Friday, October 28, 2011

Silk Screening as a Restoration Tool

This week we're going to look at just one aspect of an unusual restoration project that we just completed. A lot of posters that come into our studio are missing pieces.We have several ways to restore missing areas. Sometimes we have a reference for these, either in our own database or from the client. If there is no reference we get the opportunity to let our artists have a little more freedom and create it completely from scratch.

This was the case when one of our clients brought in a Dutch "Tarzan Triumphs" door panel. After the poster was demounted there was only a small portion that was left of the original poster and no reference for it.

Pictured: Original Dutch "Tarzan Triumphs" door panel before we did any conservation or restoration.

Pictured: "Tarzan Triumphs" after it had been demounted. The incomparable Antonia spent about two days on the paper patch and prep needed for this poster.
 So between Aaron doing the airbrushing and Katie and Melissa working on the fine details we created an image that only exists on this one poster. The poster was originally Dutch, but we created a US 3 sheet from what was left of the original. And it looks fantastic!

Pictured: "Tarzan Triumphs" after airbrushing and detailing, but before the final credits had been added.

 The focus this week is how we silkscreened in the credits at the bottom of the poster. Poster Mountain is the only company that uses silkscreening as a restoration tool. Gabe and John worked together with the client to create the credits.

The first step, besides making sure that we had all the right information, was to format the credits to the size and font that was appropriate for the poster. Gabe used Photoshop to create stencils that were printed out on to an acetate (a clear, thin piece of plastic) sheet.

Pictured: Gabe using Photoshop to format the credits.
Pictured: The formatted print out of what the credits will look like once they've been silkscreened on.
Once Gabe had created a negative transfer of all the credits, he then could make the screens. Silkscreening did originally use silk, but now a nylon or polyester screen is used. Much cheaper. An even layer of a light sensitive emulsion is applied to the screen.  

Pictured: Gabe prepping the screen on top of the UV light table.

Pictured: Gabe (moving as fast as the Flash) putting the acetate on top of the screen.

After the emulsion has dried, the screen and the acetate sheet is exposed to UV light which hardens the photo emulsion.   

Pictured: Our UV light table.

Pictured: The box acts as a weights to make sure that the acetate is laying flat against the screen.
The area covered by the words on the acetate is not exposed and the emulsion does not harden, which allowed Gabe to wash it out. This left us with positives of the credits.

Pictured: Gabe using a pressure washer to rinse out the screen.

Pictured: The darker orange is the hardened photo emulsion and you can easily see the negative images of the credits left after the screen was rinsed out.

 After the screens were ready we were able to start printing. Gabe used poker chips to elevate the screen up just slightly. Elevating the screen made sure that no excess ink got onto the poster when we lifted the screen up and moved it.

Pictured: Gabe taping on poker chips to the bottom of each corner of the screens.

Pictured: Not the traditional way, but we like to improvise!

Pictured: Gabe making sure that everything is aligned before we began printing.
Once everything was prepared we could start printing. A small puddle of ink is layed down on one side of the screen. Then John used a squeegee (yes, that the technical term) to move the ink across the screen, all the while applying enough pressure to press the ink through the screen and onto the paper.

Pictured: Gabe putting ink onto one side of the open part of the screen. There needs to be enough ink that it spreads evenly across both the height and the width of the open area.

Pictured: Gabe holding the screen down while John begins to move the squeegee evenly across the screen.

Pictured: You can see where the ink as been pressed through the open part of the screen.

Pictured: The first part of our caption! The brown paper below was a precaution to protect the lower part of the poster.

Pictured: Frances Gifford played "Zandra," the female lead in Tarzan Triumphs.

We did the credits in stages. It made it easier to check our work and be precise.

Pictured: John and Gabe printing the second name that is part of the credits.
Pictured: Johnny Sheffield played the "boy" in Tarzan Triumphs.

Pictured: This was the last of the credits These are the screen play and story credits.

Pictured: The completed poster drying in the studio.
Silkscreening is not a medium that we use everyday, but in a situation like this with so many words to print silkscreening allowed us to quickly, efficiently and precisely add in the finishing touches to this poster. 
Pictured: The completed "Tarzan Triumphs" 3 sheet poster with airbrushing done by Aaron, detailing by Katie and Melissa, and silkscreening by Gabe and John.

 It was a pretty remarkable transformation for this poster. The team put more than 40 hours of work into "Tarzan Triumphs". It started out in a different format and in a different language, but the end result turned out beautifully. We relish the opportunity to work on challenges like this one!

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 Also, please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Punch and Judy Banner

So, occasionally we get things in that are not strictly paper based. An example of the range of ephemera that Poster Mountain is experienced with are canvas banners and over the years Poster Mountain has done a few of these. The project we are featuring this week is a Depression era Punch and Judy circus banner.

A brief history lesson on "Punch and Judy". Punch and Judy were a puppet show that evolved in Europe over several centuries and gained popularity in the 18th and 19th century as a kids show. Punch was the protagonist and Judy was a supporting character. The show followed a pretty simple, if non-sensical plot. Punch would get into mischief of one kind or another, would be caught and then an attempt to arrest him would be made by a policeman puppet. Punch would invariably end up outwitting his pursuers in a scrappy and usually violent way. Judy was his shrewish wife who was almost as abusive to Punch as Punch was to her. Over the years new characters and plots evolved and the Punch and Judy cannon has grown quite extensive. These shows were put on in town squares and during festivals by the puppeteers, usually called "Professors". Punch and Judy continued to be popular all the way up through the mid 20th century.

This particular circus banner is canvas that was probably painted with lead based oil paint and came into the studio in pretty bad shape. It had a huge crease up the center and was extremely wrinkled, but the biggest problem was the mold it was growing. John actually kept the banner in a plastic bag until he was ready to start working on it because it was covered in mold. Even though this only needed to be cleaned and conserved, the amount of mold made it somewhat daunting.  John wore a mask through most of the process as a precaution.

Pictured: Depression Era "Punch and Judy" Circus Banner before cleaning and conservation.

John's first step was to remove as much of the surface mold as possible. The best solution to this was to use one of the hose attachments on a vacuum. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best!

Pictured: John vacuuming as much of the mold up as possible.

Pictured: Robin preparing the linen backing for the banner.
After he had gotten as much of the mold as he could with the vacuum, John started the washing process. The paint pigments were stable on this piece, so John could be pretty aggressive in trying to remove the mold.

Pictured: John unfolding the banner onto the glass topped wet table.

Pictured: John beginning to wet down the banner.
It is hard to see from the front of this banner how bad the mold was, but on the back the mold was pretty obvious. John washed the canvas with diluted soap and water to get as much of it out as possible.

Pictured: John wetting down the back of the banner.

Pictured: See all those stains? Yup, that's all mold.
When I first saw the back of this canvas I thought that the yellow, blue and green were bleed throughs from the front and that the big black stain was the only visible mold. Turns out its all mold. In most of these posts you will see that we use sheets of Mylar, a polyester film, in the conservation process. The Mylar acts as a barrier between the piece and our tools, including our hands, so that we do not damage anything while washing and cleaning.

Pictured: John massaging the canvas to loosen the mold and rinse it out.

Pictured: John rolling out the Mylar sheet. This allows him to work more of the mold out of the canvas without damaging it.

Pictured: John smoothing down the Mylar.

Pictured: John squeegeeing the canvas. Check out the color of the water that is squeegeed out, pretty gross.
Our goal was twofold with this piece. We needed to remove as much of the mold as possible, but also wanted to flatten the canvas out. Fortunately both of these things were accomplished by the conservation process.

Pictured: John removing the Mylar from the back after cleaning.

Pictured: John beginning to apply glue to the back so that it can be mounted to linen.

Pictured: Creases have been straightened out and now the poster lays flat.
John mounted the canvas directly onto a linen backing. The linen gives the piece a stable surface to adhere to and makes transporting and storing much easier.

Pictured: John using the Mylar on the front of the canvas to mount it to a linen substrate.

Pictured: John squeegeeing the Mylar and canvas so that the canvas is evenly glued to the linen.

Pictured: The canvas retained more water than the paper posters we usually mount and mixed with the excess glue made for a messy clean up.

Pictured: John soaking up the excess water and glue from the edges.
This banner was not getting any restoration, so after it had dried completely it was ready to be cut out and handed over to the client. It looked much better and is a great piece of 20th century Americana.

This circus banner brings up a crucial aspect of collecting. Proper care of your ephemera is important, whether your pieces have monetary or sentimental value. You should always store things carefully in a dry, temperature controlled environment. But if there is an accident or you stumble across a badly damaged piece that you have to have, Poster Mountain is here to help. (How about that for some shameless self promoting?)

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 Also, please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pastel Portrait

Since the advent of photography, the popularity of hand drawn or painted portraits has slowly dwindled. They are considered old fashioned or a novelty and have been phased out in most of our homes. A few weeks ago, however, a client brought in a pastel portrait of his brother that was drawn at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica in 1961, the subject was 9 years old at the time. The glass in the frame had been broken and had damaged part of the drawing.

Pictured: Before shot of the pastel portrait removed from its frame.

The portrait had a tear through the upper left corner. In addition there was some discoloration due to oxidation visible throughout the background. The mat board had protected the areas that were still grey, the original paper color, but the rest of the paper had oxidized. The condition of the paper was a factor that we had to take into account during the mounting and restoration processes.

Pictured: Tear in the upper left corner and the oxidation discoloration is clearly visible.
Pictured: the back of the portrait and the tear through the top left corner.

Pictured: the damage is even more visible with the help of the light table.
  We applied a fixative to the existing pigments before beginning the mounting procedure, but because of the mobile nature of chalk pastels pigments we still proceeded with caution. Normally with pieces where the medium is unstable we use the resizing technique that John developed. However, this was not a good option with this piece because the paper was very porous and we were worried that this might cause more damage. Our goal is always to preserve the integrity of the piece through both the conservation and restoration processes.

Pictured: Melissa examining the piece before beginning work
Melissa worked under John's direction during the conservation process. The piece was mounted so that she could fix the tear and then apply pastel over the top so that the piece would look as good as new by the end.

Pictured: Robin and Melissa measuring the Okawara paper substrate against the portrait.

Once the piece had been sprayed with fixative, the pastels pigments were stable enough for us to carefully  mount it.
Pictured: Melissa making sure that she has the correct size of Mylar for the piece.

Pictured: Melissa spraying the piece.

Pictured: Melissa carefully applying another layer of Mylar over the top that would allow her to gently work the piece through the mounting process.
Pictured: Melissa flipping the piece over.

Pictured: Melissa spraying more water on the Mylar on the back of the piece. This allowed her to smoothly squeegee the piece.  

Pictured: The tear is clearly visible through the Mylar.

Pictured: Melissa gently massaging the piece.

Pictured: Melissa squeegeeing off excess water.

Once the piece had been sprayed and was face down on the glass table, the Mylar was removed from the back. Then glue was applied to the back of the piece. We carefully wiped away any excess water and glue from the Mylar underneath the paper so that only the paper would stick to the substrate.

Pictured: Melissa removing the Mylar from the back of the piece.

Pictured: Derry and Melissa removing excess water from the Mylar underneath the piece before applying the glue.

Pictured: Melissa applying glue to the back of the piece.

Pictured: Melissa removing excess glue from the back of the paper with a roller.

Pictured: Melissa squeegeeing off the excess glue from the edges of the Mylar.
 After the glue had been applied the piece was mounted to an Okawara paper substrate on a melamine board. This provided a stable surface for the piece and for Melissa to work on.

Pictured: Tears in the paper from the back. The paper that was torn now lays relatively flat, however, the tear is still clearly visible.

Pictured: Derry and Melissa moving the piece on the Mylar over to be mounted.

Pictured: Melissa and Derry flipping the piece face up before mounting it on the Okawara paper and board.

Pictured: Centering the piece on the substrate
With the piece gently resting on top of the paper the next step was to apply pressure evenly across the surface to join the paper of the portrait to the Okawara substrate.

Pictured: Melissa and Derry smoothing out any air bubbles.

Pictured: Melissa applying pressure to the piece with the Mylar still on top so that the piece evenly joined with the paper substrate.

Pictured: Melissa removing the Mylar from the top of the piece. While the piece is wet it tends to stick to things, so she lifts the Mylar off at an angle so that the paper stays mounted to its substrate and does not come off with the Mylar.
Once the piece is mounted to the substrate and melamine board it needs to dry. After it has dried completely Melissa began to restore the damaged area. She started by repairing the tear lines. She used a combination of glue and filler to restore the damage before burnishing and smoothing the lines down.

Pictured: Melissa checking the edges of the tear before beginning work.

Pictured: Melissa gluing down the tear lines.

Pictured: Melissa burnishing the tear lines.

Pictured: Melissa adding filler to the areas of the tear that had lost paper.

Pictured: Filler drying in some of the tear lines.
Once the glue and the filler had dried, Melissa was then able to go back in with pastels and restore the image that had been damaged by the tear. She carefully layered the pastels over the repaired area so that it matched the existing color.

Pictured: Melissa beginning to add color over the patched area of paper.

Pictured: Melissa with her pastels and watercolors adding in color.
Once Melissa had finished restoring the piece, all that remained was for it to be removed from the melamine board. A thin knife was inserted between the board and the Okawara paper to demount it from the board, but the piece remains mounted to the Okawara substrate.

Pictured: Melissa demounting the piece and substrate from the board.
Tadaaa! No sign of the tear in the upper left corner remains!

Melissa took the wheel on this project, so she also got to hand the piece over to the client. And of course we needed to capture that moment!

Pictured: Melissa handing the portrait over to the client, who is the brother of the boy pictured.

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