Fix (Or Clean) Anything: Art & Antiques

If you've got a precious commodity like an antique frame, a grandfather clock or a beloved childhood doll, this list will be of service.

Fine-art conservator Christyl Cusworth.
Fine-art conservator Christyl Cusworth repairs paintings, some priceless, some merely sentimental. “I think of them as people,” she says. “Some have gone through very rough lives.”
Photo by Michel Arnaud

Aladdin Lamp & Shade Company, Jersey City
Founded 64 years ago by Bill Hauptman, Aladdin Lamp & Shade is now run by his son, Mark, who repairs and restores virtually any lamp, candelabra or chandelier. He works in china, crystal, porcelain, silver, brass, nickel and other materials. Additionally, Aladdin will rewire old lighting, convert antique gas lamps to electrical and repair stained-glass lampshades. Aladdin also handles chandelier take-down and reinstallation. 201-434-2869.

The Brass Shop, Westfield
This old-fashioned, family-owned repair shop specializes in antique lamps and chandeliers. They repair, rewire and polish any light fixture. The pleasingly cluttered shop also has a wide selection of antique fixtures for sale. The 45-year-old business is such a throw-back, it doesn’t even have a website. 908-232-2161.

The Connoisseur Gallery, Bedminster
While in high school in Summit, Phil Fico took a job at a local frame shop, the first step toward a lifelong career in painting and antique-frame restoration. “I learned the craft through an apprenticeship with the gallery’s owner, who was trained in Italy,” says Fico. “I am Italian and he was Italian, so he said, ‘Let me teach you the business.’” Today, Fico runs Connoisseur Gallery with partner Tracy Pollock. About 90 percent of Fico’s work is for private collectors who understand that proper cleaning and restoration add to the value of fine art. “Generally, when a painting comes to me it needs help,” says Fico. Removing centuries-old varnishes and replacing them with new synthetic resins “can make the difference between night and day,” he says. The new varnishes, Fico adds, last forever. “It’s like a plastic bag in the ocean; it’ll will never break down. But in this case, that’s a good thing.” 908-375-8385.

Cusworth Conservation, Lambertville
Fine-art conservator Christyl Cusworth meticulously restores damaged paintings, whether they have been torn, water damaged or severely faded. “I’m a little bit of an art historian, a little bit of a chemist,” she says. Certified by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Cusworth has an impressive client list that includes museums, galleries, artists and collectors. “This is very time-consuming work,” she says. “I’m going to have your painting for three to six months. Whether it’s worth $5 or $500,000, it has to be perfect.” 609-397-5541.

Doll Dr. Kathleen & Michael’s Clocks, Marlboro
Kathleen Robbiani calls herself a “dollologist” and refers to the dolls she repairs as her “babies.” Her husband, Michael, fixes heirloom clocks; he calls them his “patients.” Kathleen teaches doll restoration and is doll doctor to the Toy Museum of NY, for which she once restored an 1862 French walker-talker. Michael, a certified clockmaker, has restored clocks dating back to 1790 and is an authorized service technician for Howard Miller, Ridgeway and Sligh clocks. 732-462-3589.

Doll Repair by Karen O’Shea, Marlton
Karen O’Shea has been fixing dolls, dollhouses and teddy bears since the 1970s. Her projects have included 19th-century bisque heads, 1930s composite dolls, 1950s rubber-and-cloth dolls, 1970s Barbies, and present-day American Girl dolls. O’Shea taught herself the precision skills needed to repair cracks, repaint facial flaws, rebuild eyes, restore hair, restring arms and sew period clothing—all while maintaining the doll’s original integrity. “If you repaint the whole doll, you’ve basically destroyed it,” she says. 856-983-0368.

Guidolume Furniture & Clock Center, East Hanover
Guidolume Furniture & Clock Center has been fixing clocks of all makes and size for the past 63 years. They work with pieces “no one else does,” says owner, Guido Boretti. Grandfather clocks—including those made by Herschede, Howard Miller and Sligh—are a specialty. Guidolume also maintains clocks at institutions around New Jersey, including Seton Hall and the Denville Public Library. 973-887-1723.

Nechamkin Silver Studios, Andover
Liza Nechamkin-Glasser fields all types of requests, from fixing a broken church chalice to refurbishing trophies, jewelry and place settings. Formerly a silversmith for Tiffany & Co., Glasser specializes in restoration, replication and replating, and is experienced in rare techniques such as repoussé—hammering designs into the reverse side of malleable metals—and chasing, which indents designs into the surface. 973-786-0013.

Shades of Soho, Glen Rock
Lighting boutique Shades of Soho designs one-of-a-kind products and repairs all kinds of lamps and fixtures. “If it takes electricity and has an incandescent bulb, I can fix it,” says owner Bryan Kule. During his 21 years in the business, Kule has restored antique chandeliers from the early 1900s and refurbished all types of family heirlooms; he even makes house calls. Kule learned his craft from veterans who were present at the birth of the lighting industry. 201-785-7646.

Turul Book Bindery, Wharton
Turul Bookbindery traces its origins to 1932 in Hungary. “We try to do repairs the way they would have done it in the book’s time period,” says Michael Rahill, owner Margit’s son, who has restored bibles dating to the 1600s. The shop mostly restores one-of-a-kind books with sentimental value, where a quick fix with glue is not an option. “We never just do adhesive, because that’s like making a paperback-style book inside a hardcover; that never lasts.” 973-361-2810.

Weston Gallery, Manasquan
Tucked in the back of the fine-art gallery he runs with his wife, Kathy, Englishman Stephen Weston painstakingly refurbishes antique gilt frames, oil paintings and porcelain. As an apprentice with U.K.-based Royal Worcester, Weston learned all areas of porcelain work; he has helped design and produce more than 150 Fabergé eggs. Weston, also a fine artist, has revived works from masters including Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall, but says working on everyday sentimental pieces is equally gratifying. “It’s an art not a lot of people do anymore,” Weston says. While not all the projects are priceless, “they bring a lot of happy memories.” 732-292-1664.

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