lunedì 13 dicembre 2021

“Asian Papers and their Applications in Paper Conservation” - Course Review

 In the magical frame of the Abbazia di Praglia, where it’s located the historical Laboratorio di Restauro del libro e di opere su carta, between September 7th-9th  2021 it took place the workshop “Asian Papers and their Applications in Paper Conservation”. It was run by Minah Song, a paper conservator with a great experience owned by years of personal practice and courses all over the world, and it was dedicated to paper conservators in order to learn more about materials of daily use, as Asian papers, and to experiment new methods and innovative uses of this kind of material.


The first day began with a theoretical session about the origins of Asian papers between China, Japan and Korea, focusing on the differences between these three countries concerning raw materials and production. The evolution of papermaking during the years to the present, make us know how the properties and the quality of a sheet are influenced by different factors like soil, climate, production process, materials used (as fillers, whiteners or formation aid) and traditional local crafts: from the same fiber we can produce different paper. This focus can help paper conservators to select different papers for different uses and conservative aims. The lecture was also enriched by some explicative videos and samples of different Asian papers.

The second part of the day was dedicated to the creation of a drying board and to the friction drying method.

  • The drying board was made with a honeycoomb panel covered by machine made Japanese paper (100% Japanese kozo, 30 gsm) using wheat starch paste and later it was coated with  an acrylic dispersion (Lascaux 498HV in water). It can be used in the same way of Karibari drying technique.
  • The friction drying method was related to the flattening of tracing paper, or a paper support with irregular distortions, using mulberry paper as drying support instead of hollytex, reemay or bondina, before with a provide of moisture (more or less depending on the situation) and than a pressure under heavy weight. The process can be repeated as many times as necessary, it assure a very gentle flattening without any stress for paper.


The second day provided the production of two kinds of handmade paper, one with mulberry fiber and one with mixed fibers of antique paper. The Asian fibers were whiter but also so much longer and stronger than the western fibers, that’s why it needed a formation aid (in this case we used Polyacrylamide) to distribute the fibers in the water, on the contrary, the antique paper fiber was already well dispersed and didn’t need any additional material.  Using an embroidery frame, we made some little sample of both kinds of paper, learning that we could decide the thickness of the sheet and also the texture of it, which could be very useful in conservations for repairing losses or tears. 

After the papermaking, we talked about different methods for toning the paper and we experienced them, using both brush and airbrush with acrylic colors, on some pieces of Asian sheets which could be used for repairing losses on browned old paper, with the possibility of layering more than one paper to reach the right tone.

In the afternoon we prepared pre-coated papers, useful in case we can’t apply too much moisture on the paper support. The instructor selected three types of adhesive considering different factors: «flexibility, viscosity, clarity, fast hydration, wettability, visibility, stability and efficiency». Starting from her personal experience, she choose

  • 1,5% Klucel M in ethanol (it doesn’t need water to activate)
  • 6% Isinglass in water (it need a very gentle addition of water to activate)
  • 5% Aquazol 500 in water (activated with heat).

So we prepared three very thin pre-coated papers (less than 5 gsm because thicker papers would require too much adhesive) and let them dry for the next day.


The last day started with a theoretical session to resume what a paper conservator should know before choosing and buy Asian paper, like raw materials, alkali used during the production process, formation aid etc… because usually paper vendors don’t give this kind of informations to their costumers even if these are very important to the conservative aims.

Moreover, in the afternoon we finally used the stuff we prepared the days before: we experienced the traditional lining on the drying board we made the first day, using Japanese kozo 15gsm as lining paper on a modern newspaper piece. We used paste as glue and hollytex as support, and we basically followed the Karibari drying method putting a strip of dry paper on one edge to make the removing easier once the sheet will be dry. Before that, we repaired the losses and the tears on the newspaper with the toning paper we made previously.

About lining, the instructor suggested us a very easy method for lining both the two sides of a sheet all alone and in “one shot”, using hollytex and very diluted paste.

We also had the possibility to use the hand-made papers we proudly made the day before for fixing some losses of other modern damaged papers (all the samples were generously provided by our instructor), in this case for tears we tried the pre-coated paper and tested the three adhesive proposed by our instructor.


Unfortunately the course lasted only for three days, but it has been very intensive (see how many things we have done and talked about!) and interesting. A dutiful thanks to our instructor Minah Song, a lovely and a very professional and prepared person who let us see in a very new way some of the everyday use materials in paper conservation as Asian papers.

Laura Riato - Paper Conservator

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