Friday, December 21, 2012

Glenwood Crate Label

Poster Mountain is located in Southern California, an area that is known for its fruit production. We are regularly treated to the sight of massive trailers of oranges, lemons, and other produce driving along the freeways. Before transport trailers became the method of shipping produce, everything was shipped in crates. These crates had labels on the ends that displayed the type of produce and the grower/distributor. Almost every group had its own personal design that they modified slightly for different types of produce, although there were some stock designs kept by printing houses. In some cases labels were produced in the thousands and even tens of thousands. Although like any collectable ephemera, there are some extremely rare labels that are highly valued.

Some of the labels are still in good condition because they were never used and were found sitting on shelves in warehouses. However, most of the ones that we work on have been glued to crates, are missing sections and are rare, including this blog project. I have seen a few other Glenwood crate labels for sale online, but none of them have the red and green border like this crate label.

Pictured: This is a rare crate label for Glenwood Oranges. They have had variations of this same label for each kind of fruit they sold.

Poster Mountain's process for conserving crate labels is to put them through the isinglass gelatin treatment to flatten them out and then soft mount them to a melamine board. Since they are not backed we use a very thin tissue as a foundation for all of the areas where parts of the label are missing and where we will need to add paper back in. The tissue is a support for the patches and sits under the label so we position it on the back of the label during the conservation process. The tissue is layered between the label and the hollytex and when the patches are glued in permanently becomes part of the label.

Pictured: Here I am measuring the tissue strips to make sure that I have cut them the right length.
Pictured: To get the strongest base we overlap them just slightly.

Washing these crate labels is made relatively easy because of their size. They do have their own issues. The paper is very thin and must be handled carefully, especially when wet. And the ink that was used is petroleum based, so it is resistant to water which means that the back expands faster than the front. This can cause some very scary looking warping at first. I was really freaked out the first time I washed one of these because it started to look like the ripples from dropping at rock into a pond. However, with some gentle massaging the water absorbs into the paper and it flattens out again.

Pictured: Where the water is pooling is where the crate label is warping from the water being absorbed at different rates across the label.

Once the label has been washed and rinse it is time to apply the tissue. This has to be done quickly and carefully because after the tissue gets wet it is very fragile and can tear easily.

Pictured: Placing the tissue is key because you want enough sticking out to glue the patches to, but enough across the original paper that it will hold the two together.

Pictured: The tissue becomes very transparent when wet. 

After all of the tissue has been laid down a piece of hollytex, and some conservation voodoo, is spread across the back of the crate label. Then the whole hollytex, crate label and Mylar sandwich are moved over to a melamine board and the Mylar is removed. Then they are left to dry.

Pictured: I always feel like a hand model when we take conservation pictures. I am using my palms to smooth out any air bubbles between the hollytex and the label. If there were air trapped between the two it could cause the crate label to lift from the melamine board and we would have to redo the whole process.

It usually takes a minimum of 24 hours for anything that has been put through the isinglass resizing treatment to dry. If the weather is humid or cold or the paper is thick it can take 2 or 3 days.

Pictured: Here is a the dry crate label. The Pinnacle label will also be a blog project at a later date.

Once they are dry, we can begin prep work. This means taking vintage paper and cutting out patches. We use tracing paper to get as precise a patch as possible. Then it is glued directly onto the tissue that was added during conservation.

Pictured: We use a low adhesive tape to define the borders and get square corners on the patches.

Additionally any cracks in the paper or holes that aren't large enough to be patched with paper we apply a textured filling compound. This may be one of the things that makes Poster Mountain's restoration work so good. Paint in a hole just looks like paint in a hole, no matter how big or small that hole is. However, the attention to even the tiniest cracks means that when the restoration artists start applying pigment it won't sink down, but will sit on the same plane as the original ink.

Pictured: A detail of the patch along the top.

Pictured: A detail of the patch along the bottom.

With prep work finished the crate labels are off to masking. This is some of the most detailed masking work because they are small and often have tiny details around borders.

Pictured: Forgive the sideways photo, but here is the crate label masked off to paint the red border.
The guys in airbrushing and masking work very closely together to decide which colors to paint in what order. Once one color shot has been finished by Aaron it usually goes back to Gabe or Junior for another round of masking, just like this crate label did. They did the red border first, then the green part of the border and then the shadowy trees around the outside of the image.

Pictured: Aaron builds up layers to match the color
Pictured: This was the mask for the green part of the border. Gabe had to cut out the interior of the red knot designs so they could also be painted green.

Pictured: This was after the last round of airbrushing before it moved to detail.
 Here I have to apologize because we seem to have a black hole in our computer where the pictures of Katie detailing this crate label have disappeared into. They'll turn up some day, but for now you're just going to have to use your imagination to fill in the blanks between the last photo and our final, glamor shot.

Looks great! It might not seem like it because of their size, but we spend about as much time restoring these as we do a one sheet.

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Video Blog of a Blackstone The Magician litho

This last month has been very busy! Fortunately some of those projects will turn into blog posts that we will put up over the next few months. However, I am proud to announce that the first episode of our video blog is out! It covers the history and conservation of a rare Harry Blackstone the Magician lithography from the early 1900s.

There will be two more episodes in this series about the Blackstone. We will post them here and on our Facebook page.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Some advice for collections damaged in Hurricane Sandy

We hope everyone is safe and healthy after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast last week. We  understand that the basics like food, water and electricity are still the top priorities, but for those collectors whose posters and prints have been damaged we have some very basic advice for what to do to stabilize collectables until your life has calmed down to a point where you can begin to think about dealing with your collection. Also, please don't endanger your life for your ephemera. We all love these items, but they aren't worth injuring yourself over.

The first step is to remain calm while dealing with any damage your collection sustained. We know that's difficult, but you need to work calmly and slowly so as not to cause more damage while sorting through everything. In general, a lot of issues caused by water damage can be fixed. To alleviate some of your fears here is a before and after of a poster that was badly damaged by water and was conserved and fully restored.

Pictured: This was a linen backed poster that was severely damaged by water.

Pictured: It has now been fully restored and looks great.

After taking a deep breath, make sure that everything is dry. The biggest concern is mold. Most things like water staining and warping can be fixed, but mold is insidious and can cause irreversible damage. We would suggest that you take the time to pull everything out of whatever storage containers they were in, whether it's flat files, shelves or tubes. Any amount of moisture is the enemy of paper. Pull everything out and make sure that all of the surfaces and corners are dry.

If you did incur water damage during the storm you need to let everything dry out completely before putting it back. For the most part, leave pieces to dry in the shape you found them in. Meaning, if they were rolled let them dry rolled, don't try to force them to do anything that might tear or damage the paper.

Let pieces air dry in a place with good air circulation that doesn't get direct sunlight. Don't put any of your items out in the sun because some ink pigments can be easily bleached by sunlight. You can use a fan, as long as it doesn't have heat blowing on the piece. Don't put anything near a heater. Also, don't use a hair dryer, I know that seems silly but I guarantee someone out there is going to try it.

As things dry they will most likely warp, please don't worry too much about this, because a lot of that warping can be fixed by a professional conservator. Do not try to flatten or iron out any warping yourself.

Pieces that were stored in frames may be a little more difficult. If you put them into the frame yourself then you can try carefully removing them. Just remember that depending on the type of ink and whether you used plexiglass or glass is pressed directly against the poster sometimes the ink can stick to the glass and attempting to take the piece out of its frame can in certain circumstances cause additional damage. If they were professionally framed we would advice you talk to your framer before doing anything. 

We don't recommend trying to roll or fold anything that has been dried flat because the paper and ink can become brittle and crack.

We also ask that you please not put tape or glue on any of your pieces. If you are planning on having things restored fairly soon, tape and glue only make our job more difficult. If you're going to wait a while before having any of your items restored, not only do tape and glue make our job more difficult but over time they can cause discoloration. So, please put down the tape and stay away from the glue. Tears in the paper should be left alone and if there are pieces that have been ripped off, put them in a plastic snack bag and store them with the poster. 

Once your collection is stabilized contact your insurance company and send them photos. Unless you specifically insured your posters and prints, not all insurance companies will cover the damage, but it's worth a shot. Then send the photos to a conservator and when you're ready to ship your items please work with that conservator on the best way to package them.

We apologize for how vague these suggestions are, but each case is different. We will happily answer more specific questions if you want to post them on the blog or please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Favorites

Since it's Halloween, I have been compiling a list of the staffs' favorite horror movie posters. The guys had multiple favorites, picking both posters for the art's sake and ones where they liked the movie. The girls, well, we struggled a little more with this one. However, I think we have a pretty awesome and spooky range of posters.

Robin's pick is "Screaming Skull" because she liked the movie, plus how can you pass up the offer of a free burial if you die from fright.

Gabe's choice was "The Thing" because it's the only horror movie poster he owns. We also got lucky enough a few months ago to see an original drawing of The Thing by Drew Struzen.

Melissa pick was "The Black Cat." Then after a moments thought also added the one with the aliens whose heads look like Brussels sprouts. John clarified for me that this was a poster for the movie "The Invasion of the Saucer-Men." 

Junior went with a contemporary silkscreen "Frankenstein" by Laurent Durieux.

Aaron's first choice was the "Exorcist" as both one of the best horror movies and best posters, but then he added the original Dracula to the list, too.

Katie's choice was "Rosemary's Baby" and I'm going to add the contemporary silkscreen by New Flesh for it as well.

Chelsea picked a beautiful silkscreen, a variant of Vania Zouravliov and Aaron Horkey's "Dracula".

I'm going to go with an Italian 2 panel of "Tales from the Crypt" because the colors on it are so vibrant.

John has pretty much seen them all, so he had a hard time narrowing it down. But he just got back from Austin a few weeks ago where he got to go to the Mondo gallery and so he picked two from their new exhibit, including " Bride of Frankenstein" by Kevin Tong and "The Mummy" by Laurent Durieux. And just to mix things up a bit, he added Malleus' variant of Tenebrae. 

We hope you enjoy our favorites and have a Happy Halloween!

And just in case you didn't see the link on the last post, don't forget to check out the introduction for our upcoming video blog:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

1939 New York World's Fair poster

In 1939 the US was looking back on the Great Depression and forward to the possibility of war with clouds of conflict looming overseas, but they were also looking towards what they hoped would be a brighter future. (Sounds kind of familiar, right?) Technology was thought to be the hope that would spark a turning point in a new world order and the 1939 New York World's fair had exhibitions from all over the world that demonstrated this dream of a better future through technology. And as you might expect, the posters from the fair show the sleek, modern and sometimes futuristic design style that was starting to become popular. And as the title and this brief history lesson suggests, we have the restoration of a New York World's Fair poster as this week's featured project.

Pictured: You know when a client tells you to be careful opening the package its never a good thing. This particular package contained a poster that was broken in half.

The poster depicts the iconic Trylon and Perisphere that were the "Theme Center" for the fair. And as you can see the buildings are very futuristic looking. Unfortunately this piece of American history was mounted to cardboard at some point and then later the cardboard and the poster split in half.

In order to join the two pieces back together, the cardboard had to be removed first. John was able to demount the poster from the cardboard on the back by shaving it off in layers.

Pictured: It doesn't look like it, but this is positive progress because even though the poster is split in half it was no longer mounted to cardboard which is very corrosive.

Once it was off the cardboard, we were able to wash the poster and get the two separate pieces aligned and as close as possible while it was suspended between sheets of Mylar.

Pictured: The posters first bath to rinse out 70 years of built up toxins.

A water soluble adhesive was applied to the back of the poster, very gently so neither piece moved after they had been positioned. Tension between the Mylar and the wet poster held it in position while I moved it over to the linen and Masa backing. 

Pictured: After it has been rinsed and squeegeed but before the poster is flipped over and glue is applied to the back.

Pictured: Quickly moving it over to the stretched linen and frame.

Below is a progress photo and although the two separate pieces are back together, there is an obvious gap between the two where there was paper loss when they broke apart. The border also needed some TLC.

Pictured: Progress photo!

In prep vintage paper was mitered in to fill the missing areas in the border. The break between the two pieces was not large enough for us to use paper to fill it, so we used a filling compound that is applied with a palette knife and then smoothed out.

Pictured: The after photo once prep was finished.

Pictured: A detail of the break in the paper after it has been filled.

Pictured: Here is a section of the border where the corner was missing and then patched.

This poster had faded a lot over the years, so the client asked us to punch up the colors in the words in addition to restoring the damaged areas. Aaron airbrushed these areas, but the section that needed the most attention was the break that went through the Perisphere. This was not a straight one color shot because the Perisphere was a sphere shaped building and so we had to give it back the illusion that it was a three dimensional object.

Pictured: Junior and Gabe did several masks for this piece, including this one that was for some of the areas in the black where there was pigment loss along the top.

Pictured: This is the mask for Aaron to paint the Perisphere. If you look closely at the brown paper on the left you can see the faint outline of an acetate circle that was removed from the protective layer to open up the sphere.

Pictured: Aaron working on the first layer of airbrush.

Pictured: A dramatic improvement once it is done.

After Aaron had restored the large areas, Katie was given the poster to do the small details that really bring the restoration work together into a complete piece. Katie has a great eye for miniscule details that some would never see, but to our clients who prefer their posters to look pristine the small issues stand out like a sore thumb.

Pictured: Katie working on a detail so small you can't tell what she is working in this picture.

Pictured: Ahhh, there it is!

Pictured: Again, working on something that the camera can't pick up.

And here it is, one whole poster with the Trylon and Perisphere restored to their futuristic awesomeness!
At some point in the last few weeks I told you that we began work on a video blog. It takes time to film and then especially to edit that film into something that is viewable and interesting, but we finally have the introduction to our video blog! You can check it out on youtube:

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!