Friday, January 19, 2018

A Small Tear in a VW Poster

Happy New Year! We hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and are well rested and ready to send us lots of exciting projects to blog about! 

Our first post of the year is about an integral aspect of our restoration process that we have mentioned, but never focused on: burnishing folds and tears. Detailing small tears and folds is part of the bread and butter of the restoration side of our business and burnishing makes adding pigment back in much easier. 

The poster we're working on is a German VW poster. The client was only concerned about one tear in the background right next to "bergfreudig".


Yes, I know. The tear is so small that you can't even see it in this photo.

 In order to restore the tear, we first needed to prep it.


The tools we use for this are: a burnishing tool, Methylcellulose, a small paint brush, hollytex and a small iron. There are a lot of different kinds of burnishing tools, but I prefer a teflon one because I can shape the angles I need and can work without scratching the surface I'm working on. Methylcellulose is a chemical compound that we mix with water to form a  clear viscous solution that is a very, very mild adhesive. We use Methycellulose to soften paper fibers so that they can be burnished back down. Hollytex is a polyester fabric that we use in many areas of conservation, but for prep we use it to protect the poster from pressure or heat and in this case specifically from the heat of an iron.
 
From left to right: Methylcellulose, burnishing tool, paint brush, hollytex and a small iron.

Methylcellulose when mixed correctly is very viscous and often just hangs from the brush without dripping.
 When burnishing tears like this, I apply a small amount of Methylcellulose along the lines of the tear, then use my burnisher to smooth the tear flat. The Methylcellulose acts as a gentle moisturizer/adhesive and so generally most paper fibers are flattened back into place with the help of the burnisher.  



A thin line of Methycellulose applied along part of the tear. I don't know about you but I'm getting tired of typing Methylcellulose.


To burnish means to polish something by rubbing it. For prep we want to polish the paper fibers back into place.
 The heat from the iron also helps set the paper fibers and with the hollytex as a protective layer the iron also acts a burnisher.

I've found that a small travel iron gives me the most control.
 I have often explained prep as not being able to see a difference in the paper, but to feel it. This makes showing you photos a tad silly, but I do think that the tear does look a little bit flatter now. And more to the point, the surface of the poster felt smooth.


The point of prep before restoration is to create as flat a surface as possible so that we can then seamlessly add pigment back in.

That's not even all of my greys.

 And in this case I used a combination of Prisma colored pencils to restore the tear.



 At the end of the day we try to balance the wishes of our clients with best industry practices. Restoration using colored pencils or watercolors can sometimes be seen if you know what you're looking for, but they can also be reversed if necessary. And if we've done our job, you definitely have to know what you're looking for.

This photo was taken from about 6 inches away.


Still can't see the tear, but now it has been prepped and detailed!
Certain proprietary steps and procedures have been omitted. If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! Additional questions regarding other work or your pieces, please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone 818.882.1214.

Also, check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog. For daily photos and updates check out Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram: follow us on Twitter @postermount and Poster Mountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, LA Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Controlled Destruction

We don't often suggest (metaphorically) taking a work of art down to the studs, or in this case down to the substrate, but this 1904 Colorado Midland Railway advertisement was an exception. This post focuses on the preparation and stabilization of a very unusual project.

Work after our gelatin process and temporarily mounted to a board. 

While it might appear that the majority of this advertisement is intact, huge sections of the paper were completely rotten. You can see in the images below where the mold that was eating the paper is visible. Essentially, the majority of the black background was slowly flaking off.

The white area is where the mold had eaten away at the ink and if you touched it the top layer of paper would flake off.

Another example of an area where the paper was rotting away can be seen below. Almost all of the area above the figure is disintegrating due to the water damage. 

In this area, not only was the top layer beginning to fall off, but the texture of the paper was becoming pitted. 

 I don't know how but the images in this were mostly intact and it was just the black background that was in danger of flaking away at the slightest touch. So, we made a decision to strip the rotten background paper away.


I used an Exacto knife to gently score the top layer of paper around the image. Then I began to scrape the top layer of paper away using a specially shaped and sharpened palette knife. We saved all of the images and focused on removing the moldy background paper.

Slightly less than halfway through the process of stripping away the top layer of paper. As extreme as this option is, I must admit to really enjoying removing the rotten paper. 
I eventually began to save the bits I scraped off just so I could see how much we were removing. 



This side was more intricate since we were very focused on saving the image. 


Once the top layer of paper was removed, I then patched in a new layer of paper. Sorry, I don't have any photos of that process since I'm the one taking photos and I sometimes forget to photograph myself!


Layers of tracing paper to get the exact shape of paper patch to put back in that top layer of paper. 

The other issue we encountered with this project was the tear running through the poster. I glued everything back together, but that didn't make the poster flat enough for Gabe to airbrush. 

The large tear before I began working on it.

It took multiple attempts in conservation to get this project mounted onto a board and flat. Even after that this tear still needed a lot of work.

This was one of the few parts where the image was damaged. 

So I used a compound made in part from the paper that we had stripped away previously to fill in the crack. I essentially whisked together a custom-made spackle specifically for this poster. It takes a couple rounds of filling, drying and sanding to get it flat. However, I eventually had the fracture flat enough to put a paper patch over it.

Beginning the process of filling, sanding and refilling this tear. 


Close up shot of the filled tear before I put a paper patch over it.


After that, Gabe masked off and painted the background and detailed the few areas of damage in the image. The final step was to silkscreen in the text at the bottom of the piece and VOILA! 




 I just want to add that this project in particular required a LOT of effort that wasn't documented in this blog. It is an extreme example of what we do and we discuss all of the options and what would be involved with the client.

Certain proprietary steps and procedures have been omitted. If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! Additional questions regarding other work or your pieces, please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone 818.882.1214.

Also, check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog. For daily photos and updates check out Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram: follow us on Twitter @postermount and Poster Mountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, LA Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.




Friday, November 3, 2017

A-Haunting We Will Go

I got lucky for this post since the title of the movie for this poster is also the perfect title for a Halloween week blog post: A-Haunting We Will Go from the great duo of Laurel and Hardy.

This week's post is also fun because we do a little Poster Mountain retcon. (Yes, I know this is usually used in fictional tv, but I'm using it in the way that we decided to retroactively fix something after the poster had been linen backed. So there.)

Linen Backed Laurel and Hardy A-Haunting We Will Go
When we received this piece it was mounted to craft paper, which we had to demount it from before linen backing it. 



The client opted for full restoration and when I measured the poster, I realized that we were missing paper on the top, bottom and one of the side borders. What wasn't very obvious when the poster was first linen backed was that three of the four borders had been badly trimmed. We knew that we were probably going to have to add borders back, but it is easier if I can patch paper into a straight cut rather than having to follow an uneven edge. On top of that, the fold lines on this poster were stiff and would require a lot of time to get them flat enough to restore the ink loss.

This side border was missing about 1/4 inch of paper and was unevenly trimmed.
So, John and I decided to do some retconning. In order to make adding borders back in easier and to address the difficult fold lines, we decided to demount the poster, do a gelatin facing and then remount it. And because we had mounted it, the demount process was pretty straightforward. We carefully stripped the linen off of the masa substrate, no solvents or heat necessary. (Please do not try to do this at home!) This was the poster's second demount!

John pulling the linen backing off of the poster. Do not try this at home! 



Next, we trimmed off the jagged areas of the border that were going to be patched anyway, giving me nice straight borders to work with!


At this point, the masa substrate and the poster are still adhered together. The glue that we use is water soluble, so the next step was to wash the poster and using our gelatin technique put a hollytex facing on the front of the poster. The purpose of the facing is to hold the poster together while we take the masa off the back.

The poster is face down on our capillary table and we have wet the entire poster and masa substrate. 
During a demount process like this, the poster is temporarily mounted facedown onto a board, with hollytex facing sitting between the front of the poster and the board.

Mounting the poster face down on a board with a hollytex facing.

Once it is mounted on the board, we can then peel the masa away from the back of the poster. Usually, in one go and without causing additional damage to the poster. (Some types of glue such as the one that we use in our studio are water-soluble and allow us to do this with varying kinds of demounts, but many types of glue are not water-soluble and make the demount process tricky and often expensive because of the time necessary to cause the least amount of damage to the object being demounted.)

John started peeling away the masa substrate...

...and I got to finish it! Again, do not try this at home! 
After letting the poster dry we trimmed the hollytex facing to the borders of the poster and sanded away any leftover glue residue. Sanding the back has the added benefit of addressing the stiffness of the fold lines without causing damage to the image on the front and makes my job in prep much easier. After that, we handed the poster back to Robin to linen back it for the second time.

John trimming the excess hollytex


The poster was linen backed with the hollytex facing still on it, but once the poster was mounted again we removed that facing and the poster was ready to be prepped! The right side of the poster was only missing about 1/4 of an inch, but the top and bottom borders were missing more than 3/4 of an inch.

A close up of the right and bottom borders where we added paper back.

Borders are some of my favorite things to patch, but they're not really that interesting in terms of pictures. I choose vintage paper from our collection of paper (Seriously, we have boxes and boxes of posters and prints that aren't worth anything in terms of monetary value but have a huge value to us in terms of using the paper in our restoration process. We take donations!) Once I've got paper that is lighter in color and has the right texture, I cut out the size and shape of the paper patch and use that to add back in any missing paper.

Since we had decided to do a remount, the fold lines on this poster were lovely and smooth. I only needed to add a compound filler where there was paper loss and then sand that down in order to give our restoration team a smooth work surface.

One of the fold lines that was missing a small amount of paper. 

I have a new team member to introduce! Meet AB, short for Annabelle. She is a recent graduate of Occidental College where she majored in Fine Art. We're happy to have her as our newest restoration artist. And on this project, she was doing the masking for the airbrush shots.


AB and Gabe airbrushed the border, the yellow title,  the orange names and a very localized background shot to restore the fold lines. We pretty much dropped AB into the deep end of the pool on this one since she did all the masking for this project. She did a superb job!

AB masking to airbrush the yellow title. 

Gabe used a very light hand and kept the airbrushing very local to the fold lines where pigment was lost in the gray background. 


The last area to be addressed were the fold lines that ran through Laurel and Hardy. Gabe used a combination of watercolors and colored pencils to detail these areas.

Post the last round of airbrushing and before the final step of detailing. 
The colors on this Laurel and Hardy litho are incredible in person and after restoration, they really pop!

Linen backed and fully restored

Certain proprietary steps and procedures have been omitted. If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! Additional questions regarding other work or your pieces, please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone 818.882.1214.

Also, check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog. For daily photos and updates check out Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram: follow us on Twitter @postermount and Poster Mountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, LA Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Last Gasp of Summer

Since Fall is quickly approaching, but I'm not quite ready to let go of Summer I thought we'd do a very summery post.


This large scale vintage advertisement measured about 5 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet and had been stored folded for a number of years. All of the edges had been folded back probably because when it was displayed in the early-mid-20th century it was wrapped around a piece of metal. (Side note, if you want to go down the history rabbit hole, there is a fascinating story about the legal battle between Good Humor and Popsicle which you can read here: The Cold War Between Good Humor and Popsicle.)

We began, as we usually do, by washing the piece.



We have large melamine boards for larger scale objects like this and have learned that it's easier to put these boards on our conservation tables and work directly on top of them. The light and angle in this photo give a good idea of the two fold lines and if you look closely you can see the edges that were are at this point still folded back.


This was printed on very thick paper and then treated to make it weather resistant, which also made it tough to smooth out the warping, but we gently massaged it flat. We use pieces of mylar to flip the piece over, as well as to squeegee it flat and to work fold lines and creases so they are flatter.  


People are generally shocked that we wash paper. What usually shocks me, even after working at Poster Mountain for more than five years, is how much dirt can build up in paper over time.


The photo above also gives you a good image of where the edges were folded and how dirty those fold lines had gotten over time. 

This advertisement was printed on thick paper and was in pretty good shape all things considered. So we made the decision to use our gelatin flattening treatment and leave the piece unbacked. We reinforced all the fold lines with strips of Japanese tissue to give them some extra stability and then applied an aqueous gelatin solution to the back, put a large piece of hollytex on top of that and then applied more gelatin.  




We then flipped the hollytex and ad sandwich (or would that be an open faced sandwich?) over so that the hollytex acted as a substrate between the ad and the board. We squeeged the advertisement through a mylar sheet to make sure it was completely flat and there were no air bubbles. Then we let it dry for a few days while temporarily mounted to the melamine board.


And voila! Flat and with the edge unfolded! 



Certain proprietary steps and procedures have been omitted. If you have any comments or ideas for things you would like to see us cover on our blog, please let us know! Additional questions regarding other work or your pieces, please contact us via email at postermount@aol.com or by phone 818.882.1214.

Also, check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog. For daily photos and updates check out Poster Mountain's Twitter and Instagram: follow us on Twitter @postermount and Poster Mountain on Instagram. Our subsidiary company, LA Paper Group will be showcasing the fine art side of the company: @LAPaperGroup on Twitter and LAPaperGroup on Instagram.