Monday, August 19, 2013

The Bride of Frankenstein Pressbook

This week we resurrected a Bride of Frankenstein pressbook for our client John Ulakovic. The book came to us in pieces. The front and back covers had been separated and had several tears, creases, and ragged edges. Our job was to strengthen and fortify the covers, bind them in a book-like fashion, and restore any distracting damage in the cover art.

Which is far more complicated than it may sound.

Here are the covers flipped over. You may be able to see where there was some previous restoration, a slightly pinkish area toward the middle of the right-hand margin of the cover on the left. At first we thought the collaged-in paper was taken from a duplicate pressbook, so we wanted to keep it rather than redoing it with our own materials. After all was said and done we learned it was actually made by a very fancy inkjet printer. Still, it was a good match.
The fronts. Here you can see creases in the paper. With thick card like this the creases are always very stubborn so extra care will have to be taken to burnish them without destroying the surface texture. 

The first step will be to back the poster using a process invented by John, the top secret miracle cure: The Isinglass Gelatin Resizing Technique (which involves neither glass nor any change to the actual size of the art.)
This will be done at the outset, then the covers will be bound, then it will be done again to completely flatten and re-strengthen the piece, and to allow it to be restored while mounted in order to avoid rippling.

After Derry has rinsed the paper with water and applied a cleansing agent, she places mylar (clear plastic) over it, so the piece is protected on both sides...
...flips it over...
...and squeegees it.

The creases are burnished.

Tissue is applied to stiffen the backs of the creases and the tears and along the edges where there is missing paper.

Here the poster has been mounted but is still wet. There's that previous restoration gleaming in the light. We're hoping to smooth out the ridges that make it so obvious.

The next morning John and Melissa
 removed the covers from the board and had a lengthy brainstorm on how best to proceed. 

John and Melissa removing the hollytex from the back.
Trimming excess tissue from the margins. This is in preparation for what's called a stub-in, when the front and back covers are joined.
The covers will be joined by the tissue tab that is overhanging the edge of one of the covers. The problem will then be reinforcement on both the front and the back of the fold. We need a material that is thin, strong, and flexible. There will be a deep valley in between the two pieces and we will have to figure out how to make it look like a smooth surface while still being able to fold it. So we will have to experiment...
Melissa experimenting with different candidates for the binding. Here she's sanding the edges of the strip so that it will blend seamlessly with the surrounding paper.
John brings in a piece of chiffon-like fabric. Melissa looks amused at the idea of a bridal veil (for the Bride of Frankenstein. Haha. Sorry. Thank you.)
"Maybe if we..."
They experiment using two small squares of card. Melissa is ironing a piece of heat press tissue onto the fold.

They come up with a plan of action and proceed with the binding. Here Melissa is painting glue onto the tissue while John holds protective paper over the areas we don't want glopped up.
John carefully abuts the two pieces.
Melissa irons the seam flat.
A piece of plexiglass is laid over the seam and specialized Vintage Poster Restoration Weights are placed on top. Now we intensely stare at it for a bit and leave it to dry overnight.
The next day John folds the covers. He holds a plexiglass strip in line with the seam to make sure he gets a straight fold.
Not bad.
Now it's time for Melissa to take on the front side of the seam. She cuts a very narrow strip of heat press tissue and delicately fits it into the narrow gulley between the two halves.
The piece is folded again and a slightly larger piece of tissue is creased lengthwise down the middle and glued over the edge. This smooths out the fold even more, and ensures it will not bust open the next time the book is folded.
Iron iron iron. We like flatness.

Here's the book at this stage in the game. You can see around the edges the paper still has some wave to it. This is totally fine because we are going to remount it. This way the paper will have more strength and substance, and it can be restored while stuck to a rigid surface. The remount is going to be slightly different this time. We can't completely drench the piece in water without losing all the reinforcing material and the previous gelatin backing. So we will humidify it, and then remount with a viscous, less watery gelatin.

The pressbook is humidified in its chamber. John meditates.

After the remount, while the poster is still slightly damp and malleable, Melissa takes the opportunity to burnish the stubborn creases. Thick card can separate into two plies in creased areas, so the crease will stick up no matter how much it's pushed back down because there's a tiny pocket of air in there. If the gelatin gets a chance to seep into the paper, it will permeate the pocket of air, and then we can successfully flatten the crease.

Here Melissa is doing prep work, filling in all the missing paper with a combination of collage and filling compound, and of course burnishing, burnishing, burnishing, a little ironing and then some more burnishing.
The poster has to get a little uglier before it gets beautiful. The large white patches are the filling compound which must dry completely before it can be sanded back down to a smooth surface level with the rest of the paper. Also you can see where the old paper patch has been pried up. This is so Melissa can shave the back edges down so it will create a bevel that will fit more perfectly into the hole. That way there will be no ridges in the paper's surface.
Here she is working on the back of the patch. (We all listen to our iPods while we work, mostly to audiobooks and podcasts. I believe here Melissa is finishing up The Caine Mutiny. I recommended it to her. Perhaps we will watch the movie with Humphrey Bogart soon. Anyway...)
The prep is finished and it's time to restore! Melissa commences while John performs the sacred Good Fortune in Restoration ceremonial dance. (I'm kidding of course. Fortune has nothing to do with it. Melissa is just really really good.)
Restoration in progress. You can see the blue on the right is done, and the gold is almost there.
Once Melissa has restored all the cracks and fold lines, she airbrushes it with a fine spray of gloss medium. The airbrush allows her to target the problem areas precisely, whereas a spray-can has far less control.
We are nearing the finish line. The restoration is done, the piece has been removed from the board, and now the protective hollytex is being removed from the back. Melissa holds the paper down firmly with two flat hands to evenly distribute pressure. John pulls the hollytex backward rather than upward because that ensures the paper won't tear.
Re-folding the book. It's inevitable that a bit more restoration will have to be done to the fold after this step.
Finishing touches, and a bonus War of the Worlds.
Go team! Working with a three-dimensional object like a book can be a new sort of thing when one is accustomed to flat, static surfaces. But hey. New is good.

We aren't going to do anything with the inside pages of the book, but they're still pretty funny so I thought I'd include photos. Before the 80s, pressbooks were sent out to movie theaters prior to a movie's release. They showed suggestions on how to promote the movie, and to catalog which posters the theater could order.



BY THE WAY: You may notice my voice sounds a little different this week. That's because I'm Katie! Derry will soon be leaving us to attend grad school at The University of Oregon, so I'll be writing the blog from now on. I have some big shoes to fill--Derry started this blog herself and she is responsible for the whole direction and theme of it. All I can promise you is that I'm going to love writing it.

I've been restoring vintage posters and works on paper since 2002 and I've been here at Poster Mountain since 2010. I have a bachelor's degree in sculpture from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. My main job here is "detailing," which involves fixing cosmetic issues on a piece, whether by airbrushing or using watercolors on minute fold lines and tears. I also make art in my free time, which you can see here.