. You’ll need to position this somewhere you can reach a sink or a large bowl of warm water.
Dip the brush into the water to dampen the bristles. Starting at the top of the piece and gently brush the surface in a circular fashion. Take it slowly and apply just enough to lift off any dust and dirt that has accumulated on the piece. Take particular care with any delicate or protruding parts. You don’t want to accidentally knock an ear off!
Keep dipping the brush in the water and continue to make your way down the body. You will see dusty water trickling downwards. Use the small brush for the eyes and ears and any other areas of fine or delicate detail. Take a moment to admire your work. The eyes, in particular, should look brighter and more life-like.
If you have a hairy animal sculpture, such as a warthog, its mane will need to be brushed through to remove any dirt and dust that may have collected. A large dry paint brush is best for this. Start at the roots and work your way gently down the hair.
One word of warning. Don’t use a wet cloth for cleaning, particularly if you have a matt black sculpture, such as a gorilla or badger. The black finish is created by smoke in the firing. Cleaning with a cloth can remove the black smoked finish, as it’s easy to apply too much pressure with a cloth. Just go over the piece gently with a damp paintbrush using the technique described above. Happy cleaning!