Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Toy Box Part 2

Yesterday we finished up with the conservation and structural stabilization of a 1950s Children's Hospital toy box. Today we are continuing with the restoration. The flap that was added that was part of the missing section from a side of the box, the patch over the corner and all of the small tears needed to be addressed. This was done through a combination of airbrushing and detail work.

Gabe took care of the masking, starting off with the yellow of the crescent moon. 

Pictured: The acetate mask was done by Gabe, so that once Aaron had matched the color of the moon he just had to evenly cover the open area.

Pictured: Progress shot of the airbrushed moon, it's only partially finished.

Pictured: Tada! New moon!
The next step was to airbrush the blue-green background color. This meant masking off all of the yellow and the print on the box. Its also really obvious here why taking apart the box to make it lay flat made it easier to work on. Imagine trying to prep, mask and airbrush on a three dimensional object (we've done it, but man it's not fun).

Pictured: Progress photo of the background airbrushing.

Pictured: Aaron builds up multiple layers of paint to create the right look for each block of color.

Because the box had to be folded up again, we were circumspect in our use of airbrush, preferring to paint only those areas that were larger. This left the restoration of the small tears to be detailed by Melissa.

Pictured: Melissa trimming down a rough spot before painting.

Pictured: I think this is the first photo we have ever included of Melissa's marvelous watercolor box. I believe she has more than 60 basic color options and as you can see she creates her own to precisely match whatever she is working on.
Unlike with a poster, our job wasn't finished once the airbrushing and detailing was done. The box needed to be refolded and put back together. This was a delicate job, for the obvious reasons. Crease the wrong place and not only would the box fit together incorrectly, we could also damage the areas we had already fixed. John and Melissa worked on this part together. The edge of a table is a natural place to make straight fold lines with things like this, however, our tables are pretty beat up, so John used a piece of plexiglass to help create the necessary straight edge we needed. Then they carefully began refolding all of the flaps and corners.

Pictured: John and Melissa, seeing how the first fold goes. In the foreground here is a Picasso.

Pictured: The first fold went well, so they continued.
After all of the flaps had been folded, it was time to put it back together and see how everything looked.

Pictured: John and Melissa putting the box back together.

Pictured: John and Melissa examining the box after folding it back together.

Pictured: A closer shot of one of the sides of the box after restoration.

The box came together nicely, except for one or two areas that needed a little more attention. However, Melissa was able to handle those minor fixes easily .

Pictured: Two areas had broken during the folding process, but Melissa handled those easily.

After repairing the last minute fixes, John and Melissa took the box up to the front for its glamor shots.

Pictured: John got a great shot of Melissa holding the box.

Pictured: Top of the box.

Pictured: Final photo of the box after conservation and restoration.
John just gave me a history lesson about this toy box, so now I'm passing it on to you. This box is a British toy set from the 1950s when England was in an economic depression after WWII and children's toys were extremely expensive. This means that not as many were produced and so to find a complete set, particularly with the box is extraordinarily rare. The collector who brought this in has several sets of the toys that go inside, which include two beds, two children, two end tables, a flower bouquet, two nurses and a doctor. As far as we know this is one of the only full sets remaining. So it was an incredible treat to work on it. And when the owner came to pick up the box he brought in the toys that go inside and let us take a few pictures:

Pictured: Children's Hospital toy box and set. The rubber band wrapped around the child in pink is original to the set.
The owner was so excited and thrilled with how the box turned out. I think he originally meant to sell it, but once he saw the final product he just couldn't let it go. And who could blame him! This is a wonderful piece of history and we had so much fun working on it.

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 postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Toy Box Part 1

Poster Mountain is a paper based conservation company, but that doesn't always mean that our work is limited to posters and prints. This week we are posting about the restoration of an old lead-toy box. This box held lead toys of a hospital ward and was brought in by a client who collects lead toys. His wife is the poster collector, but he brought it to us in the hopes that we would be able to stabilize this box. And as you can tell from the fact that we're doing another two part blog post, we can!

The issues, as you can see from the pictures below, were that a whole section was missing from the box that included an interior flap as well as numerous tears all over the box. Clearly this little thing has had a rough life.

Pictured: Back of the toy box. 

Pictured: Front of the toy box. 

Pictured: The box was falling apart, which made it much easier for us to get a picture of the inside. The section to the right with part of a crescent moon on it is what was missing paper. 

Pictured: A better shot of the section missing paper and where we will add the flap. 
Pictured: A shot of the top of the box. 
John's first thought was to try humidifying the box in a bucket of water on top of floatation device in order to keep the box out of direct contact with water. But that plan had to be altered when someone (cough cough Aaron cough cough) knocked the box into the water while cleaning (we cut him some slack because he was cleaning). So, since the box got wet John went ahead and washed it and put it between two pieces of blotter paper and then put it into the press to dry flat.

Pictured: The box after it has dried in the press.

Our plan after the box was flat and dry was to use John's isinglass gelatin technique to temporarily mount the box to a melamine board with a paper substrate across the whole center of the box that would help support the patch of the missing paper and the additional flap that had to be added.

Mounting the box to the board was a a two step process because the box was actually in two pieces, so the big piece had to be laid down first and then the separate section placed in the exact position. If it was off center even a little bit, then when we tried to fold the box back together it wouldn't fit properly. So, no pressure!

Pictured: The box after it has been removed from the press and before we began the isinglass process. 
We put the substrate down first and then laid the larger piece of the box down next. Then we carefully positioned and adjusted the section that had separated from the rest. We left enough of the base paper sticking out the side to give Melissa something to patch on top of.

Pictured: Smoothing down the substrate before we put the larger part of the box down. 

Pictured: The box while still damp, drying on top of the hollytex and substrate. 

Pictured: The box after it has dried over night. 

Once the box was dry, John took it off the board and back to Melissa. She had to find a very specific type of paper in order to patch the missing areas. The box was made of thin cardboard, which is still thicker than average poster paper. Fortunately she was able to find appropriately thick paper in our collection of vintage paper.

She used one of the other flaps as a template to create the necessary flap. Using tracing paper she cut out the exact shape she needed. Then she glued the patch on top of the paper substrate, mitering the two edges together so that the join was seamless.

Pictured: Melissa checking out the paper substrate on what will become the interior of the box.

Pictured: The patch, tracing and paper that Melissa used to fix the missing section of the box. 

Pictured: Melissa checking the fold of the new flap. 
Melissa also reinforced the corner where the box had come apart so that it hopefully won't split again. She glued a small patch down over the corner and then burnished it flat.

Pictured: Melissa checking the corner patch against the box to make sure its the right size. 

Pictured: Melissa applying the glue before she puts the patch on.

Pictured: Here Melissa is burnishing the patch down flat using a teflon tool. 

Pictured: I kept catching John and Melissa in conference and the pictures were too good to pass up putting at least one up. 
At this point the box was structurally stable, but it still needed a lot of restoration to be up to Poster Mountain standards. Check back tomorrow to see how the restoration went!

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 postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Poster Mountain Silkscreen Experiment

I always love writing the words "We're doing something different this week" on our blog. The variety of ephemera that we see on a daily basis is a huge perk to this job. So, bear with me as I get a little wordy, because we're doing something different this week!

As our regular readers and clients know, Poster Mountain has been privileged to be part of the growing wave of contemporary silkscreens, both as collectors and conservators. We have been lucky enough to see a lot of these, although sadly its because they have been damaged in some way. Usually from issues during shipping.

 Silkscreens are amazingly varied, but two things make them stand out in particular, at least for me, from other types of prints: the viscosity of the ink and the range of paper types they are being printed on. Even different posters from the same shop have vastly different responses to our conservation techniques because of these two aspects.

In an effort to continue to expand our knowledge of these posters and how they respond to conservation, when John came across photos on Facebook (in the Silkscreen Poster Fans and Artists Group) of a badly damaged Malleus rock concert poster he asked that it be sent to us to experiment on. The poster had been damaged in shipping and not only were the sides badly crumpled, but there were two rips that had been punched through the paper. Malleus had replaced the poster so there was nothing riding on this experiment other than gaining valuable knowledge. Also, Urlo from Malleus (in Italy) was very helpful before we began the process, he helped us by following our instructions for testing the stability of the paper and ink on a leftover test-print and he shared the results with us. 

Pictured: The before photo taken under raking light so that the damage can be clearly seen. The two tears are along the right border by the star and just below the tip of the surf board.

Pictured: The poster was rolled in a tube which was severely damaged when it was shipped from Italy. We have a theory here that putting "fragile" on something just tempts the postal workers to damage it in some way. Especially if it is uninsured.

Pictured: John holding the print, you can see light shining through one of the tears.

Because we did not have to worry about causing more harm that we would have to fix later, we were more aggressive with this print than we normally are because we wanted to see what the extreme response to some of our processes are with these silkscreens. One concern that we had was that the ink used to print the Malleus stamp on the back was partially water soluble and we didn't want this to stain the paper around it. Another issue was the texture of the paper, which is a beautiful taupe colored laid fine art paper. We have been extremely cautious when it comes to textured paper because we don't want to loose that texture, so this gave us an opportunity to test the paper's limits.

We began as we usually do, by wetting down the paper front and back. This was tricky because the paper had been rolled and wanted to stay that way, so I used the squeegees to weight down the sides until the paper was saturated enough to lay flat without being forced down.

Pictured: This print did not want to stay flat...

Pictured... So, I used the squeegees to hold it down!

Pictured: We flipped it over to wet the back, but kept a careful eye on that print.

After the poster was wet and laying flat, we massaged the paper paying particular attention to those areas where the paper was dented. I also worked the areas where the two holes were, one on the right side of the star and the other just below the tip of the surf board by the border. Since there was no paper loss with these holes our hope was that we would be able to get the fibers to mesh together again.

Pictured: Massaging the paper trying to get the crumpled borders flat again.
Pictured: Working the area around the tear, trying to get the paper to mesh together again. As the paper begins to become saturated the paper becomes translucent, in this photo you can see a mottled appearance as it begins to soak in.
The poster is suspended between two sheets of Mylar that serve a dual purpose of allowing us to move between the front and back of the poster easily as well as protective barriers when we are manipulating a wet poster. As I worked the paper the crumpling that I could feel when I first started to run my fingers over the poster began to lessen.
Pictured: The tear, after we have worked the area around it trying to get it to lay flat again.This photo is out of sequence, but shows the paper before it became completely saturated.

Pictured: Here is the other side that was damaged.

At this point the tears in the paper were still noticeable, but they felt better. It is a hard thing to explain, especially to people who are visual, as most collectors, artists and art lovers are, but if we can get something to feel better when running our hands over it half  the battle is won, even when it doesn't look like it. Even after we have structurally stabilized something and it still doesn't look right we have a great restoration team that usually can make it look seamless again. However, since we were experimenting our goal was to try and seam these tears back together again during conservation.

Pictured: Here is another shot of that tear. The paper is extremely saturated with water at this point.

Pictured: The second tear became even less noticeable as we worked on this piece, so much so that you can barely see it in this picture.

The stamp on the back was still a concern and so we decided to saturate the paper around it so much so that any ink that wanted to wash out wouldn't stain the paper.

Pictured: After rinsing that area over and over again we were pretty sure that we weren't going to get any staining.

Now of course there is some Poster Mountain conservation voodoo going on that we're not going to show you. We have to keep a few secrets!  However, once the poster had been squeegeed we temporarily mounted it to a piece of hollytex on a melamine board.

Pictured: We used the Mylar to flip this piece over onto the board and then squeegeed it flat and removed the Mylar from the top. Notice how dark the completely saturated paper now appears. It will lighten back up as it dries.

Pictured: Here is the most noticeable of the two tears, pretty inconspicuous at this point.

As a precaution, John decided to put a piece of hollytex over the top to keep the poster flat while it cured. This is a technique called stretch pressing, although the form it has taken here is another one of the techniques that John has come up with. 

Pictured: John smoothing out any air bubbles between the hollytex and the poster.

We were not sure how this poster was going to turn out. As I mentioned earlier we have been extremely cautious about how we handled these pieces and rightly so. Silkscreens can be intimidating to work on because of their basic nature. So, here is the finished piece!

Pictured: The final glamor shot!

We did notice that in comparison to John's print, there was some variation and a sort of dappling effect happening in the paper color. We think that this was a chemical reaction in the paper itself. We did not use any harsh chemicals or bleach and John said he has never seen paper react this way. We're not sure whether it was from the chemicals used to make the paper that color or whether it was just something in the paper making process, but it does confirm our caution in introducing moisture and chemicals to the other silkscreens we have worked on.

Pictured: A side by side comparison of the damaged print on the left and John's untouched print on the right.

And as we expected some of the ink from the stamp on the back did wash out, so that the stamp is now blue instead of black. However, none of it stained the paper.

Pictured: Although the stamp turned blue, there is almost nothing visible left from the earlier damage.

The crumpled edges, however, are perfect again and the tears are almost completely unnoticeable. We were also able to keep the texture of the paper, even after manipulating the poster pretty aggressively in order to address the damage. There was also no noticeable change to the ink in the image.

Pictured: Here is where both tears were. Can you find either of them?

John and I have mixed feelings about this project because of the change in the paper color. However, we are human and thus fallible. We're also perfectionists, but as William Blake wrote the true method of knowledge is experiment. So while John and I may not be completely satisfied with our results, all in all we gained a lot of useful information from working on this poster that will help us to continue to refine the techniques we use on other silkscreens. 

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 postermount@aol.com or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: http://www.postermountain.com and http://www.lapapergroup.com/. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!