I tend to watch a lot of shows focused around craftsmanship. This Old House scratches that mastery-level home renovation itch, and of course there are dozens of other remodeling and interior design shows to choose from, like perennial favorite Fixer Upper. I’ve been drooling over For The Love of Kitchens, a series that showcases the charmingly-crafted DeVol kitchen designs out of the UK. I also watch the amazing Garden Answer on YouTube for landscape & gardening inspo.
I didn’t realize there was yet another craftsmanship interest waiting to be discovered.
Julian Baumgartner is a fine art conservator and YouTuber with a whopping 1.65 million subscribers. His channel was just one of many that I discovered during the pandemic, and I’ll watch every video that he puts out.
The videos are relatively formulaic, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting—at least not yet. He’ll receive a painting in some state of disrepair, and begin the work of staunching the wounds. Many paintings need to be stabilized before any work can be done, which often involves facing the painting with washi kozo paper and a removable glue (oh boy, was that nerve wracking the first time I saw it!). Then it’s on to scraping off layers of canvas, flattening the painting on the heat/vaccuum table that he built himself (respect!), removing old varnish, filling voids, and retouching. Sometimes there are such grievous amounts of strange damage that Julian will have to construct a bespoke tool to correct a problem. It’s pretty impressive.
It’s a fascinating look at the craft, and Julian’s voice over as he works is both educational and entertaining. It’s also a little ASMR-esque, because the work is often so detailed and repetitive. Like many other craft-focused shows, this one is also highly satisfying; seeing the final transformation of the artwork from ragged to pristine is always surprising.
It was hard to pick out my favorite video, but the one above is a sound contender. It’s Part 1 of restoring an especially damaged painting believed to be from the 1400s. No pressure.