Today we’d like to introduce you to Camille Breeze.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Camille. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I discovered the field of art conservation as an undergraduate at Oberlin College. The combination of hands-on work, research and writing really appealed to me, especially when applied to historic preservation. Textiles became my specialty after I spent two summers working for a small textile conservation studio near my home town in NY. I didn’t know it at the time, but the company philosophy, wonderful working environment, and beautiful surroundings would become the model for my own company ten years later. I completed my Masters at the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for six years as a textile conservator in Manhattan. In 1998, I moved to Massachusetts to work in a museum conservation lab, but was not challenged enough by the job. So the week I turned 30, I opened my private textile conservation firm called Museum Textile Services. As the company grew and I began to employ other people, I made conscious choices that would make Museum Textile Services stand out among my competitors. I openly share our research and technical information with colleagues and the public, through our blog, lectures, and professional publications. Teaching is at the core of my company, whether through our internship certification program, hands-on workshops for museum staff, or the advanced classes I teach every year at the International Preservation Studies Center. Our passion for our work is clear to our clients, and they tell us all the time how happy they are to have found us. Today, I am as proud of the company I have built as I am of the thousands of historical artifacts my staff and I have conserved.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I was able to start my company with the financial and emotional support of my ex-husband. When we went our separate ways a couple of years later, I struggled to maintain my home and support myself. I realized I needed another job, but I wasn’t ready to give up on Museum Textile Services. I was lucky enough to be hired part-time by the New England Museum Association. What I looked upon initially as a sign of defeat became a key to my eventual success. The administrative skills I learned on the job were invaluable, and I gained an insider’s understanding of how museums are managed and run. Most importantly, I got to know scores of colleagues who would eventually become my clients, students, and confidants. I remain active in NEMA as a committee member and speaker, and we never miss their annual conference where we get face time with our client base.
Please tell us about Museum Textile Services.
Art conservators specialize by medium–they choose to work primarily with architecture, paintings, book and paper, for example. As a textile conservator, I specialize in anything made of fiber and fabric. This ranges from enormous flags flown from tall ships to tiny embroidered baptismal caps worn by presidents; from ancient Peruvian mummy bundles to meticulous colonial schoolgirl embroideries. Because our client base is wide-ranging, the artifacts we see is likewise very diverse. We work on single items or large collections belonging to anyone from an avid collector or owner of an heirloom, to a museum, branch of the military, or government agencies such as the National Park Service.
Everyone who works for Museum Textile Services has a favorite region of the world, or time period, or technique. But the best part about being in private practice is that we never know what will walk through our doors. In the past twenty-five years, I’ve published on conservation of European tapestries, archaeological textiles, American quilts, Tibetan thangkas, Civil War flags, Samurai armor, ancient Peruvian hats, and grass wall coverings. I never know when a challenging project will turn into an innovation that I can share with my colleagues or the general public.
While my academic specialty coming out of graduate school was pre-Columbian textiles from the Andes, I did not see many working in private practice. So thirteen years ago, I started the Ancient Peruvian Textiles Workshop, which brought textile specialists from all over the world to Lima to learn side by side with emerging Peruvian archaeologists and conservators.
The workshop ran for seven years until I could no longer afford to be away from work for three weeks every January. I still travel to Lima every year and am currently writing a chapter in a book about conservation and research at Huaca Malena, the archaeological site where my students and I worked. If I worked for a museum, I could support a project like this through grants, or build it into my budget. As an independent consultant, I instead have to find a way to continue my philanthropic interests without negatively impacting our bottom line. We have learned that outreach and marketing are creative ways to share our stories and our passion, which comes back around to us in the form of more clients and more teaching opportunities.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I have moved my company six times in 18 years. While we’ve stayed in the Andover area, each time we outgrew a work space we’ve had to spend time and energy adapting to a new facility. I wish I had had the courage to borrow money and purchase a spacious building that we could have customized to meet our needs. Owning is one of my goals for the next 5 years or so. We love the man who owns our current building, but we’ve got some landlord horror stories from our older spaces.
- A $150 deposit is required for us to work up an estimate for treatment of your textile.
- Website: www.museumtextiles.com
- Phone: 978-474-9200
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @museumtextiles
- Facebook: facebook.com/museumtextiles
- Twitter: @museumtextiles