FAQs

Here are the Frequently Asked Questions we encounter and some general information regarding our processes and practices. We also have a Glossary of conservation terms that we often use, which is available here.

Our studio is divided into three main departments: administration, conservation, and restoration.

Within restoration we also have prep, masking, airbrushing and detailing which are described below in detail:
  • Prep, which is short for preparation, encompasses everything from tissue stabilization and dehinging to paper repairs. Prep is what prepares a piece, either in conjunction with or independent of conservation, for a piece to undergo restoration. 
  • Masking is the process in which parts of a work are covered or left open so that we can airbrush specific areas. For masking, we use a combination of low tack tape, miskit, acrylic and kraft paper. 
  • Airbrushing uses acrylic paint and is generally applied to cover large areas of damage. For the most part, airbrushing is not reversible. We work very closely with clients to decide when it is appropriate to use. 
  • Detailing is what we call the department that puts their artistic skills to work restoring an image by hand using watercolor, inks, colored pencils and other media. 

Most of the pricing for our conservation techniques is set based on size and materials needed. Restoration is billed by the hour at $90/hour. When we receive a piece we give you an estimate and ask for approval before beginning work. Often we leave the amount of restoration as To Be Determined and will reassess after a piece has been through conservation, so please remember to review your estimate. We often leave the cost of restoration as TBD because pieces can look nicer after conservation and we have a better understanding of the specific issues of each individual work of art.

Before I launch into all of the questions and answers I want to make a general statement about conservation and the risks involved. Conservation is where art and science meet. We are trained professionals with years of experience and a love of art. That being said there are always factors that we can't predict. Works on paper absorb the environment that they have been living in. This includes toxins or chemicals that may change the way that the paper and ink react to conservation. So while we may have done the exact same thing several times with no problems, there is always the potential for a work to have a completely unexpected reaction to our treatments. We love our clients and what we do and try to go above and beyond what you expect, but we are only human. We make mistakes and we do our best to correct them when we do. Please keep this in mind as your piece goes through conservation and restoration with us.

FAQs
What are your hours?
We are open Monday-Friday from 7am to 3pm and on Saturdays by appointment. Our phone number is 818.882.1214.

What is your shipping address? 
Our address is:
Poster Mountain
8749 Shirley Ave, Unit B
Northridge, CA 91324

If you need a contact in order to ship a package, please send it care of John Davis and use our company phone number.

How long is your turn around time? This depends on how busy we are and what you want to be done. That being said, we are usually able to finish most projects in a month to six weeks. Typically, we're able to accommodate rush projects, but if they displace other items we will need to charge a rush fee of 15%.

What is the Gelatin process?   This is the shortened name for our Isinglass Gelatin Resizing Technique. It is a process that John developed and is an ideal option for many different kinds of paper. Using either a fully or partially liquid solution of filtered water and Isinglass Gelatin, the Gelatin process allows us to wash/humidify and then temporarily mount paper so that it will dry flat. Isinglass Gelatin is a chemical developed from the bladders of swordfish, making it a natural but not vegan process. The Gelatin process can be applied directly to the back of a piece, which is done when a piece can be washed. We also have an indirect Gelatin process that is used when a piece has to be humidified. The Gelatin process addresses planar distortion (i.e. waviness) and even small creases in the paper. It will not fix issues such as intense creases, ink loss or paper tears. However, the Gelatin process in conjunction with washing/humidification allows us to flatten multiple kinds of paper without any backing. Additionally, during this process, we are often able to apply tissue patches to help stabilize tears in the paper. We have written numerous posts about the conservation and restoration of pieces that went through the Gelatin process. Our favorites are: http://postermountain.blogspot.com/2013/09/gelatin-backing-secrets-revealed.html
http://postermountain.blogspot.com/2011/09/fine-art-at-poster-mountain.html
http://postermountain.blogspot.com/2012/01/by-popular-demand-lost-silkscreen.html

Does the Gelatin process leave a residue on the back of my work? On most paper, there is no visible residue left over from the Gelatin process. Some kinds of paper, particularly colored papers may retain a slight sheen on the back.

Why does paper expand during the Gelatin process? How much will it expand?   When paper is wet it expands, when it is dry it contracts. During the Gelatin process prints will generally expand and because of the process, they will not usually contract to their original size. Don't let that statement scare you!  Depending on the paper and the media, a piece could expand in length or in height, but NOT both. Unfortunately, there is now way to predict which way or the amount  a piece might expand, but the larger the piece the more it will expand. Typically a piece that measures 18x24 inches will expand about a quarter of an inch, while a piece that is 24x36 inches may expand as much as a half inch. This expansion of the paper is not generally noticeable to the naked eye but can become an issue if it needs to go back into its old frame, so please keep this in mind.

What is the difference between washing and humidification?   Washing a work of art, whether it is a vintage poster or a fine art print, means that the work is brought directly into contact with water. Washing a piece often helps rinse out impurities or chemical buildups in the paper. Additionally, we use chemical baths to help lighten paper that has darkened with age, has foxing or visible mold. Humidification is an indirect introduction of moisture to a contained area. That very boring description means that we create a chamber where the combination of mild heat and moisture over a longer period of time, usually a few hours, slowly and gently wets a work on paper. As we noted above, paper expands when wet. Humidification allows the paper and the ink to expand slowly, instead of abruptly like when a piece is washed. Humidification is used for posters printed after 1980, works that have ink that might wash out or when there is an X factor that we don't want to risk by washing. Humidification is a gentler approach to flattening paper, however, it does not address chemical build up in the paper or any visible staining.

What is the difference between a pulp and a rag based paper?   The short answer to this is that rag based papers are made up primarily of cotton or linen while pulp based papers are made of wood. Industrialization in the 19th century made wood pulp papers easier to produce and they are the majority of paper made and used today. For example, the box of printer paper you pick up at Office Depot is a wood pulp paper. In general, rag based papers are hardier. They survive longer and are easier to conserve. Rag based papers are preferred today by many artists, high-end printers, and Poster Mountain. The two most well-known kinds are Arches and Rives (both now produced by Arches). Poster Mountain and LA Paper Group have used both these papers in our conservation processes. We also use several kinds of Washi paper, which is handmade Japanese paper (this is often called rice paper, but is usually made of mulberry or a similar plant). We also use masa paper in our linen backing process, which is a machine-made Japanese paper made in such a way that it is acid-free and stronger than most other pulp papers. I really want to launch into a history of paper here, but I won't. Instead, I'll provide a few of my favorite links if you want a more in-depth explanation. For a basic description of the differences in paper: http://www.trueart.info/?page_id=331   For a longer history of paper: http://www.ipst.gatech.edu/amp/collection/museum_invention_paper.htm

What is demounting and what are the risks involved? Demounting is removing a work of art from anything that it might be glued to. This could include previously linen backed posters, works that have been glued to boards, foam core or cardboard using many different kinds of adhesives. However, depending on all the materials involved, particularly the kind of adhesive used, there may be damage to your art during this process, these might include but are not limited to visible paper loss, skinning of the paper and potential loss of the previous restoration.

How is restoration done and will my piece look perfect afterward? We use a combination of watercolor, inks, colored pencils and acrylic airbrushing for restoration. Everything except the airbrushing is 100% reversible and airbrushing is only used in specific cases and after consultation with the client. While our team of artisans is very good at what they do, very little will be absolutely perfect although we do often have clients note that they can't tell where the restoration is. Restoring the paper color after damage and working on black/white or glossy images are the most difficult and for these types of pieces, the restoration will be more visible than normal. One note on general shop terminology, when we say something is getting "full restoration" or a "border shot" this almost always includes airbrushing.

Why are your costs for shipping so high?   This is a question that we get a lot and simply put our costs are high because we do not skimp on materials. I would say that 80% of the silkscreens that we are asked to fix were damaged during shipping and we have received pieces that were damaged further in transit to us. This is not to point the finger at anyone, shipping is always a risk. That being said we have had the best luck with FedEx and the worst with UPS when shipping in the United States. USPS usually falls somewhere in the middle.  For international shipments we recommend DHL. We do not recommend that people use the flimsy cardboard tubes for shipping, in our opinion, it is asking for trouble. As for our shipping practices, unless specifically instructed by a client we use very durable materials for both our tubes and our flat packages. Our shipping tubes are made out of HDPE laminate tubes that we cut down to size. For items shipped in a tube, we wrap bubble tape around the ends to minimize the damage that might be caused by the package rattling around inside the tube or rough handling. For items shipped in a tube, please note that rolling a work of art increases the likelihood for damage or redamaging a piece and that for certain types of work we suggest only shipping it flat. Our flat packages are made using two layers of foamed plastic as padding and two layers of underlayment plywood as the outer layer. Finally, our shipping materials are NOT archival and you should not store your items in them long term. We did a blog post specifically for silkscreens, but it covers shipping (along with a few other things) in depth: http://postermountain.blogspot.com/2013/06/valuing-silkscreens.html

How do you lighten the paper color? Will this damage my art work?  We use several chemicals to lighten the paper color. The most common are chloramine-T and sodium hypochlorite, both of which are diluted with water so that we can gently lighten the paper in stages. Although we do test the each piece we work on, there is a risk that bleaching can affect the ink colors. Additionally, if there is mold that we can not see, bleaching a piece could lead to damage of the paper.  Hand-embellished or hand-colored works of art often included pigments that are water soluble and will be lost during most conservation processes. This is one of the reasons that we take before photos since it provides our restoration artists with an exact reference in order to restore the lost color. We take all precautions that we can to limit the negative impact if this occurs.

Do you remove tape? Will tape stain? Yes, we do remove tape. It is, in fact, one of our specialties. However, tape will almost always damage the paper it is on. This could mean staining from tape that has been on paper for a long time or it could be loss of texture or paper.

How long will conservation/restoration of my piece last? John's general response to this is that depending on the quality of the paper and what we have done, after conservation/restoration your piece will probably outlive you. (That being said, there are always exceptions, but we'll try to give you a heads up if this is the case.) Restoration should also look good for a number of years, but since it is new pigment it may age at a different rate than the rest of the piece.

Should I take my art out of its frame before I bring it in? No, unless moving the work in the frame will cause further damage we prefer to remove the art from the frame in our studio. Once a piece is removed from its frame we ask that you take the frame with you.

Do you do framing? No, we don't do any framing in-house. However, we work with a number of wonderful framers that we will happily recommend based on your location, price point, and style. We also recommend that people opt for UV plexiglass, it is more durable and less prone to breaking and damaging art than traditional glass.

Do you restore photographs? In general, no. Small scratches that one of our restoration artists can fix by hand are an exception, but the emulsion on photographs make them hard to conserve/restore. We can refer you to a specialist who can restore the hard copy of your photograph or do so digitally.

Do you restore things other than works of art on paper? No, we only specialize in paper. However, this covers a wide range of items such as cardboard boxes, standees, lampshades and other oddities that have been crafted out of paper. If you have an item, not on paper, that you want to be restored we have friends and colleagues who specialize in paintings, ceramics, sculptures and more that we will happily recommend to you.

Do you do book binding? No, we are able to offer stabilization and restoration of pages, bindings and jacket covers, but we do not have an in-house bookbinder. We can recommend one based on your location.

Do you have insurance that covers my piece while it is in your facility?  Due to the extreme cost,  we are not able to offer insurance at this time. Any property deposited at our studio must be insured by the client. 

Why do I need to sign a waiver?   It is our policy to have new clients sign a waiver that indemnifies us of financial responsibility should the results not be to your liking. Please remember that while we are professionals and know how much your work of art means to you, conservation/restoration is an art in and of itself. There are no guarantees how a work of art may react, no matter how many tests we perform there are variables that we simply can not account for. A few of these are the condition in which we receive a piece, the environment it has previously been stored in and almost always there is an X factor that we can usually (but not always) deal with but not account for.  There are always risks associated with doing the kind of work that we do. (That being said, there are very few mistakes that we make that can not be addressed by our wonderful conservation or restoration teams.)


The last thing that I want to touch on is Market Value vs Personal Value. Ok, this isn't necessarily a question, but I do want to address it because it is a concept that often comes up here. Simply put market value is the amount that a piece is worth on the open market, whether this is a gallery, an auction house or a private sale. Emotional value is the price that we place on a work because of what it means to us and this is often far higher than that of the market value. While we don't do any official value appraisals, we do have a good grasp of the art market and what your piece is potentially worth. Depending on what each client wants to do with their work we offer a range of options when it comes to conservation and restoration treatments. We will work with you on almost anything, but it requires clear communication on both sides. We do suggest that clients think carefully about what their budget and aims are for the pieces they bring us.  

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