Monday, May 28, 2012

An All Consuming Japanese Screen

Last month we took a hiatus from the blog because we were so busy with a wide range of projects and I did promise that I would put up some of those projects. The post this week is about a late 19th or early 20th century Japanese screen. The client brought it in with a host of problems including the fact that the two end panels were completely separated from the other four, the silk brocade that was around the border was rotting and there were several holes punched through the screen.

We did not begin documenting this until after we had reattached the end panels. Trying to cover this in chronological order is proving difficult, so bear with me if I skip around a little. One of the most amazing things about this screen was that it was made completely from wood and paper without any nails. They did this using an interlocking grid system for the internal structure. The panels and the hinges were made from layers of paper glued together.  Melissa, John and I brainstormed until we were able to come up with a way to make new hinges out of paper so as to remain true to the piece. 

Pictured: This is one of the new hinges that we made from several layers of thin paper and one thick, strong piece.

We started taking pictures after we had redone the hinges. The interior hinges had originally had gold paper covering them, so over the new hinges we created I glued tissue paper. We first did this with the panels at an angle, as you can see from the pictures. I tried to leave enough space that when the panels were folded up it wouldn’t strain the tissue. But I learned my lesson when we folded it up and several areas cracked and I had to redo them.

Pictured: Once the hinges were complete I glued "old gold" tissue paper to match the remaining hinges.

Pictured: I used the burnishing tool to press down the tissue paper without tearing it.

Pictured: So, in order to reach the center of the hinges I had to prop it up and sit under it.

 Melissa and I also scraped off all the old brocade. (It was lovely, but blue and didn’t really work with the piece in my opinion) Taking the brocade off was a huge process as well. It didn’t come off cleanly because it was rotting.  Underneath we found what looks like old newspaper.  

Pictured: Here is a shot of the old paper underneath the brocade that we took off. The bits of blue are the remnants of the old fabric.

I had a heck of a time trying to find authentic silk brocade that was appropriate for the screen, but eventually settled on a gold and brown cherry blossom pattern with an off white ribbon to break up all of the gold. 

Pictured: This picture was taken partially through us putting on the new fabric, but I forgot to take a picture of the fabric by itself.

While I was off gallivanting around LA trying to find the appropriate fabric, Melissa and Katie worked on restoring the areas that we had repaired earlier.  Most of these were in the gold areas, which we thought would make it easier to cover the holes, but paint did not want to stick to the screen. There were signs of previous airbrushing, as well as patch jobs, and now we know why.   

Pictured: Katie painting over some of the damages along the hinges.

Pictured: As you can see in this picture, there was a lot of dirt built up on screen, but the client wanted us to do as little as possible because he appreciated the age of the piece.

In order to attach the new brocade we used a heat-based fabric adhesive. We cut the fabric into strips and then folded over one edge and then used the ribbon to seal the other edge so that nothing would fray. We cut the strips down to the size of each panel so that they did not overlap and bulk up the interior of the hinges.  

Pictured: I am measuring the strips of fabric with the ribbon and creating a guide so that we could cut all of the strips the same width.

Pictured: Melissa ironing on the adhesive and folding the edges over so that they didn't fray.

Pictured: Melissa and I ironing on the brocade. We used pieces of hollytex between the fabric and the iron as a safety precaution.

Pictured: We propped up the panels to get to the inside of the hinges.
Pictured: In order for the panels to lay next to each other correctly we did not overlap any of the fabric in the hinges.

Pictured: I love this shot across the screen with most of the new brocade on.

After we had finished the border, we enlisted Aaron and Gabe to help us with a small amount of airbrushing to cover up the patches in the gold that we hadn’t been able to cover.

Pictured: Gabe masking off areas with paper.

Pictured: Here is one of the areas that we covered with gold airbrushing.

And here it is in all its finished glory!

Once the gold had been fixed our next step was to fold the panels up completely. As I previously mentioned when we folded the panels up for the first time the tissue paper I put on cracked in a couple of places, but other than that the hinges we made held together beautifully. We did suggest to the client that he either hang each panel of the screen or put it on a small shelf to prevent any of the hinges from breaking again.

Pictured: Folding up the first panel and hearing the tissue paper crack was nerve wracking, hence the look on Melissa's face.

Pictured: We were most concerned about the end hinges, but apart from the tissue paper they were successful!

Pictured: Halfway folded!

Pictured: All the way folded!

Melissa and I were overwhelmed for a couple of days, but we both love the knotty problems that take all of our concentration to solve and this project fit that bill!

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!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

1916 California State Map Mini Episode 5

Alright, folks, this is it, the last part of this series of posts. When you last saw the map it was still wet and had just been mounted directly to canvas. Once it had dried for several days we removed the hollytex facing. Its a relatively simple process of slowly pulling the hollytex back away from the paper, but it can be a little tense as the idea floats through your head that with one swift jerk you could potentially tear something. Fortunately we didn't have that issue and the hollytex came off cleanly, leaving behind a newly linen backed map.

Pictured: The last time John took a facing off there was a lot of static cling and it actually shocked John, so I was understandably nervous about being shocked with this one.

Pictured: No shocks though! Just hollytex gently coming off the map!

Pictured: John liked this picture not only because of the map, but also all the projects going on in the background. The piece at the very back is from the late 19th century and is one of the projects that has kept us so busy lately.

Pictured: Here is one of the edges and you can see why we used the hollytex to keep everything together. A lot of the pieces around the border were not attached to the rest anymore.

Pictured: Tada!
 As you can see from the photos, there were quite a few pieces missing, so Melissa spent several hours filling the most noticeable ones. Since there was no paper substrate here, she did not use old paper, but a textured filler.

Pictured: Melissa worked on the missing areas from the black line in.

Pictured: One of the many uses for palette knives is placing filler in small holes.
 At Poster Mountain we really pride ourselves on the quality of our work. When you put color in a hole it just looks like color in a hole. However, with the filler, Melissa was able to go in and blend in the color on top to create a more seamless look.

Pictured: Once the filler was in, Melissa used water color pencils to add color to the missing areas.

Pictured: Our goal with most restoration projects, as with this one, is not to make it look completely new, but to smooth away some of the obvious signs of wear and tear.

The edges are still ragged, but that is part of the charm of this century old map. And now it is stabilized and can, hopefully, make it another century! 

 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!

Friday, May 4, 2012

1916 California State Map Mini Episode 4

We finished yesterday with the map drying face down on the melamine board. It dried over night and the next morning was ready to be removed from the board. To remove it from the board we insert long, thin and very sharp spatulas between the hollytex and the board. This particular piece made a nerve wracking crackling sound around the edges.

Pictured: Here is the map, face down, before we have done anything to it. you can see next to it the two spatulas we use to remove things from the board.

Pictured: Here is one of the edges that we worked so hard to save!

Pictured: I am slipping the smaller spatula underneath the hollytex. The goal is to keep it flat and move it forward all at the same time.
 John even got a short video! The two large cracks are Robin stapling canvas to the frames, the smaller crackling noises are from the paper as the hollytex separates from the board.

With most of the pieces that we temporarily mount on hollytex, the spatulas are long enough to reach the half way point, but this piece was so big that we had to lift it up to get to the middle section.

Pictured: John is reaching under with the larger spatula to release the center of the map.
 Once free of the board, Melissa and I carried the map over to the conservation area and trimmed the excess hollytex off the edges to make it easier to handle.

Pictured: We flipped it over to check the front before beginning the next step.

Pictured: Trimming down the edges of the hollytex to just around the border of the map makes things easier during the mounting process and to take the facing off later.
 While Melissa and I trimmed the edges, Robin put glue onto a piece of framed canvas. However, she did not put a paper substrate down. We mounted this directly to the canvas like it had previously been.

Picture: Robin making sure that the glue is evenly spread, while Melissa and I put the map on the glass table.

One more round of washing and rinsing before John spread glue across the back of the map. Remember that at this point it still has the hollytex facing on the front holding all the small pieces together. 

Pictured: Melissa spraying water on the back of the map. We also flipped it over and wet down the front. Wetting everything down helps to bond the paper to the glue and canvas.

Pictured: Tandem squeegeeing. Its a real thing.

Pictured: John spreading the glue across the back of the map.

Pictured: Just a little perspective of how big this thing is. John is almost completely hidden behind it.
 John carried the map, stuck to a piece of Mylar over to the canvas that he had set up on one end to make it easier to get the map onto it, then flipped it back onto the table and used the squeegee to even adhere the map to the canvas. After removing the Mylar, without pulling up any pieces I might add, the only thing left to do was let it cure for a couple of days.

Pictured: With something of this size moving it around on the Mylars is difficult, so standing the canvas frame on end helped John to place it.

Pictured: Once the map was positioned, John put it back on the table and used the squeegee to flatten it out against the canvas.

Pictured: Mylar, unlike hollytex is not gas permeable, so in order for things to dry in a timely fashion the Mylar has to come off.
How are we going to get the hollytex off the front? Come back tomorrow for the last installment!

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!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

1916 California State Map Mini Episode 3

When we left off yesterday the map had been mounted face down with a hollytex facing and was in the process of drying enough for us to remove the old linen backing on it.

Pictured: Ever seen really calm water where you know something with really big teeth is lurking just under the surface? Same feeling here. Underneath this flat surface of linen is paper that wants to fall apart.

We do a facing on the pieces that have backings that need to be removed and its always an experiment to find the right time when the piece has dried enough to hold it to the hollytex and the board, but still damp enough to be able to peel off the old backing.  John made a small incision in the middle of the linen for us to begin pulling it off the map. The nice thing about this old linen was that it was easy to pull it into strips that came off easily.

Pictured: We made a small cut in the center from which we could start peeling back the linen.

Pictured: Here you can see that as we pull back the linen, small pieces of the map are missing.

The middle section of the map was not difficult for the most part. We kept the linen as flat against the map as possible to prevent it from lifting up off the hollytex.

Pictured: Gabe is pulling one side, while I'm on the other pulling the other piece from the center.
Pictured: As we moved out towards the edges more and more pieces were missing.
While the center of the map, although missing a piece here and there, was pretty stable the edges were another thing altogether. For a while it was a no breathing zone around that map as we carefully stripped off the linen while leaving each individual piece of paper that wanted to flake off where it belonged.

Pictured: I think in this picture Gabe and I are both holding our breath as we work along the edges.

Pictured: This one was too good not to throw in. As Gabe and I are concentrating really hard, Aaron is in the background posing!

In some areas around the edges we left them until the very end so that they could dry a little bit longer, making it a little bit easier to remove the linen without taking the flaking paper with it. 

Pictured: John climbed onto a ladder to get a more complete shot.

Pictured: Gabe and I worked in tandem to strip the linen from the center out.

Pictured: As you can see from this angle, the hollytex facing is doing its job by providing a surface for the map to cling to while we took off the linen.

 There were parts that just didn't want to stay where they were supposed to, so we kept the linen close to the paper and used a palette knife to hold the pieces in place if necessary.

Pictured: There were some pieces that weren't attached to any other part of the map, so I used a palette knife to hold them in place.

Pictured: We loved this close up photo with the little bubbles!

Pictured: I was talking to the paper the whole time coaxing it to stay where it was and this corner piece was particularly nerve wracking, but its my favorite part of the map now!

Pictured: When we were done the linen strips looked like we had just unwrapped a mummy.
 We finally got it all off! Huge sigh of relief!

Pictured: A final shot of the border of the map where we managed to save almost every single piece!

The map was left to dry face down over night. What will we do next? I guess you'll have to come back tomorrow to find out!

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!