Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Visit from Professor Anna Embree

On October 5th and 6th, we had the pleasure and expertise of Anna Embree in the lab. She is an Associate Professor in the M.F.A. in the Book Arts Program at the University of Alabama. And she was recently awarded the 2011 Emerging Educator Award at the College Book Art Association's national meeting.

Anna came by way of the Guild of Book Workers (where she is Vice President) Standards of Excellence Seminar, which just took place in Boston. We were very fortunate to have the timing work out so she could visit.


Last summer Anna took a two-week class with Don Etherington, learning different techniques in conservation, and she was happy to share with us what she learned there and what her experiences have been working at the Iowa conservation lab. It was a refreshing time looking back to the basics and discussing why we do what we do and why we might not do something.

We started off by that foreboding topic that can go on and on, “paste”, and adhesives in general. We also discussed cleaning spines, linings, and options for re-casing. Anna showed us how she makes microwave paste, the critical point being to soak the powder for at least 20 minutes. We used Zen Shofu. She also will vary the ratio of powder to water depending on how hot the microwave runs and what she will be using the paste for. In general she uses a 5 to one ratio.

Once the paste is cooked it’s covered with water. When paste is needed she will strain it a few times then start adding water to thin it out. This is done gradually with lots of swirling with the brush. In the end we had some very beautiful paste.


The next thing we learned was how to make a portable light table, although this was more like an anti-light table. Constructed from a 40 pt. board, a black piece of paper and a sheet of mylar this nifty set up allows for excellent matching of paper repairs for fills.

40 pt., Black paper, Mylar

Tape all three together.

Put your item under the Mylar.

Put your Japanese paper on top of the Mylar and water-tear or use your awl to outline the loss.

And voila! A perfect fit. Thank you Don! Thank you Anna!

We then proceeded onto sewing and using a concertina:
Anna reminded us to make sure your supports are at a right angle to the frame (these little details can make all the difference).

Next the Japanese tissue concertina material is wrapped around the first signature and up and over the cross bar.

To start folding the concertina, place a dowel on top of the preceding signature.

And fold the tissue back around toward the sewing supports. Define the crease from the inside using your finger.

Then gently crease along the fold but not so much as to make a sharp crease, as the signature needs to fit nicely into the concertina.

We practice the herringbone stitch.

Here is Helen having a go at the project.

It is so rewarding being able to host guests. There is a great interchange of learning and ideas between both parties. It was such a pleasure to learn new things and at the same time have confirmation that what you are doing is also being done in the field at large. Anna, come back any time!

Written by Deborah Howe

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