Now it is time to research the fibres used during the paper making process in the different papers of ‘Effort and Ideals’ lithograph prints.
There are several methods to identify fibres such as the staining technique. The most common is Hertzberg’s Reagent which is used for paper fibres are based on iodine and zinc chloride. This type of stain is formulated to dye different groups of fibres differing colours. However, there are many disadvantages using this system because the specific colours stated for particular fibres are difficult to reproduce.
So, in this case we decided to take some samples of fibres of the prints and identify them under the polarising microscope.
In the first image, we are taking a small sample of fibres from one of the prints. We are using an invasive and destructive technique for that reason we have to be extremely careful taking the sample. Just shaving a little bit the very bottom edge we will be able to get enough fibres to analyse in the microscope.
In the third picture we are leaving the fibre sample on the microscope slide. After that, we will cover the sample with a cover slip and sealing with Meltmount (is a thermoplastic: it is fluid when heated and functionally a solid at room temperature; the appearance of the prepared slide will remain unchanged after the slide is returned to room temperature).
Once the sample is ready, we will work with it in the microscope. We took photos applying different magnifications.
In the fifth image, you can observe a detail of a linen fibre through the microscope. The term ‘linen’ covers a wide variety of material described as flax or linen. In both Europe and China flax has been used as a textile material since at least 4,500 BC.
The raw material after cutting and removing the seed head is retted in still or slow running water to slow process of bacterial decomposition. In some areas the process is carried out in a damp atmosphere only.
Linen is a bast fiber. Flax fibers vary in length from about 25 to 150 mm (1 to 6 in) and average 12-16 micrometers in diameter. Flax fibers can usually be identified by their “nodes” which add to the flexibility and texture of the fabric.
Other samples taken from the thinner prints revealed cotton as a main material. So in both cases we are talking about good quality paper fibres.