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Fosshape to the Rescue

Much of our work revolves around making sure objects look their best while on display. Frequently this involves creating support forms or mounts tailored to each textile. New materials are constantly being added to our mount making repertoire and one of the newcomers is Fosshape®, a thermoplastic polymer resin.  

(Left) An undressed Fosshape® form in the lab. (Right) Installation view of Catch a Falling Star ensemble (hat, coat, pair of spats) from the series of Aurora Borealis, 2002, by Jorie Johnson (American, b. 1954), at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2014. © Jorie Johnson. Image © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

Fosshape® in its raw state looks much like polyester fleece and is available in three forms: 300, 600, and 600D, which differ in weight, thickness, and degree of felting or crosslinking of the fibers.  When steamed, Fosshape® shrinks and will take the shape of any inner support form.  It gives conservators the ability to make tailor-made mannequins and accessory supports in a timely manner.  

From top, Fosshape® 600D, 300, and 600.

In November 2013, the Conservation Center of the Asian Art Museum hosted a workshop, as part of the North American Textile Conservation Conference (NATCC).  Shelly Uhlir, Mountmaker/Exhibition Specialist in the Conservation Department at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution (NMAI), shared her knowledge and skills working with Fosshape®.  Since the NATCC workshop, the textile conservation laboratory at the Asian has had several occasions to experiment with the material and make use of its versatile nature to help support objects going on display.

Shelly Uhlir demonstrating forming heads and hat mounts during the NATCC Fosshape® Workshop.

As Fosshape® is straightforward to cut and stitch in both its raw and hardened states, it is easy to use to create supportive, but minimally obtrusive, mounts.  It can be used to create dress forms, as in the Jorie Johnson felt textiles currently on view in the Japan Gallery on the Asian’s second floor.    

(Left) An undressed Fosshape® form in the lab. (Right) Installation view of Sunset Over Uji River (Yuyake Dama), 2013, by Jorie Johnson (American, b. 1954), at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2014. © Jorie Johnson. Image © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.

The material can also cover and camouflage forms as in the case of this baggy, felt-covered, male torso that arrived at the museum as part of a traveling exhibition.  Our Exhibition Designer requested a cleaner line than the ill-fitting felt provided.  Without altering the mannequin, a Fosshape® neck cap was created to cover the felt.   

The felt-covered mannequin before being tailored.
Creating the neck cap for the mannequin.

A piece of Fosshape® 300 was roughly cut to size and trimmed along the neck edges and upper shoulders.  Draping this form over the upper torso, it was steamed to size.  In its partially steamed state, it is possible to compare the smooth form-fitting left side with the unfinished slightly-baggy right.   

The completed neck and torso cap.

The fitted neck cap was trimmed and covered with a black knit display fabric offering a more polished appearance. The dress form can currently be viewed supporting the tunic of King Abdulaziz Al Saud in Roads of Arabia.
There are numerous applications for Fosshape®, and several more mounts can be found throughout the galleries. With its inherent advantages of chemical stability, ease of use, and accessibility, Fosshape® is sure to be a conservation staple for years to come.

To Read More:

Amneus, C., and M. Miles. 2012. “A Method for Invisibly Mounting Costume using Fosshape” in Journal of the American Institution for Conservation (JAIC) 2012, Volume 51, Number 1, pp 3-14. ISSN 0197-1360. Maney Publishing, Hanover, PA. (accessed 11/10/2014)


Fosshape® 300, 600, and 600D
Wonderflex World
40 Dudley Road
Brentwood, NH 03833

Fosshape® and Ethafoam
University Products Inc.
517 Main Street
Holyoke, MA 01040

Categories: Conservation, Textile Laboratory
Regions: Asian America, China, Japan, Korea, South Asia, Southeast Asia, The Diaspora, The Himalayas & Tibetan Buddhist World, The Persian World & West Asia

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