damp paper art


Grumbler in Training
Jun 30, 2003
Saint Helena, CA
My client brought in artwork, floated on matboard, which because of our damper climate has become wavy. The original framer adhered it to the matboard in all 4 corners and on each side. Because of this the artwork could not expand and contract properly. I have removed the artwork and now want to proceed with reframing it. Can the "wavyness' be minimized? How do I do it properly?

We mist it lightly on the back and put it under a box of glass. It usually works. Be sure to mist it lightly.
Even humidification and drying under pressure is a good idea, but misting may be a little too random (even light misting) to insure an even application. Direct application of water to the back of the paper can result in new and more interesting problems than the cockling the piece is now experiencing.
If you insist on trying this yourself (as opposed to sending it to a conservator) you might want to consult with a conservator before proceeding.
There are potential pitfalls involving the kind of paper, the kind of pigments, the age and condition, etc. that should be taken into account before proceeding.
Depending on the value, you might want to check your coverage limits on your insurance. If the client is not happy with the results, you will more than likely be buying the art from them.

Another thought before I go...isn't there some liability on the part of the original framer to make corrections to something framed improperly? They are the ones that caused the problem (unless the client left the piece in the sauna a bit too long), and by working on the piece to make corrections, you assume a certain amount of their liability...well actually all of it since after you work on it there will be no evidence of where their work ended and yours started.
This a job for a conservator. It involves risks,
for which you will never be properly conpensated:
tidelines, and foxing both of which may show up
later, water-sensitive colorants tha may run, and
possible uneven drying. Work that involves changing valuable items should not be part of a
framer's opetation.

Hugh - What if Alan didn't specify that it was valuable?
HB - It is because there are variables that one just can't totally predict. If it is a silk screen, for example, misting could crack the ink. Not on all silk screens mind you, just some. How could one describe which ones will crack and which ones won't on a bulletin board? It is not always possible to predict even when the art is in front of one.

Value is relative. Someone may want you to "just" flatten something ("just" being code for don't want to pay much), it is not valuable,etc. etc. but perhaps it becomes valuable if damage occurs.

Life is short, angst is long. The older I get, the easier it becomes to say no.

Something like that, I ususally put in the press at the end of the day, while it is still warm, but not hot. I would put it between two pieces of AF fomebord for good pressure, and possibly put some release paper over the front of the piece just to be safe. Leave overnight.