Monday, February 6, 2012

A gig poster from the Malleus Rock Art Lab

Since we had such a rousing response to the Tyler Stout silkscreen we did two weeks ago, we decided to show another hand-made silkscreen project with some different issues than the Lost print. And on a side note, I am actually the one who got to conserve this print, so for the first time I am writing about myself. John was there for every step to coach me through it, but this was the first project where I took point. I was very nervous during this process and so ecstatic that it turned out beautifully. ( I don't think it spoils anything for me to give away the ending.)  

This silkscreen is from the studio Malleus, which is a collective of artists who create hand-made posters with a broad range of influences including Expressionism and Art Nouveau. Malleus is also one of the few studios whose artists both design and print the posters. (You can follow this link to their wonderful blog:

Like the Lost silkscreen the Malleus was also damaged in shipping. Not to the same extent, but enough to warrant being sent to us.

The poster is a concert poster for the bands Acid Mother's Temple and Cosmic Inferno from 2005. The before shot in our studio shows the rippling of the paper, particularly visible in the lower right corner.

Pictured: Silkscreen by the studio Malleus. The lighting on this shot looks odd because we were trying to get a good image of the actual damage.
Another shot taken in the back of the studio also shows the rolling of the paper that we're going to fix as well.

Pictured: Acid Mother gig poster before we began conservation work.
Our first step was to humidify the poster. Because the print was on thick paper with relatively heavy layers of ink, washing this poster like we did with the Lost one was not an option. So we had to create a humidity chamber to flatten the piece. A humidity chamber works by creating an atmosphere that is saturated enough with moisture that the fibers of the paper relax. We began by wetting down a layer of paper, then placing a silkscreen frame upside down so that the screen elevated the print above the source of moisture. With any piece, particularly fine art prints, we are very careful when introducing moisture to it or its environs. Some pieces react how we think they will, while others do not. Because of the nature of the paper and the ink we were very cautious about the amount of water that came into direct contact with this print.

Pictured: First photo of me! We noticed that none of us were smiling in most of these photos, so I tried to smile a bit more. Anyway, here I am placing the wet paper on top of the light table to create the base of the humidity chamber.

Pictured: The poster sitting on top of the silkscreen frame and hollytex, still trying to roll itself up.

Pictured: I am putting the plexiglass chamber on top of the layers of paper and art work.

Pictured: Here I am sealing the chamber edges of the chamber with tape.

Pictured: You can see that the light on the light table is on, this generates just enough heat to make the chamber humid.
Turns out we were too cautious because after about half an hour, when it would normally have shown some progress, the paper had not relaxed noticeably. So, we tried again. This time removing the silkscreen frame and putting the print on top of damp paper with a layer of dry hollytex in between. This did the trick and within a few hours the paper had relaxed enough for us to begin mounting it.

Pictured: Chelsea removing the print and silkscreen before we replaced the screen with another layer of hollytex and put the print on top of the wet paper and hollytex.

Pictured: This photo was shot with the lens pressed against the outside of the plexi-box and was taken when the print had just been sealed in. The layers of hollytex, both on top and bottom, are there to protect the print from any excess moisture.

Pictured: After a couple of hours the humidity chamber was quite steamy and the print had almost completely relaxed.
 So, once the print was about as flat as we were going to get it using this technique I removed it from the chamber and took it back to conservation to put the print through a form of John's isinglass technique.

Pictured: I am removing the plexiglass box from the top.

Pictured: As you can see the print is already much flatter than it was at first, but we still have more work to do!

Pictured: I am carrying the print back to conservation. We have negotiated this hallway carrying some large format items at very tricky angles. See our blog entitled "Monica with Motherwell" for a good example.
Like the Lost silkscreen we used the isinglass technique on this one, but had to approach it very differently. I made sure to thoroughly dry all of the materials that would normally be wet and used a piece of thick blotter paper as a barrier between the poster and the mounting table. This poster never came into direct contact with water, although we did apply our "secret sauce" to the back of the poster.  

Pictured: The poster face down on the mounting table on top of a piece of blotter paper.

Pictured: I am very firmly and nervously bracing the print in place while brushing the secret ingredient onto the back. Making sure that the poster did not slip was very important because we wanted to control what area the liquid came into contact with.

Pictured: Smoothing a sheet of hollytex across the back of the print. We like this shot because it also shows Robin, Gabe, Chelsea and Aaron working in the background as well as giving a good scope of our studio.

After the print had gone through the isinglass treatment, I moved it over to a melamine board to be temporarily mounted. John was taking pictures and talking me through all of this. The temporary mount is part of what makes the isinglass treatment so successful because it allows us to flatten and work on a piece without having to permanently mount it to either linen or paper.

Pictured: In this photo I am positioning the print on top of the board, but I am concentrating so hard that I am sticking my tongue out. You can also see Gabe in the background, hiding behind a newly received package of posters.

Pictured: This photo is a great example of what we mean when we say remove any air bubbles. You can clearly see two right in the middle of the print.

Pictured: To remove those bubbles I placed a sheet of mylar on top of the print and then working from the center out removed the air bubbles with a squeegee.

Pictured: Now the poster is totally flat and temporarily adhered to the melamine board. And let me just say that at this point I let out a huge sigh of relief for not having blown anything up, metaphorically.
Once the print was mounted we placed another sheet of hollytex over the top and then positioned strips of plexiglass and weights around the edges to brace the poster while it cured so that it would remain completely flat.

Pictured: This technique is called stretch pressing and while the paper is drying this is what keeps the poster from warping.

After the poster was completely dry Katie touched up a few minor areas of ink loss and then I got to remove it from the board. This involves a very large, sharp spatula being inserted between the board and the hollytex and is a lot harder than it looks in these photos.

Pictured: There is a function on the blog where if you click on a photo you can see it large, you may want to do that to see the miniscule area of ink loss that Katie is fixing.

Pictured: I am holding the spatula as flat as possible and  inserting it underneath the hollytex to remove the poster from the board.

Pictured: I wanted to do a little jig at this point because not only had the print come off cleanly, it was also flat! I couldn't celebrate yet though because I still had to remove the hollytex. Notice what is in the background? That's right, we're beginning work on the next phase of the Black Pirate! Stay tuned for that blog in a couple of weeks.

Pictured: The last step was to remove the hollytex from the back. You can see that I am bracing the poster down while removing the hollytex from the back of the poster.

Pictured: The poster is now flat as the day it was printed. 
The final photo looks great, especially in comparison to the first photo where the warping of the paper was evident. Now the paper lays flat without any aid and all the warping is completely gone. And I can celebrate having completed my first conservation project!
Pictured: The final "glamor shot" of the Malleus print.
 One last side note, this print is now totally flat, but it is also just as supple as when it was originally printed. John's isinglass technique does not leave any residue so the print is still flexible.

Now, normally this is where we finish a blog. However, because we have had so many people contact us about fixing issues incurred during shipping, John thought it would be a good idea to show you how we ship out pieces like this.

For something that we took so much time and effort to flatten, we are not going to roll it up and ship it in a tube. However, when we do ship things in tubes we primarily use a large tube made out of PVC.

This piece was being shipped flat, so Gabe wrapped it in glassine. Glassine is a very thin and smooth type of paper that is water resistant, so its great for protecting pieces like this. Once the paper was covered by the glassine, Gabe taped the edges down in triangles of paper to a piece of cardboard. He also put a piece of cardboard on top. Then he cut down two pieces of wood and added in foam for more protection. After having put in that much work, we don't want it sent back to us because it was damaged in shipping!

Pictured: The Malleus print wrapped in glassine and taped down to a piece of cardboard.

Pictured: The poster is inside the cardboard sandwich.
Pictured: You can clearly see the layers of wood and foam around the cardboard that is already protecting the print.

Pictured: Gabe tapes the package up thoroughly before it is sent out. We don't take any chances when it comes to shipping because we see the damage that it can cause.

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!

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