We have recently had a fascinating day with Alan Buchanon on making and using pulp papers for paper repairs as an alternative to japanese and western paper repairs. This is a technique that Alan has honed to a great art and precise formula that allows any conservator to give it a go an come out with a good and useable result.
To start with we made and dyed paper at the same time, this was done using shreds of a high grade of cotton rag paper to make the pulp and a precise mixture of dyes to get the colour. The percentage of the colour is essential a the lower the percentage, the lighter the colour. There were about six colour charts using a different percentage of dye for each chart, these can be seen in the photographs below.
Once the paper was made, we then moved on to making the pulp. By take the object and comparing it to the charts, it was possible to see what colour match the object best. Once found, the chart then gave grammages of how much paper was needed from each colour in that percentage, these could be weighed out and blended together like a recipe!
At this point a pulp was ready, and after making small samples and adding any colours if necessary, we were ready to repair. This was done using a powerful suction table, on which the object sat with the area to be repair masked out of melinex in order to prevent any damage to the surrounding area. Using a pippet, the pulp was then squirted into the area the be mended and built up gradually to the required amount. Once this was reached, the use of a hair fryer would dry out the final parts of the repair, and it was done!
I was unsure how strong these repairs would be as there is no adhesive involved. Alan assured me that the combination of the suction of the table and the hair dryer meant thy the cotton fibres would form a very strong covalent bond with the cotton fibres in the paper. This was not necessarily the same with wood pulp papers, which might need a small amount of adhesive mixed into the pulp to ensure it adheres enough.
Since December I have been volunteering on Monday’s at the V&A, which has been an amazing experience and taught me huge amounts. This week, however, has been a little different – I am part of a volunteer group at the V&A working on the ‘Rolled Storage Objects’ in the prints and drawings department. Its currently stock take week for the libraries so all of them are closed for the next two weeks and they have taken the opportunity to sort out a small collection of rolled pieces that have been in a cupboard untouched, in some cases for up to 100 years!
As you might imagine, it has been fascinating – we have already uncovered a collection of William Morris wallpapers that the V&A didn’t realise they had prints of. The idea has been to get all the pieces out and flatten them through humidification and make any repairs where necessary. As many conservators will know, this always takes longer than expected, as the repairs are always worse than one might think, and the collection larger than previously thought!
I have a few pictures of one particular piece that I have been working, which was really interesting. When unrolled, there were about five or six charcoal drawings, as can be seen here, all grubby, curly and damaged – so we set to work – cleaning both sides and putting repairs on the verso, which in some cases were tears going all across the page. Then we found out that the drawings were study cases for some of the sculptural work of the building itself – Amazing! The sculpture form is called Sgraffito, and originally would have been white lines carved out of black (a bit like scratching colours through a black was crayon drawing!). So dutifully we then went and had a look at the side of the building where they were, and there is was, the piece I had been working on – inscribed in the wall for the past 100 odd years – AMAZING!!