Shells glued to cotton wool ...


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Nov 19, 2003
Orange County, CA
Here's my latest framing challenge ... appreciate any and all suggestions:

Numerous small shells of various depths have been glued to cotton wool ... right now it is laying "flat" in a box ... shells sink into cotton wool ... some parts of the cotton wool are very thin other are deeper ... this is something client's dad brought back from Japan many years ago ... client recently found it and wants it framed to hang vertically ... problem is that the cotton wool sags badly as soon as it is moved into the vertical ... definitely needs some method for containing the artwork against a backing.

This piece does not lend itself to mylar encapsulation because the shells are all different depths

Size is about 13" x 11"

Thoughts so far include (a) setting artwork in sink mat covered with stabiltex and (b) laying the artwork face down in a shallow acryllic box and then padding out the box from the rear with more cotton wool ... fixing a base to hold it all in place then proceeding to sink mat and frame the acryliic box within a shadow box moulding.

Any other ideas? (A horizontal treatment is definitely not a possibility.)

Thanks in anticipation.
What is cotton wool? Felt maybe, from the thin areas you describe. I think I would condsider remounting them to something more stable. The stabeltex or tule sounds like a solution.
Ah ... I think I may have used the British term for it ... even though I have lived in the States for half my life occasionally I will lapse into my native English (as opposed to American)!

OK ... I'm having a senior moment here and can't remember the American name for it so I'll describe it ... similar stuff to what they make cotton balls out of (i.e. women use them for make up removal or something!) Only it's in a sheet and a bit looser woven. The stuff is about 3/8" thick. Looks a bit like fiber glass padding that you insulate walls with, but made out of cotton.

Can't remount them ... client wants to keep as is ... along with the shells are some tiny labels written in Japanese ... all stuck down to the aforementioned "cotton wool" or whatever its called.
I like the "b" idea. It seems to me it would work very nicely. Or even make a fome core sided box and tape glass for the bottom and do the same thing. It must look like specimens mounted in a museum, yes?

How clean is the existing cotton? Will the new stuff show from the front? Or can you push the old stuff forward and pad from behind?

We will want to see photos of this when it is finsihed.
Is it possible to stiffen up the cotton wool,perhaps with something like hair lacquer
I don't think I'd spray it with anything. It might end up looking like Donald Trump's hair.
lol, I don't think anything would duplicate DT's hair.

Sounds like batting. Since it is old you may want to freeze and thaw it two or three times to kill any little critters living in it. Then add some polyester batting behind and use the tule with the sink mount.
Thank you framar ... yeh it must be batting ... although that sounds more like cricket to me ... er ... do I mean baseball?

Clearly Mick11 knew perzackly what I meant, being a Yorkshire lad ... home of the best tea in the UK
Every now and then, not too often, but we all get them, a project will come along that will end up costing us considerably more than we can ever recover from our customer.

This project sounds a lot like one of those jobs from h ell.

The shells are glued to Cotton batting, what kind of glue? will they continue to stay in place when displayed in the vertical? Will their weight eventually pull them away from the batting? This is all assuming you do, in fact, come up with a way of holding the batting in place.

Lets assume you finish the job, will the customer be back every few months to have one of the shells re-glued? Will the customer insist it is your responsibility, since you did the work?

These shells were obviously put into a method of display that was not intended to hang on a wall, yet your customer wants you to come up with a method of doing just that, WITHOUT changing the original method of display.

Why does she not go to her automobile dealer and tell him to fix her car so that it will float above the roadway, so she will not need tires?

Myself, I would offer to replace the batting for something more substantial, if the shells could be removed safely, or I would pass on the project. How much time have you spent so far? How much have you been paid for this time?

We all would like to build a reputation of being able to do anything, the person to go to with the tough ones. Sometimes it's just better to be realistic. You have a business to run, a living to earn. You have to keep those things in mind when you take these "projects" on.

I could be completely off base in my assessment of the situation. Your customer could be one of those rare ones who could care less what the project costs, just get it done. If that is the case, why heck, just go to work on it. Hire consultants, engineers, whatever it takes.

Understand what you say, and I agree in principle, however this particular job falls into the category described in your last paragraph ... she is emotionally attached to the object "as is" and is paying well for the job. I plan on finding the best solution that will reduce the probability of rework ... hence the question ... right now I'm still thinking my idea "b" is the likeliest way forward ... but I remain interested in any and all ideas.
Sorry for the misinterpretation. Cotton batting is still a sheet, just has not been woven. Perhaps you could just lay it into some Yes Paste on a rigid mat board, then re-enforce it by sewing it down with a cotton thread in unobtrusive locations. Just a guess, that's all it could be, without seeing it.

Not so sure about the tea, i'm a coffee drinker:)
Seem to remember birds egg collections mounted on cotton wool many years ago. Seem to remember it was used in sheets as opposed to the balls.The eggs had a spot of glue on them and then nestled into the cotton wool.I have some very early boys books here will see if I can find something.(All boys collected eggs when I was a kid, its illegal now)

When I grew up in the rural Cotswolds I was an avid birds egg collector as were all the horrible little country tykes ... so glad that it's now illegal!

I grew up in rural Kent, emigrated to Yorkshire 5 years ago, hence a coffee drinker. Unfortunately intesive farming has done far more damage than we boys ever did.
But agree it should be illegal.
Been through the books but could only find how to blow them,not mount them. If the cotton wool is sound JRBs idea sounds as good as any. You shouild be able to hide the stitches quite easily in the wool.
If the client wants to keep the shells as they
are, you might place a piece of polyester batting
under the cotton, to provide support.

Would supporting the shells with thread help?

What I envision would be to mount the batting to a foam core using one of the above suggested methods. Then for each shell, bring a thread up through the foam core and support the fabric directly above and/or below where the shell is attached then bring it back through the foam core and tie it off. You would essentially be making a sling for each shell at the glue attachment point. The thread would have to come from slightly above each shell to ensure that the thread is in tension. Given the texture of the batting, I imagine that the threads could easily be concealed.

I have never tried this so it is just a thought....
Um, guys, I sincerely hope he has finished this project by now; the original post was from March of last year.

I'm curious too though, what did you do to support the batting?