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Craftsmen add their expertise to Dressing Downton exhibition

Posted on 02/12/2015 by Judy Ross

As you marvel at the costumes in the Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times™ exhibition, take a moment to look at details of the displays in Biltmore House.

What? You haven’t notice the light boxes and display stands for the exhibition labels?

That’s probably because each piece was custom made by Biltmore’s Facility Services and carpentry crews, using their years of experience to craft these items specifically to blend into the beautiful surroundings.

Biltmore is fortunate to have craftsmen of all trades who develop invaluable knowledge of the house’s inner workings and take pride in matching their work to the exquisite level of detail found throughout Biltmore House.

To host the Dressing Downton™ exhibition required display stands for the costume labels, light boxes to house illumination, and bases for the mannequins. All pieces were made from red oak, then stained with a custom hand-mixed blend of two colors to provide the classic look found in the house’s woodwork.Downton costumes illuminated in the Banquet Hall

Because all of the pieces were made in-house by carpenters Benny Reed, Jason Pleva, and Larry Carver, they include special handcrafted elements. The display stands alone contain 11 pieces, with each piece being hand-milled, sanded, stained, and sealed with polyurethane.

The light boxes are adjustable to provide optimum light, and feature additional woodwork to conceal cords. Mannequin bases are designed to make the task of dusting easier for Biltmore’s housekeeping staff, and the feet on the display stands were modified so they could stand flush against the walls in Biltmore House.

But the crew’s work didn’t end with assembling the pieces. They also installed the lights within the light boxes and the display stands.

“We saved the estate money and made the pieces easier to set up and operate,” said Benny Reed, Lead Carpenter.

While the crew usually doesn’t take time to see their creations in use, this time they are pausing long enough to admire their work.

“We usually move straight on from one project to the next, but this time we’re all going to see the exhibition set up in Biltmore House. We’re going to see our project in place and appreciate our accomplishments,” said Bobby Wright, Construction Trades Manager.


Top and center: Downton costumes illuminated in the Banquet Hall.

Bottom: Members of Biltmore's Construction Trades team: Bobby Wright, Benny Reed, Larry Carver, Tim Hawkins, Willie Wolfe, Jason Pleva, Brandon Rice, Randy Ownsbey, Dewayne Williams, and Jimmy Davis. Not shown: Vince Helton.

Members of Biltmore's Construction Trades team

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