Nicola Walker ACR: Celebrating 20 years of Icon Accreditation with a conservation inspired hat

Icon member Nicola Walker ACR reflects on her process of making a conservation inspired hat in honour of 20 years of Icon Accreditation.

24 Aug 2020

I was so looking forward to celebrating 20 years of Icon Accreditation with a summer garden party and of course wearing the essential hat! But with the Coronavirus lockdown and virtual meet ups, the garden party was sadly cancelled, so what better way to salute this momentous milestone than to parade our hats via the annual Icon ACR Conference.

Lockdown has meant different things to all of us - whether working from home, home schooling, being on furlough, reflecting on past successes or future plans - and for many it’s been a time of great creativity and learning new skills.  On top of watching training webinars and revisiting my CV, I’ve had fun foraging locally - dandelion cake, pineapple weed biscuits, blackberry ice cream and rose bay willow herb syrup - and turned my hand to re-upholstering my dining chairs, so creating a paper conservation inspired hat was an enjoyable challenge.

I happen to possess a huge sun hat, so this was the basis for my paper creation - I covered the inside and outside of the brim and crown with white paper and made a set of paper roses (from YouTube instructions) using the same material. This traditional hat decoration was then supplemented with a selection of objects that reflected my career as a paper conservator - a swatch of Japanese papers, a scalpel, swab stick and small retouching brush, a tiny framed watercolour, a mounted print, and various bits and pieces from the family archive. The latter included a Victorian studio photograph, an illustrated letter from my father written to me c.1962, the birth certificate of a great aunt dated 1893, and a souvenir pack of photos from a trip to Amsterdam. Last, but not least, the hat was topped off with a newspaper article describing my conservation of a Van Gogh watercolour following a dramatic theft in Manchester.

Each and every part of the hat reminded me of a career surrounded by paper - from my favourite prints, drawings and watercolours, to the tools of the trade or the ephemera that tells of personal stories and lives lived. Even sticking it together and making all the elements stay up-right and in place, with Velcro tabs and carefully hidden Japanese paper hinges reminded me of the ingenuity and problem solving displayed in paper conservation and my years installing exhibitions.

Having gained accredited status via Fast Track in 2000, and then being on the Accreditation Committee for 8 years, I can testify to the professionalism of the accreditation process and all those involved in it - from the committee, to assessors, mentors and CPD readers - not forgetting the hard work and commitment of all those conservators who have been through the process and emerged triumphant. 

So Happy 20th Birthday Icon Accreditation! Here’s to future successes in accreditation for conservators of every discipline.


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