Restoring Frescoes : a French Art

Back in my Design school days, I remember the building like it was yesterday. It was a maze of creativity, with different departments spread across various floors. The upper level housed the Design enthusiasts, while downstairs on the ground floor, the Craft departments were buzzing with unknown wonders. Oh, the mysteries that lay beneath! For some reason, I never went to explore the enigmatic Crafts aisle. I know, it sounds a bit dramatic, but you get the drift.

Fast forward to a decade later, a good friend introduced me to the incredible fresco specialist Maïlys Girard, who studied in the same school. Can you believe it? We roamed different floors, possibly passing like ships in the night. But hey, the stars aligned, and we caught up over a wonderful phone call, where I had a gazillion questions about her about her extraordinary life, craft and of course some pro tips for the blog. And let me tell you, she's a true pro, having recently wrapped up the restoration of the frescoes at the Prince's Palace of Monaco. Yep, just that little detail!

A Fresco & Heritage Decoration Painter, what a job title! How did you get there?

Ever since I can remember, I have had a deep love for drawing and painting, which made it evident that this was the path I wanted to pursue in my studies. My fascination with various mural crafts and techniques grew during my time at ENSAAMA in Paris. It was there that I discovered the mesmerizing fresco technique, which immediately captivated me with its savoir-faire. After completing my studies in Architectural Decor in Paris, I furthered my expertise by enrolling at the Heritage Preservation School of Avignon, specializing in the restoration and preservation of historical decors.

How would you describe what you do and what do you love the most about it?

Working in collaboration with Art Historians, Architects, and Scientists, my primary responsibility involves seeking aesthetic and technical solutions to restore decors, aligning them with their original appearance, the client's desires, and my own artistic sensibilities. By blending a creative approach with a conservative perspective, I relish the opportunity to contribute to the renaissance of an original decor. My passion lies in bridging the gaps, unveiling its missing parts, and ultimately restoring it to its former glory.

Can you walk us through the steps of a project?

Each project commences with an in-depth study of the decors and the entire building. Numerous questions must be addressed: What materials were used to construct the walls? Are there any cracks or signs of capillary rise? Is there an underlying decor concealed beneath the surface? Furthermore, we delve into the specifics of the painting techniques and pigments employed. Answering these crucial questions is imperative as it helps us identify the appropriate techniques and materials for on-site work. Following this initial phase, depending on the project's requirements, we proceed with the conception of a scale model, a mock-up, and various samples before commencing the restoration process.

Do you have a memorable project to share with us?

Without a doubt, the recent restoration of the Prince's Palace of Monaco stands out as an exceptional project. I also cherish the opportunity I had to work on the drawings for an entirely new decor adorning the staircase of the XVII Hôtel de Montaigu in Avignon. Additionally, a special place in my heart will forever be reserved for my very first mural project undertaken at the City Hall of my beloved hometown.

Any insider tips to create a weathered wall?

There are numerous methods to achieve a decayed effect, and using a patina is an excellent choice for that faded look. All you require is lime paint (not plaster) and a variety of tools for application, such as natural sponges, wet and dry brushes, sprays, clothes, and sanding papers.

In addition to patinas, you can also intervene in the process when the coating is either wet or dry. When the coating is wet, projecting water onto it can create openings or drips on the wall. The visual outcome will depend on the manner in which you apply the water - whether you pour, throw, or spray it.

Furthermore, you can achieve crumbling layers by accelerating the drying process using a heat gun, for instance. However, it is crucial to bear in mind that predicting the results of these methods can be challenging, and the outcome often comes as a delightful surprise.

And my final question: what furniture would you use to decorate an old crumbling wall?

A mirror, a vase with dried flowers, ceramics, and contemporary furnitures!

Visit Maïlys instagram @mg.artmural