(315) 685-8534 — Skaneateles, New York

Our Team

Susan Blakney, CEO and Partner


Susan is a senior level paintings conservator, distinguished as Fellow in both the AIC (American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works) and the IIC (International Institute for Conservation). She received a B.A. in Studio Art from the University of Kentucky in 1969. After six years of apprenticeship, in London England in the private studio of IIC Fellow, William Fraser Lowe with a concentration in 17th c. Old Masters. Susan returned to America in 1975, to establish her private practice in the Town of Skaneateles, New York. In 1981, she incorporated her business as West Lake Conservators, Ltd. where she continues as Chief Conservator. Susan served as a director of the AIC sub group Conservators in Private Practice for three terms of two years each, and was Vice President of the CNY Conservation Guild. After Hurricane Katrina, Susan was selected by AIC to join a volunteer team surveying cultural damage along the Mississippi Coast for one week, Nov. 4, 2005, with the AASLH (American Association of State and Local History) team 4. This began her interest in “Disaster Recovery” and after returning from Mississippi, Susan organized and hosted a workshop “Recovery of Wet Materials Following a Disaster,” presented by Barbara Moore and MJ Davis, with Gary Albright and Susan Blakney in December 2005. The workshop was attended by all staff and 18 participants nationwide.

In 2007 she was selected as one of 61 volunteer conservators nationwide to be trained as rapid responders on an American Institute for Conservation’s Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT), now known as the National Heritage Responders (NHR). In 2010 she was deployed to Galveston Texas after Hurricane Ike and in 2010 she was deployed to Port Au Prince, Haiti with a team from the Smithsonian after their devastating earth quake.

Susan‘s contribution to the field of conservation include organizing and hosting more than 7 professional workshops, researching and testing lining systems in the early eighties, finding, testing and introducing new support materials adopted from industry, for easel sized to oversized murals, now used in practice nation-wide by many other conservators.

Margaret Sutton, Partner, Senior Paintings Conservator / Structure Specialist


Margie has been working with her sister Susan at the firm since 1975 and has specialized in the lining of paintings. She is a master at tear repair and removing deformations of canvas paintings, murals, and auxiliary supports. Since studying with Gustav Berger in the early 1980’s, she prefers the reliability of Beva but is always open to new ideas and the study of new adhesives. She has had her hand in the structural repair and linings of all of the paintings that have come through the lab since the late 1970’s, giving her perhaps more experience in this field than anyone else which she is willing to share with one on one training. She keeps abreast with current trends in conservation through her attendance at annual conservation related conferences and workshops.

John Sutton, Senior Conservator of Paintings and Frames

A Finger Lakes native, born in Rochester, earned BA in History and an MA in Education from the University of Rochester. In 1969, John was called to serve in the US Army. Returning home in 1971 he taught social studies to seventh and eighth graders. John joined West Lake in 1982. Conservation proved to be a good match after a stint refinishing antique boats at a local marina. John, now pursuing semi-retirement, studies the history, art history, land conservation and watersheds of the Finger Lakes and maintains a website with information on Finger Lakes Artists: Finger Lakes Regional Artists List

Michael Farrell, Business Manager


Bio coming soon.

Chiara Kuhns, Paintings Conservator


Chiara is an artist, an art historian, and a paintings and fresco conservator. She is an ardent advocate of the arts and believes in the importance of exposing, educating and preserving the primary sources of our world’s history. Born in Florence, Italy, Chiara has taken advantage of the resources that this “mecca” of the art world has to offer. In Florence, she received a BA in Art History and completed a dual Masters degree in Museology and Conservation of Paintings and Frescoes. In 2002 Chiara taught a course on “The History and Art History of Florence” at Gonzaga University in Florence. Chiara has served on conservation teams in Florence, New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. In 1999 she joined the team at West Lake Conservators in Skaneateles. She has been a dynamic member of West Lake Conservators, assisting with the organization and hosting of workshops. She is a liaison to our colleagues in Italy, and our resident expert on Italian Renaissance and European paintings.

Moya Dumville, Paper Conservator


Moya obtained her Master’s Degree in Art Conservation from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and studied chemistry and art history at Dalhousie University and the University of Prince Edward Island. She has worked at Library and Archives Canada in Gatineau, Quebec; interned at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA and worked at the New Brunswick Museum on an award-winning conservation project on a collection of oversized preparatory drawings. Moya joined West Lake Conservators in 2014 as our paper conservator. She also works with local genealogical groups and heritage societies, delivering workshops and presentations, and has presented on her conservation work at the Canadian Association for Conservation of Cultural Property, and the American Institute for Conservation annual conferences.

Luisa Casella, Photographs Conservator


Luisa joined West Lake Conservators in 2013 having a comprehensive background in conservation. She trained in conservation at the Instituto Politénico de Tomar, in Portugal. She worked for eight years at Luis Pavão Limitada, the leading Photograph Conservation company in Portugal, serving museums, archives, and cultural institutions. In 2005 Luisa was awarded the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation at George Eastman House and the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, New York. She designed and implemented an online resource for photograph characterization and conservation, which was awarded a National Leadership Grant for Museums from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In 2007 Luisa was awarded the first Research Scholarship in Photograph Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Following this post, Luisa worked as Photograph Conservator at Harry Ransom Center in the University of Texas at Austin. Luisa specializes in the conservation of photographs, with particular interest in advocacy for photograph preservation and community outreach. She offers our clients conservation treatments for photographs of any period, as well as disaster planning and emergency response protocols, environmental preservation monitoring, and collection surveys. Luisa has been distinguished by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC)  as a  Professional Associate.

Theodore Solum, Frame Conservator


Ted received a degree in Liberal Arts from the City of New York Graduate Center Baccalaureate Program in 1982. He has 16 years of experience in many aspects of conservation. Employed over this time by seven conservation firms, he has worked throughout the United States on mural and decorative painting projects. He is a native of Skaneateles and began his training at West Lake in 1998 on easel paintings. Ted is responsible for photographic documentation, preservation framing, and frame restoration. Outside of West Lake; Ted is an accomplished photographer of the Finger Lakes region.

Regina Middleton, Textile Conservator


Regina joined West Lake in 1994 as a technician on a large textile project and has stayed on to develop a variety of textile conservation and framing skills. Besides textile treatments, she also assists our painting and paper conservation clients with frame selections. Her formal training was in fine arts and textile design, graduating from Dean Jr. College and The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. She has a keen interest in a wide variety of fiber related arts and crafts. She is also an active volunteer assisting in the management of the John D. Barrow Art Gallery here in Skaneateles. She enjoys presenting textile conservation talks to a variety of historical societies, antique clubs and fiber guilds. She continues to educate herself through workshops, conferences and classes. She is currently involved in learning to appraise quilts through the American Quilt Society, in Kentucky.

Abbott Nixon, Technician/Advanced Intern


Abbott completed her education in organic chemistry and art history in 2010 with a degree from SUNY Fredonia and has been gaining as much experience as possible since. In the spring of 2011, she started her first internship at ConserArt in Williamsville, New York, and spent the summer of 2011 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Indiana working with outdoor sculptures. Her prior experience as West Lake won her an advanced internship at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont working on a 1902 Dentzel Carousel horse. Abbott rejoined West Lake Conservators with a full-time position in January of 2014, and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Critical Museum Studies at SUNY Buffalo.

Raphael Shea, Technician/Intern


Raphael comes from an extensive product design, illustration, and carpentry background and is reinventing himself as an art conservator. Currently, Raphael is completing two years of chemistry and gaining conservation experience through an internship here at West Lake, to fulfill pre-program requirements needed for graduate school application. Raphael is also a painter and a sculptor, and he spends much of his free time making wine & cider, and riding his mountain bike and hiking the diverse trails of the Finger Lakes he calls home.