Monday, June 17, 2013

Valuing Silkscreens

Alright, I know this post doesn't have a fancy title with a hook about a silkscreen that everyone wants to see miraculously fixed. In fact, the title is kind of boring, but it is something that we just need to say and get out of the way. So, I'm going to start out in plain English and say it: WHEN YOU ROLL SILKSCREENS, NO MATTER WHAT CONDITION THEY ARE IN, YOU PUT THEM AT EXTREME RISK OF BEING DAMAGED. You are rolling something that is really meant to be kept flat.

This is Poster Mountain's official statement about screen prints that have been through our isinglass gelatin resizing technique:

Depending on the reason for having a silk screen flattened using our resizing technique; most silk screens should be kept flat. This includes both storage and shipping. When a print is damaged and creases form in the paper it inherently weakens the structural integrity of the paper. Rolling a silk screen that has been flattened can potentially cause a relapse of the damage.

Damage or creases that run parallel with the way the print is rolled are at a higher risk of recurring. Creases that run perpendicular to the way the print is rolled seem to be less at jeopardy. However, there are always exceptions and there is no hard and fast rule for the way paper behaves. Each print is individual and should be treated as such.

For prints that have no damage whatsoever to them and have just been flattened, it is okay to roll them. This does negate the flattening process, but our resizing technique should not increase the risk of damaging the mint condition prints as long as proper storage and shipping methods are used. But again, there is no way to predict how paper will react or account for human error or accident. The safest way to store or ship a silk screen is in a flat package.

Poster Mountain’s shipping policy has been changed to reflect this. We will no longer roll Mondo-type screen prints  for shipping.  A flat package is the only way that a silk screen will now be shipped out of our facilities. Please take this into account when making your financial and shipping arrangements for your silk screens in the future.

And we will not take any responsibility for any damage that occurs as a result of mishandling once the poster has been received in good condition.

I'll break this statement down with some visuals and metaphors because everyone loves those!

Here is a photograph of a rolled silkscreen that we received:

Close up:

This is an example of what I mean when I say that the creases run parallel to the way the print is rolled. I have been working on several metaphors for how best to explain the way creases affect the integrity of the paper. I think the best one is to compare the print to a human body. Much like when we tear a ligament or a muscle, which isn't just one big tear but lots of little ones and while our bodies heal there can often be a weakness where the injury occurred. The muscle continues to function as it should, but extreme strain runs the risk of rebreaking. Paper is the same way. When damage like tears and creases happens the internal unity of  the paper has been disrupted and there will always be a weak point along the damaged areas. Rolling prints, and as we said earlier, particularly when the damage runs parallel to the way the print is rolled, causes stress along the damaged area and can cause a relapse.

This is why we have changed our shipping policy and will continue to inform clients of this change when they are making the decision about whether to send us something. So while our isinglass resizing technique does fix the visible damage done to these prints, nothing can change the internal damage that has been done and rolling the prints will only make the issues worse. This is a relatively new treatment for silkscreens, although John has been doing it for years with fine art prints. We are learning as we go and we are clarifying with clients as we find out more about the effect it has on silkscreens, which is what this rather wordy blog post is about.

As for shipping, I would say that 90% of the work that we do with silkscreens is because of an issue caused when the print was rolled, usually put into a cardboard tube and shipped.

We understand that shipping can get expensive quickly and we would prefer to save on cost and time ourselves. When we do ship things in tubes they are sent wrapped in bubble-wrap, with tape around the ends to help lower the risk of the ends being crushed. We also use a special type of tubing, HDPE laminate pipes, that we cut down to size. Unlike a cardboard tube, our packages can take a little rough handling.

Our flat packages are intense and yes, we know they are expensive. We tried to lessen the cost of shipping flat using cheaper materials and the package arrived at its destination with a hole punched through it. So we are sticking with what we know works. (If you want to see an insane way to ship something check out the blog post we did about making crates to ship two pieces of art: A Couple of Crates... )

Now, I'm going to very briefly touch on a sore subject... shipping for reselling. Please, please, please be aware that shipping is a dangerous activity. We have had the best results using FedEx and the worst with UPS. USPS usually falls somewhere in the middle of these two. If you can, try to ship it flat. (Yes, I heard all of you groan at the added cost of that) If you have to ship it in a tube, please do your best to make sure that the print won't rattle around inside the tube. (See the pictures above)

As I write this post I realized that I have a lot to say about handling silkscreens, so I know that this is a lengthy post and not one of the fun ones, but please stick with me to the end and you may save yourself some hassle.

John put the fox among the chickens (my Texas, rancher roots are showing) when the question of paper quality of some silkscreens was brought up in one of the Facebook groups. In the long run, it is advisable to use a high-quality fine art paper like Arches or  BFK Rives (rag based papers, which can be washed and de-acidified). These rag based papers are the types of papers that Picasso, Chagall, and Calder printed on and more recently Banksy and Mr. Brainwash, and they are usually a joy to fix because the paper can be washed and chemically treated when they begin to show their age. Have I mentioned that John recently washed a few Revolutionary War bank notes, as in 18th-century paper that because they were rag based did not cause an issue and have now been conserved and will probably outlast some of the Mondo prints. Pulp-based papers have a much shorter life and are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to conserve.

And please, for the love of all things that are holy, stay away from dry mount, tape, and glue! There is no such thing as archival any of these things and they will affect the life of your prints.

Art is an investment. No, it is not easily liquidated, and yes, the price fluctuates greatly depending on the market, but at the end of the day, it is an investment. And more important than the dollar value is the emotional value we place on these pieces. I walked past one of my silkscreens the other day and noticed some warping of the paper. No one else that I asked was bothered by it, but that warping bugs me every time I walk past it because I love that print and I want it to remain in mint condition for my own personal enjoyment. So, whether it is a print that you got on Ebay that is worth $20 or a Sperry, Stout, Horkey, Durieux, etc. whose value has increased over time, if it is a piece you love please treat it with the care and respect it deserves as part of the artist's soul and part of humanity's cry into the void for understanding. (I know that I am getting a little existential here, but this is what art at it's highest level is. The recognition of one part of our soul/mind/heart in another person's soul/mind/heart and a reminder that we are not alone in the universe. So, please do not be miserly with the pieces of art that are important to you.)

At the end of the day, do your homework. Understand what the market value of your artwork is and what the personal value is. Consider what you are planning to do with it in the future and make a decision on framing, storage, shipping and conservation based off of these factors.

None of this is to deter anyone from buying and collecting silkscreens. They are beautiful, wonderful examples of the print-makers art. We just wanted to put forth some general information regarding questions that have recently come up. And we are always happy to clarify further. If you have further questions regarding this post or your pieces please 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!