07 May 2014

Mounting Art on Boards Part 1

This is the first in a three-post series about pasting works on paper onto wooden panels for presentation. (Part 2 here and Part 3 here.) Here are a few caveats to note before you try this:
- I'm pasting woodblock prints created using the Japanese method, called moku hanga or ukiyo-e.

- I use Guerra pigment dispersions rather than paint or ink. These are pure pigments suspended in water.
- If you use any other kind of ink, sumi ink, ink jet, etc., always test before you try this. There are no guarantees that this method will work for your type of ink.

Happy as I am to have my "Mixed Feelings" prints accepted for the International Print Biennale, the idea of shipping nine framed prints to the UK has been a little daunting. Even the organizers of the show wondered if I could use an alternative to framing. They suggested mounting the whole series onto one or two large sheets of washi in a sort of scroll mount, an idea that I ultimately rejected because it would be technically difficult and also because it would imply that the series was a single piece. I view it more as nine separate pieces that build upon and converse with one another.

With the SGCI panel about starch paste mounting still fresh in my mind, I wondered if it would be possible to mount the prints on boards using an adaptation of the Japanese method of byoubu (mounting for folding screens). I met with my friend Louise Kohrman, a print artist who knows a whole lot about chine collé, and with her input I became convinced that mounting on boards was the best option for this series. Last week I ordered art boards and washi and by Monday they had arrived.

Purchased at art-boards.com, these maple plywood panels are made for painters, can be ordered at custom sizes, and have slots on the back for hanging on a single nail or screw. Art-Boards.com also offers mounting panels with pre-applied heat activated reversible adhesive, but I decided to use the Japanese technique of applying washi to the board and then pasting my prints on top of the washi.

Here's a photo essay on the first step – applying a base layer of washi to the boards.

This step may or may not be necessary, but I felt more secure by marking some guidelines to help me know where to place the board.
I used my markings to trim the corners so I could neatly wrap the paper around to the back of the boards.

I had read (and Louise confirmed) that the paste should be quite thin, maybe the consistency of whole milk. I used prepared rice starch, cooked a two-cup batch and then added water to thin it. I put a lot of paste on the washi, thoroughly soaking it.

Using my pencil guides, I laid the board on top of the paste-filled washi and then flipped it over. I used a dry brush to brush the washi flat onto the board and work out any air bubbles or wrinkles. This is a cheap brush. It worked, but if I get into a habit of using this method I'll get a better brush made just for this purpose.

Once the washi was adhered to the front, I gently turned the board over and began wrapping the washi to the back. You can see how thin this washi is (39 gsm). It held up well to all the moisture, but I do think it should be just a bit heavier for this purpose.

Here's a corner all tucked and brushed.

I placed some small woodblocks under the boards to hold them up off the table tops while they dry. It's projects like these when I really feel the limitations of my little 12 x 13 foot studio.

The drying is going well, although the plywood edges aren't adhering like the front and back faces. That's probably because the end-grain edges absorbed the paste too much. Tomorrow I'll do the really scary part and put paste all over my prints!


Melody Knight Leary said...

Congratulations Annie on your acceptance into an international show!

I like your solution for an alternative framing method and will be following along to see how it goes. I'm at a point also where I just don't always want to formally frame my prints and these boards you're using are an intriguing alternative. Thanks for including where to get them. I've seen prints hung with magnets, which works well for heavier papers but bot sure if the thinner papers would risk damage.

Years ago I did a series of body prints on paper and ended up dry mounting those on boards for exhibition. I'd be interested to know if the rice paste would work for heavier printing papers.

Annie B said...

Thanks, Melody. The conservator on the SGCI panel said that rice and wheat starch pastes are crazy strong. I think it's tricky to figure out the proper consistency, though, and I think it matters! I'm flying by the seat of my pants here, as I can't find much material out there.

William Evertson said...

Excellent alternative and I can't wait to see how the next (nerve wracking) step plays out. I've never mounted my mokuhanga but I've had some problems mounting sumi-e...ie: bleeding. Perhaps there was not enough binder in the ink sticks I was using but I ended up giving a light spray of fixative to the next few and that seemed to solve the problem. Hopefully, prints behave better.

Andrew Stone said...

Annie, I tried something similar last month after looking at Henri Li's video tutorials on Youtube (Henri Li's Blue Heron Arts) He has lots of video tutorials on wet (and dry) mounting washi (calligraphy and etagami and sumi paintings) to boards and to paper. I used his online video tutorials before trying to mount some small prints that wrinkled badly during drying using white flour, a pinch of alum and water much as you did above. Painting the back of the prints with thin paste and then laying the thin washi backing to the back of the prints then to boards for drying..(see my March post: "wrinkles and paste" on my blog for more....I look forward to your next posts as I have some bigger prints that I now want to try mounting as they look better and flatter mounted.
Another Plus--if you back them with white washi the thin paper you print on will reflect the white from below and they make the prints brighter and more vivid. Good Luck.

Annie B said...

William, I'm hoping that the fact that I often dry and then re-dampen my prints while they're in progress means that they can take all the moisture they'll be subjected to in the next step. Nerve wracking is the right term :/

Annie B said...

Andrew, thanks for sharing your info. The one thing I see in Henri Li's video that raises a red flag for me is his use of whole flour. Most of the chine collé people will tell you that you should use wheat or rice starch, not flour. (I think that's because it won't attract insects, but I'm not sure.) But I'm very happy to see in your blog post that pasting a backing sheet resolved your wrinkling problem! Definitely got that tucked into my mental file cabinet!!

Paddy said...

I'd have used wooden clothes pegs & strings..

What do I know.. ? - (!)

Andrew Stone said...

You are right about the starch vs white flour (I was in a hurry....)but I think American all-white flour probably has almost no nutritional value.....so it's probably only good for glue? But yes. It's better to use plain starch as there are no other sugars to potentially go bad.
How are you going to center your prints on the boards--or are they exactly the right size?

Unknown said...

At the University of Tennessee my professor Koichi Yamamoto will glue his Japanese paper engravings onto western paper in a process that is similar to what you are doing here. What he uses is a mixture of rice paste and PVA glue depending on how sticky he needs it to be. I think the other reason he puts PVA into the mixture is that it is a flexible glue and he has to ship the prints rolled.

If you wet the paper and then apply the glue with a brayer you can get a very thin even coat and as it dries it will shrink taught onto the board.

It may be useful to moisten the paper on your boards with a spray bottle before you glue down so that the prints and the paper on the boards can dry together.

Good luck with your project!

Annie B said...

Andrew, the boards are the same size as the paper my prints were printed on (although I expect them to stretch a bit once moistened). It will be interesting to work with that.

Hannah, thanks for that info. The drawback with PVA glue is that it's not reversible, and I want to be able to reverse these if they come back to me unsold. I like your thought to moisten the paper on the boards before glueing. I think that will help.