Prints are precious, and your completed prints as yet unsold, are part of your life work as well as your potential income.

Not many of us are lucky enough to sell all the prints we produce, or even most of them! If you make prints in editions you will no doubt have a series of  finished, signed and numbered prints looking beautiful and waiting for a new home.

Where are they now?

Bundled into old portfolios or plastic wallets under the bed?
In a folder on top of the wardrobe?

If a gallery asks you for more prints in an edition, or you need to set up a stand at a print fair are you calm and efficient, or are your prints a bit dusty, bashed in at the edges or even bent, with grubby fingerprints or smudges on the margin? Will you have to spend time finding them and tidying them up before they are fit to be seen in public….. Oh dear!

Time to get sorted

prints with tissue paper in tyvek folder

prints with tissue paper in tyvek folder

During the dark rainy days this winter I have been tackling things that normally fall to the bottom of the list. Things like organising files and cleaning old pens. I wanted to sort out my chaotic print storage system and had a brain wave to use Tyvek for making folders for each edition of small prints.

Thanks to Spenic-graphics for their speedy service, (and good value – £8.98 for 20 x A2 sheets) I had the idea one day, and was sewing Tyvek folders the next. You can buy it in sheets or on a roll.

What is Tyvek?

Tyvek is a truly amazing non woven fabric, it looks a bit like beautiful silky Japanese paper, it is very strong and hard to tear it but it cuts easily and can be sewn. It breathes but will not let water through, so keeps things dry and is ph neutral. It is brilliant for storing artwork, in fact many museums use it for storing old and delicate fabrics as it will not affect the material in any way.

You may have come across it in other forms – as wrist bands at festivals and swimming pools, strong envelopes for posting, thin white boiler suits and also breathable membranes in the building trade.

As far as artistic uses go it is good for origami and book making; you can paint  or print onto it. It is loved by embroiderers as you can sew into it and change its shape and texture  by heating and melting. Here is a great website for examples of artists work with Tyvek.

Making folders

a new stack of tyvek folders

A new stock of tyvek folders

This is the most basic of sewing projects – you just fold the (A2 )sheet of tyvek in half and sew up two of the open edges. An ordinary sewing machine with normal needle and cotton worked fine for me, as it is all flat and straight no pins were needed.

What a delight to slide bundles of prints interleaved with tissue paper into the smooth white Tyvek, like getting into bed with fresh linen sheets. I have them standing upright in a cupboard, clean, flat and dust free, very easy to flick through and find specific prints when needed. Now the only thing missing is customers!

I have a suspicion that many printmakers tend to become obsessive about sorting and storing, it is a satisfying diversionary activity, one of those things you do when you really need a kick up the bum to get started on a new print. It does, however help with the illusion that by being organised we can actually take control of life.

If you have found good ways of storing prints or clever things to do with Tyvek please share them here.