Art Paper and Restorations

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Paper - The Artist's Web
Artwork used with permission
by artist Rick Berg
History of Paper:
The first papermaking could have been done as far back as 105 AD. The paper was made by using cloth strips that were pulverized, tree bark, hemp waste and old fish nets. The mixture of fibers would then be suspended in water and then matted into crude sheets of paper.

Japan developed papermaking techniques in 610 AD perfecting this art over the centuries to come. Paper making in Baghdad began around 793, then on to Spain and Italy by the late 1200's, reaching England in 1494. William Rittenhouse was the first American to produce paper in 1690 in Pennsylvania.

Over the centuries, paper has been perfected, and is the surface many artist choose as their canvas. Paper is used for medias such as pastel, pencil, watercolor, oil, crayon, and ink. Artists may choose from commercial paper, or handmade paper. Artists must consider the factors involved with paper before they begin their work of art, and choose their paper carefully.

Paper Care and Paper Damage:
Paper can be damaged in many ways. Improper handling of paper can cause stains from finger oils, to tears. Paper that is not carefully handled can leave impressions and folds. Acid can cause the most damage to paper. Poor quality mats used around some paintings can do damage that is irreversible. Acid can and will migrate into paper. It is advisable to always use acid free mats when framing your artwork. Also make sure you use acid free backings. Acid free mats are usually double the cost of ordinary mats, but your work won't be ruined in years to come, and the cut edge of the mat will stay clean and white. Many famous works of art have been damaged very badly due to improper use of mats, and cardboard or wood backings in the framework.

Watercolor, pastels and inks can fade badly on paper that is exposed to direct sunlight. If the paper has a high wood content, the light can darken the paper. If the paper is placed in a very humid location, decay will result in the artwork. Too little humidity in a location can cause fibers and adhesives to dry and break. It is therefore important for artwork created on paper products to be in a location with a good balance between moisture, and dryness.

Once damage is done to paper, it is impossible to restore it back to its perfect original condition. A person restoring damage can reduce most of the visual effects, but tears, stains, fading, and acid damage cannot be reversed. Preservation of the paper can be helped along with chemical treatment for future years to come, but it will be far more cost effective if you take preventative measures now.

Proper Framing Techniques:
In order for your artwork created on a paper canvas to be properly protected for the years to come, always use a framer who is skilled in conservation framing.
  • Never mount a picture down to a backing just because you want to lesson the natural buckling or waves
  • Never allow a framer to trim edges of artwork
  • Never allow the artwork to touch the glass. Condensate will cause mold on the paper.
  • Allow your artwork to cure in your environment before you actually frame it. This will lesson the tendency to buckle when you do frame it.
  • Do not spray any type of glass cleaner directly on the glass, spray the cloth, not the glass. This will lesson the chance of moisture running between the glass and the frame with will cause staining.
  • The rule of thumb when framing any work of art is to have the ability to reverse anything that is done in the process.

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