Preserving Works on paper

Carolyn Frisa's name for her business, Works on Paper, is a perfect description of what she does. She works on paper as a conservator, conserving and restoring drawings, maps, watercolors, posters, prints, historic documents and parchment. She also works with historic wallpapers.

It's an unusual business, and it's even more unusual that someone as young as Carolyn runs it. At 31, she already has a decade of experience in the field.

"I'm young to be in this field. Most people don't discover it until later in life."

But like a lot of people with a lifelong passion, Carolyn found out about paper conservation at a young age.

Her grandfather lived in Washington, DC and was taking some paper to a conservator when she was staying with him. She went along and became fascinated by the field. At 15, she worked for a week with a conservator and was hooked.

"I took a lot of studio art classes in high school and art history in college." Add to that organic chemistry, and you have the foundation needed to pursue a degree in paper conservation.

There are only three conservation programs in the United States, but having spent her junior year of college in London, and loving it, Carolyn applied there to one of two paper conservation programs, and was accepted. There are only five to 10 students a year in any of these programs, and the field is highly specialized, she said.

After getting her Master of Arts degree in Paper Conservation from Camberwell College, she spent a year working at the Tate Britain Museum in London. From there she went to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA, one of the busiest facilities of its kind in the country.

"I spent six years there," she said, "and worked in an incredible variety of material. It gave me the confidence that I could handle whatever comes in the door at my own business."

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