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More on Glue: Discussion Sought on Sticky Situations

Hello, All,

The more I hear about glues, both here and in other sources, the more
perplexed I am concerning its "archival" properties, if any. (For
example, I read on this list that "Yes" is not archival, but John Neal,
Bookseller claimed that it is in the last newsletter/catalog.)  I am
wondering if those of you who work in conservation and those book
artists with glue experience would be willing to give your opinion
concerning glue generally.

Firstly, I would like to share a strange experience I had with white
glue (which some say is the same thing as PVA) many years ago.  As a
teenager, I found a magazine article to make Christmas ornaments using
white glue.  The white glue was mixed with a very tiny amount of food
coloring and pooled on wax paper between silver or gold chord which
made, when completely dry, "stained glass."  I followed the directions,
using Elmer's, and was pleased with the results.  These ornaments hung
on our tree each year.  One day, after about ten years, I unpacked the
ornaments to hang again and found a horrible mess.  It was so
disgusting that I quit using Elmer's, or any white glue, for almost
anything after that.

About the same time, I took a museology class at my university (my
major was anthropology/archaeology). My professor, at the time, was
working with the Sacramento Historical Society to establish our new
museum, located in Old Sacramento near our Railroad Museum. Our
professor related horror stories of tape and glue damage on documents
just decades, or even years, old.  I remember her saying that NO GLUE
or TAPE should be used on any paper item EVER, if possible.

Fortunately, when I worked on my fiber arts and paintings, it was very
easy for me to avoid (and I avoided with bigoted passion) any glues or
adhesives in any of my work.  Now, however, I am experimenting with
book arts, collage, and assemblage so my art now lives in Glue City, so
to speak.  I have been experimenting with glues and acrylic media but
cringe when I remember my ill fated Christmas ornaments.

I know there is no way to know for sure which new materials will last
for how long.  And, indeed, all of us archaeology students learned
immediately that art objects last down through the ages only due to
unique conditions of climate and chance, more than anything.

However, recently I touched off an unusually volatile discussion at my
favorite art supply store when I mentioned the law suit in Canada,
against an artist whose paintings have been disintegrating.  And, of
course, Jackson Pollock's paintings are disintegrating as well.
Frankly, I never imagined that anyone would expect an implied lifetime
warranty on a painting when no such implication exists for any other
product I know of.  Amazingly, collectors do expect such.  But how can
we guarantee such longevity unless we artists all go back to working in

So, I am hoping this post will generate discussion among us:

* How long do you expect your books to last when you make them?

* Do you consider the glue question for all your books and editions or
just some?

* If your book falls apart in thirty years, what would your reaction be
if a collector sued you?

* If you are a conservator, what is your opinion and preference
concerning glue and archival materials?

* Does the public have unrealistic expectations of art's longevity?

* Do collectors assume art works will last because they do not realize
that the contents of places like British Museum exist often due, first,
to luck through the centuries, then, second, to extremely careful
conservators while later in a museum?

Also,  I can't help but wonder if good commercial glues from natural
materials could not soon be invented.  When in fibers and painting, I
took great care to use plant fibers like cotton for paper and fabrics
and silk for thread, pigment water colors bound with gum Arabic. Why
not more glues based on natural substances or concepts?  I know there
is wheat paste, but surely there are additional materials as well that
have yet to be explored.  For example, one company now puts out a glue
gun using natural (tree?) resin.  What about exploring the properties
of spider webs which is stronger and sticker than almost anything per
weight? (And they certainly last a very long time up in the corners of
the garage!  ;-)  )

Thanks for your response ahead of time,

Karen Watson

Sacramento, California, USA


"Cyclists, not physiscists or theologians, will find infinity.  Our
hour record leads us there.  Running's benchmark, the mile, is a record
of dwindling.  Runners will keep doing it in shorter times until
someone accomplishes it in zero seconds.  But the hour record will
expand forever.  You can always go one more infinitesimal bit farther."
 -- Brandon Schier


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