Monday, April 06, 2015

Surface Damage and Airport Dress Rehearsal

Marks imprinted on varnish caused by plastic wrapping
adhering to surface.
I learned last week the unfortunate news that a painting that I had shipped off to an exhibition arrived at the venue with damage caused by the packaging materials. I felt for the exhibition’s director since that must be very difficult news to tell an artist. Fortunately it was quickly determined that the damage was only affecting the varnish and not the paint surface. I've never experienced this problem before, in all my years of shipping artwork, and it wasn’t an issue for another painting that was varnished at the same time and wrapped and shipped at the same time, in the same way.

Although it was generously offered to have restoration performed, I think that artists make the best conservators of their own work. I also know the peace of mind of seeing with one’s own eyes what the problem is and getting it solved.

Plans were put into place for me to fly there and remove the damaged varnish prior to installation.

When the travel day arrived I was up bright and early, supplies packed; lint free cloths, gloves, etc., at the airport and beginning the checking in procedure only to find that the kiosk wouldn’t accept my reservation. To make a long story short, I had been sent to the wrong terminal and by the time I got the information and got to the correct terminal, the check in “window” was closed. The airlines (there were multiple airlines involved, hence the confusion about which terminal) made it right in the end, but it meant flying out the next day instead. So I went home and rescheduled cat sitter, dog boarding, rental car, and accommodations and repeated the entire departing procedure again the following day, except with better knowledge of which terminal to show up to.

Shadow box to hold any protective wrapping
away from the surface.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful. The exhibition manager and staff were amazing; providing solvent, drop cloth, encouragement, and a well ventilated, quiet place to work. The repair went well and the surface was even and without plastic imprints when I finished. I am glad that I used Gamvar for the varnish because it removes easily with oderless mineral spirits or Gamsol. These are fairly weak solvents that mean it is easy to remove the varnish without affecting the paint at all.

The packing solution? It’s been suggested that crates can be built that support the artwork with screws fastened into the sides of the stretcher bars that hold the artwork suspended during shipping so that nothing touches the surface. The drawbacks are the weight, time, and expense. Another solution is to build a cardboard “shadow box” that keeps any protective wrapping an inch or two away from the painting surface.


Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Sorry to hear of the problem but glad it worked out in the end. You might check with Gamblin to see what might have caused the problem. Since it was the only of the paintings affected, one might wonder if it was exposure to heat or some other environmental cause.

Beth Rommel said...

I am so sorry to hear you had to go through this, but glad things worked out in the end. I had a friend who shipped a lot of work. She had something similar happen so turned to always wrapping the paintings in flat cardboard before bubble wrap. Don't know if that would have worked in this instance, but I have always kept it in mind. Best wishes!

Katherine Kean said...

Michael, you make a very good suggestion. They may have more information and suggestions and I appreciate opportunities to expand a learning experience.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Beth, thanks for the tip. I have used cardboard too in the past. That might be a great solution.

Jean Spitzer said...

The shadow box looks like a good solution, but I would be interested in learning what you find out from Gamblin, if you decide to contact them.

Katherine Kean said...

Hi Jean, I will definately contact Gamblin and update on what I learn.

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