Wet Mounting
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(Excerpt from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)

Wet Mounting

Wet Mounting involves the use of a water-based adhesive to bond the artwork to the mounting board. Although this is the least expensive method of mounting, requiring minimal investment, it is the most difficult to master. The moisture in the paste that is used can also affect artwork in such unpredictable ways as temporarily changing the size, shape, and character of the paper or board to be mounted. It can permanently affect watercolors, inks, dyes, and the sizing in the paper or board, and will definitely ruin artwork done with charcoal and/or pastel. Sometimes, however, wet mounting is the only system that will work for a particular job, such as in the classical form of water-reversible archival mounting.

A brief description of the technique involved will give you a perspective on this kind of mounting. One of the greatest difficulties is in learning what consis­tency of paste is most workable for you and will give you the best possible results. Some people like the paste thick so it can be rubbed in with the ball of the hand. Others like the paste thinner so that it can be spread with a scrap of board, and still others like it so thin that it can be brushed on. One thing to remember is that a strong bond can be accomplished with very little paste, if it is applied correctly. I recommend that you first try thinning the paste to a consis­tency that is pourable, like a thick maple syrup.

When you have the desired consistency of paste, it may then be applied either to the board or to the back of the artwork. Some artwork that has buckled or is wrinkled may have to be softened by dampening just before it is mounted. Dampening with an airbrush and water or an atomizer and water will allow the paper to return somewhat to its original flat shape. After you have applied the paste, the artwork should be laid over the mount with the center touching first and the sides held in your hands gently released. Cover the artwork with a sheet of Kraft paper and flatten it out in a "sunburst" pattern, working from the center outward. If the paper is thin, hard, and absorbent, and has not been predam­pened, you may introduce new wrinkles at this point in mounting. This is where experience counts the most. The mounted artwork has to be covered with a blotting paper and then weighted down. A thick sheet of glass is usually used for the weight. The mounted artwork should be allowed to dry in this manner (changing the blotter paper several times) over a forty-eight-hour period.

Most wet mountings require countermounting. A countermount involves mounting a piece of paper similar in weight (most people use a 40 to 50 lb. Kraft paper) to the opposite side of the mounted piece. This will reduce the tendency of the mounted piece to warp by the shrinkage of the artwork upon drying.

Spray Mounting, which involves the use of spray adhesives, is not considered a professional form of mounting, nor is it considered archival. However, it can be effective if used, with caution, on a small scale for mock-ups, models, small photographs, and collages where the convenience outweighs the disadvantages. The problem is that when a spray is used, the adhesive tends to collect on the topmost fibers of the surface. Even when the artwork is pressed out by hand during the mounting procedure, the adhesive still does not penetrate as fully as it will with other mounting methods. Consequently, the mounting is taking place between the top fibers of one surface and the top fibers of the other. As the temperature and humidity change and the artwork and the backing expand and contract at different rates, the artwork may pull away and bubble. Beyond a certain size of artwork, the expansion and contraction would be so strong that, even if the spray were used correctly, lifting and bubbling would inevitably occur. For this reason, many sprays cannot be used with artwork above a certain size. Technical information such as this is usually printed on the spray can. Read the instructions for the brand you are using and follow them completely.

(Excerpt from ART HARDWARE: The Definitive Guide to Artists’ Materials, by Steven Saitzyk © 1987)

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