Caring For Your Art Part 2
Masters of Stealth
Healthy Art Presentation and Storage Systems
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News for October
Healthy Art Presentation and Storage SystemsHealthy Green Artists
by Janet Chui
This month's column is for the neat freaks and even for those artists who aren't neat freaks but recognize that meeting art directors isn't about dumping a pile of loose art pieces into their hands! And unless you're one of those artists who sells every single piece of art you've ever produced (and if you are, please teach me how to sign your name), you're probably going to accumulate pieces in your studio, whether it's sketches, paintings, scraps, or prints waiting for sale. Storage may not be one of the immediate things artists may think of while setting up their studio, but sooner or later, the issue needs some attention and planning.
Even in this digital age, artists may find themselves (gasp) meeting art directors or gallery owners in person to present their portfolio. I remember artist forums years ago in which striving artists discussed the question of loose-leaf pockets or no, and if so, how many pages, if creativity needed to be in the making of the book itself -- questions that thankfully seem to have disappeared (or that I am ignorant of). Honestly, if the art is sub-par, the most creatively bound portfolio isn't going to get you hired, unless you're applying as a bookmaker.
Convenience these days also means that a physical portfolio is as easy as going to the stationery or art supply store to pick one up. It can be as simple as a book with 10 to 20 pages, or a presentation case with handles and zipper along 3 sides, waterproofed exterior, extra pockets, flashing lights, and Swiss army knife attached (alright, so I made up a couple of features). What I found surprising was that the last time I shopped, it turned out to become an exercise in environmental awareness.
Teflon is a substance that was developed in wartime, and is now almost ubiquitous in household products. Love it or hate it, and whether you agree it's unsafe or not (it's bio-accumulative and can be passed on to unborn children), one thing that isn't disputed is how this stuff pollutes. This substance can not be broken down by nature, and can even be found now in the middle of the Pacific ocean. It is blamed for birth defects (not without cause), lethal fumes at high temperatures, and for using PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) in its manufacture. PFOA is an industrial artificial acid regarded as "potentially danegrous" but is already found in all of our bodies.
So, it sorta infuriates this environmentalist when she has to see fabric and artist's presentation cases coated with Teflon. The only upside is, labels on these products do have to declare the presence of it. I can only beseech artists to be aware of this substance in the art supply store, and to look out for alternatives instead.
PVC is another substance to watch out for while shopping for presentation books or cases. The clear sleeves or pockets are usually made out of one of two things: PVC (polyvinyl chloride), or polypropylene. Polypropylene presentation systems, I've found, do tend to declare that their sleeves are polypropylene. These are also priced slightly higher, but to me are worth every extra penny -- the sleeves look clearer, this plastic is recyclable, while their counterpart, PVC, has been a subject of many of my columns for their health and environmental concerns (the Children's Health Environmental Coalition has a great page here).
(Annie Rodriguez is also covering this subject this month, with handy how-to's, so check her column out!)
There are a few general rules about keeping almost all types of art and prints in prime condition:
Polypropylene bags, presentation books, and archival photo boxes (Teflon-free, one hopes) are great for filing art away. Silica gel beads are safe, useful, and reusable (and need no electricity) for keeping art dry in humid climates. If you're anything like me, boxes, books and bags are not enough for keeping large amounts of art and/or prints organized, and furniture starts becoming part of your art organization system. Regarding furniture, I should highlight a couple more health/environment considerations:
Buy secondhand: Craigslist, flea markets, even closing down art supply stores (alas) are good places to look. Who knows? You may even find something nice for free at the dumpster or on someone's lawn on a weekend. The environmental reasons to buy or obtain secondhand are simple -- a secondhand object has already paid its debt to the environment, and you may be rescuing it from the incinerator/landfill. Meanwhile, buying new frequently means you're encouraging the harvesting of wood (for wood furniture), and the manufacture and shipping of more of the same product does release greenhouse gases and likely other environmental pollutants. In metal furniture, mining is very environmentally destructive and polluting, unless the product is made from recycled or recovered metal.
Buy smart: Metal furniture should be used with care. In humid climates, water may condense on these pieces and collect water or rust. Protect your art accordingly! Laminated furniture should be approached with caution generally, especially if it's going to be in room with little ventilation. Laminated furniture is usually constructed from pressed wood, of which formaldehyde is used in the manufacture. Laminated furniture, unless treated with low-VOC sealant, outgasses a very common indoor pollutant over its life. Formaldehyde, a colorless gas, can have an irritant effect on sensitive or asthmatic individuals (nasal allergies and headaches are some of the symtoms); long-term exposure may lead to clinical depression, chronic fatigue, and cancer. Furniture is one of the biggest sources of indoor air pollution. (Check out the Air Quality Guidelines from the Air Resources Board of California.)
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