Is this a bad idea?

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
An artist who does water colors has had me mount, mat, and shrinkwrap several of her paintings. For some reason today something hit me. Does the airtight condition created by shrinkwraping risk turning these paintings into a mold funhouse?

I certainly don’t want a science experiment on my hands.
I have never really thought about that. You may be on to something.I would think it would have a lot to do with how 'dry' they were. If they were done some time ago, there shouldn't be any more danger with water colors than anything else.

Hopefully Hugh will chime in and give us some real knowledge.
I have a friend of mine that is a framer and has his masters degree in watercolor. He would always put a small hole in the back of the shrink wrap. He said it was to keep the shrink wrap from over-tightening when in the sun outside at art fairs, and to allow the heavy paper he uses to "breath".
Only thing that bothers me about it is the "mount" part. I don't think it's a great idea to mount an original.

Sinkmat around the heavy paper? I tried wishing it in place but it kept moving anyway.
I have a few pieces of art that have been shrink wrapped 10 years and stored in a building with no heat or air. There is no damage that I can see. They are very inexpensive prints but I don't know that they would react different than a watercolor.
If the art is dry, you shouldn’t have a problem with mildew. I’m not convinced that a shrink wrap package is ever totally air tight, so keep if out of extremely humid environments just to be sure.

However, the shrink wrap plastic can do damage to the surface of the art itself (in my experience sometimes adhere), if it is allowed to come in contact with it.

The mat should help, but when you shrink wrap it, I suggest that you heat the front surface a little more than usual so that the package is slightly convex. This should insure that the plastic never touches the art.
It's no more humid inside the package than it is may be slightly less humid from the heat of the shrink packaging.
The hole in the back also insures that you don't end up with a pneumatic pillow.
Remember, shrink wrap is a temporary situation.
I would either refuse to mount an original watercolor (I presume you mean a permanet mounting method) or, at least, have the artsit sign a release form for each original mounted.

Even if you have a release form signed you may be held liable in the future.

Dave Makielski
I presume you mean a permanet mounting method
Why would we assume that?

Jay may have been born almost yesterday, but I've heard he's not as dumb as he looks.

To me, mounting could mean dry mounting, hinge mounting, conservation mounting or whatever's appropriate.

Why not imagine that Jay knows what's appropriate before we start chastising him?

(Jay, if you ARE dry mounting those watercolors, shame on you and I take back all the nice things I just said about you. On the other hand, the heat from the press would certainly dry those watercolors out thoroughly before shrink-wrapping.)
Please allow me to quote....ummm myself.

"Sinkmat around the heavy paper..."

While I did use alpha cell and not rags, I feel this is a very reasonable way to "mount" this watercolor.
Originally posted by Jay H:
...I did use alpha cell and not rags, I feel this is a very reasonable way to "mount" this watercolor.
Yes, a sinkmount with alphacellulose boards is a pretty good way to mount heavy paper. However, you're asking that heavy paper to stand on its bottom edge, so it might develop horizontal wrinkles. It's generally better to hinge the top edge, so it can hang like a curtain behind the mat. That way, gravity works to keep it flat.

But if the art is to travel and be handled, hinge mounts may be too fragile to endure.

For the record, the term "high alphacellulose" describes paper fibers that are purified and lignin-free. Conservation authorities consider alphacellulose boards to be acceptable for all preservation framing, whether they are made of purified wood pulp, cotton linters, jute, linen, other cellulose fibers, or some combination.

It is true that inherently lignin-free fibers (such as cotton) require less processing than, say, wood fibers, but the resulting alphacellulose board is of the same-quality fibers either way.

In other words, alphacellulose is alphacellulose. Many framers have their preferences for cutting, look, and feel, but for the purposes of preservation framing, "rag" and "alphacellulose" boards are the same.

I agree with Ron, as usual. "Mount" refers to any method of holding the art in position within the frame. To assume that "mount" means dry mount is a stretch.

Now, about the shrink wrapping...I agree with everyone else -- it's not the best idea, but it's better than no protection at all.
I gave it to her. I told her that I didn't feel that it was a good idea to "store" these like this. She said they were gifts and she was "sure" that the new owners would bring these in to get framed soon.

As I hold my breath I am becoming dizzy. I bet I will only get 8 or 9 hours of sleep thinking about this.

But for future reference how would you "hinge" something this thick, heavy, and large? I hate a good c/p discussion as much as the next guy but my resources recommend wet mount, dry mount, sink mount, and hinge mount for watercolors even this thick (500lb paper). I guess I just consider paper this thick a 3D item and handle it accordingly. So how would I hinge this?