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Subject: Marking ceramics

Marking ceramics

From: Don Sale <>
Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Carole DeFord <cdeford [at] cranbrook__edu> writes

>Can anyone suggest a source for permanent white ink in pens with the
>tiny points to use in cataloguing?  There must be some other way to
>mark dark ceramics and stone tools without the long process and mess
>of using White-out first.

I can suggest a different approach to marking and it should be
suitable for your dark objects or most types of objects. I think
that it is easier and safer for the objects as less handling is
required and it isn't as brittle or crumbly as 'White-out' or
'Tipex' and perhaps more conservation oriented.

I make labels and attach them to objects of all colours and sizes.
Basically I write on paper, coat it and attach it to the work. I use
Silversafe paper (120 gsm) made by Whatman, which is for photograph
storage, 100% cotton, and is permanent and thin but white. I get it
from Conservation by Design, in Bedford England. I tried other high
quality acid-free papers and found that the ink spread too much.

I mark the paper with black Pigma Micron (Permanent Markers), to the
size needed--sometimes I make two labels in different sizes and with
different sized writing. I let the ink dry for a few hours or
overnight, and coat the label with multiple layers of dilute
solutions of Acryloid (Paraloid in UK) B-72 (10% w.w. in acetone.)
letting the layers dry and coating both the front and back of the
labels. The labels become translucent but remain grey-white. I cut
the labels after they dry, perhaps overnight.

I attach the labels with a 30% w.w. solution of B-72. Sometimes I
attach the labels with a continuous layer of B-72 and sometimes I
use a few small dabs for more delicate surfaces or for more easy
removal. I use this technique for most objects except never directly
on paper, textiles, paintings on canvas, plastic, wax or easily
stained materials such as very porous and powdery archaeological
ceramics, or painted surfaces.

The labels are very neat in appearance, easy to prepare in advance
or last minute, and easily removed. Also, I would imagine that the
paper could be toned with watercolour, if its permanent and allowed
to dry before writing, and that white or red ink could be used to
make the number--just check the literature for permanence.

The labels can be very small, sometimes only a few millimetres
across for very small objects or quite large, for labelling transit
frames for storing paintings. Finally, when it comes to labelling
the backs of framed works, where there is more information and a
larger label, they are attached with PVA emulsion diluted with

It's easy to prepare the labels and volunteers can assist with the
label writing and trimming without too much worry about health and
safety. Also, I use the same technique to label the backboards of
framed works on paper or paintings, or stretcher bars of paintings,
and even furniture--but away from finishes if possible.

I think that I read of a similar approach with different materials
in the Cons DistList about a year ago but probably longer, from
upstate New York, Peebles Island. (Shelly Svaboda?)

Don Sale
Head of Conservation and Collections Management
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts
University of East Anglia
Norwich NR4 7TJ
+44 1603 592 499
Fax: +44 1603 259 401

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:59
               Distributed: Wednesday, February 27, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-59-013
Received on Wednesday, 20 February, 2002

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