Tapa Cloth mounting (and flattening) help?

Cliff Wilson

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Industry Vendor
May 14, 2002
Worcester, MA
Customer brought in two Tapa Cloth paintings. Tourist things, but she likes them a lot.

The are VERY wrinkled. They were flat when she bought them. She says they are "pounded bark" paper/cloth. They are very rough and thick. Kind of like rough textured felt.

I believe I can get them "flatter," but not FLAT, with some gentle humidifying.

She would like to float mount them, but I can't see how I would get them to stay flat enough. There is a monochrome thickish painting she says is dye on them with an approximately 1 1/2" unpainted around the painting. She feels it would be ok if the surround curled and wrinkled, but would like the painting to stay flat.

Any suggestions or comments??
A steamer works great on Tapa cloth. We have one in our shop that we purchased from a retail fixture supplier, cost around $125.00. They make two models of these things, one of them is a heavy duty one, used for steaming big projects like curtains. The other is the smaller one, for quick jobs. The smaller one is the way to go, produces great steam in a few minutes. The heavy duty one takes around fifteen minutes to produce stream. This is one of those tools like a drill press, you hardly ever use them, but when you need them, you really need them. Use distilled water only, your steamer will last forever.

Tapa Cloth is a whole lot tougher than it's given credit for. Steam it just like you would any other cloth. You can mount it using Yes Paste.

Think of it as another job.

Now that I think about it, I do not think hinging would work on Tapa cloth. The stuff just wants to flake apart where the hing is. You would end up using so many hinges, the removal process would probably be about the same or worse.

Surprisingly, I could be wrong about this, I don't think I have ever hinged one.

I see a these often. Go ahead and hinge it. Often they're made in Samoa for souvenires. Unless it's antique or exquisite, handle it pretty much in the same way as a painting on paper. As for floating it, unless the natural edge hasn't been cut away, I wouldn't go to the additional expense. Press it as flat as you'd like and hinge it to the mat.

Traditionally Tapa (Kapa) were used as garments and bedding among other uses. In Hawai'i patterns were embossed with textured beaters while processing the bark, and printed onto dried tapa with carved bamboo strips. It's gorgeous.