Monday, June 17, 2013

Let's talk about glue

Happy "Mail Art Monday" one and all.

Thanks to everyone who added a link to the inaugural post.
(click here if you missed it)

This week's topic is a sticky one.
How do you keep things from falling apart in the mail?

I'll share some of my favorite products and tips, and hopefully others will share their own trade secrets in the comments or through a link.

My primary source of stickiness in my mail art is a glue stick.
Keep in mind, all glue sticks are not created equal.  Some of them are downright useless.

My favorite is the Uhu stic

I'm partial to the color one, because successful gluing depends on covering your paper all the way to the edges and this stick (which goes down purple but dries clear) makes it easier to see if all areas have been covered.
I lay my collage paper down on some scrap paper and make sure I totally overlap the glue around the edges and all across the paper.

Once I adhere the piece to the base I thoroughly rub it down.  And since my hands are usually covered in paint and glue, it helps to have an object to do the rubbing.  Some of the burnishing tools I use are the back of a spoon, a plastic card, a bone folder, and a plastic putty knife.

Since I'm a very sloppy gluer, I usually manage to get some glue on the front of the paper which attracts all kinds of gunk as soon as I try to rub it down.  It helps to cover the paper with a bit of freezer paper (shiny side down) before doing the rubbing.  Now everything stays clean and is less likely to tear.

 Of course glue sticks aren't the only adhesive I use.
Some lightweight papers can't stand up to the rubbing of the glue stick.
When I'm using tissue paper or other delicate items, I reach for a liquid adhesive, like matte medium or mod podge.

I absolutely love Golden brand matte medium, but that shit is expensive!  I save it for special pieces.  For my average postcards I use Mod Podge.  Both can be used as an adhesive and as a sealer.  They have a similar consistency.  Mod Podge tends to be a little shinier and more like plastic.  It doesn't dry as quickly, it stays a little tacky even after it's dry.  It's more likely to show brush strokes.  BUT, it's cheap and readily available, and works pretty well.
Regardless of what medium I'm using,  I use a soft paintbrush to apply the glue liberally to my base.

I lay down my tissue paper and apply another coat of glue on top.
With tissue paper the top coat has to be applied somewhat gently so as not to tear the paper, but the top coat is pretty essential for keeping the paper in place.

The thing about glue like this is that the high moisture content makes the papers bubble and buckle.
Sometimes I like that effect - wrinkled tissue paper makes great texture - other times the bubbling is just a pain in the neck.  I have pretty good luck by spreading a generous layer of glue under and over each piece and then using the flat edge of my putty knife or plastic card to squeeze/scrape the excess glue off the piece.

It doesn't always work.  In the picture below you'll see the magazine page is rippled, and you can also see that I rubbed away some of the color in the image when I tried to rub out the wrinkles. I should have used a glue stick.

 Ok, so what about adhering things other than paper?
On this collage I used a piece of ribbon.  I stuck with mod podge for this one, but I really had to saturate it and rub it.

It still didn't want to stick:

So I folded it inside a piece of freezer paper (shiny sides touch the collage):

and put it under a stack of books for several hours:

I might have had an easier time using tacky glue on the ribbon.
If I'd been gluing a heavier embellishment (think button or jewel or random object found in the road) I definitely would have used something stronger than mod podge.
A wonderful resource for figuring out what type of adhesive to use is "This to That" - you choose from two drop down menus, selecting the type of item you want to attach to the type of substrate you're using.  When you click "Let's Glue!" it takes you to a list of suggested adhesives and tips for using them.

So back to my little sample collage.
I decided to add some stickers.  You'd think I wouldn't need glue since stickers are already sticky, but no.
I stuck these down and rubbed and they seemed fine, but a few minutes later I picked up the card and look - can you see that the white stickers are already lifting?  The card hasn't even moved off the table and the adhesive on the stickers is giving out.  More mod podge under and over the stickers will hold them in place for their postal journey.

So now I have a layered and lumpy 3x5 card.  I want to stick it to a 4x6 background so I can turn it into a postcard.  Experience tells me I will struggle with glue stick and mod podge in getting these two pieces to stick together.

Time to break out the Yes! paste.
This paste is thick and gloppy.  It has low moisture content so paper doesn't buckle when you use it.  And it's strong.  and sticky.  did I mention sticky?  it's really sticky.
I find mine at Michael's or AC Moore.

Because it's so gooey and sticky, I have to be extra careful not to get it on the front of the card, or on any of the other things laying on my work table.  (there is a theme of sloppy gluing in my life)
I use old magazines for this type of gluing.  I rescue magazines from recycling whenever I can.  After I've clipped out all the interesting images and bits of text, I repurpose them for gluing.  
In this case I am brushing my Yes paste in a thin even layer, making sure I spread it all the way out and over the edges.  When done, I pick up my paper and turn the page of the magazine - trapping my gluey mess, and leaving the clean surface of the next page on which to glue my next little bit.

So now these two pieces are stuck together.  I used a little book pressure to make sure they were good and stuck.  I notice that my surface is unevenly shiny from my sloppy mod podge application.

I give the entire surface an even coat of mod podge, using a soft brush.  This seals the whole thing, gives some extra insurance that all the papers stay put, and creates an even surface. The initial moisture of the glue makes the whole thing buckle, so after waiting 5-10 minutes for the surface to dry a wee bit, I tuck it back into the freezer wrap sandwich and weigh it down under my books again.

At this point I will go to bed and leave it under pressure over night.
When I wake I have a nice flat, dry, evenly sealed postcard.
I bend it and curl it, this way and that, and none of the collage elements are lifting off.  This baby's going to arrive at its destination intact!

So tell me - how do you make things stick?
If you have a blog post, video or tutorial of any sort, give us the link.
Or leave a glue tip in the comments.

You can add links to more than one of your own posts if you like, and your links needn't be limited to glue related issues.  Share anything related to mail art.
We want to see what you're up to!


Unknown said...

Great glue tips!! I'm so intimidated by all the medium possibilities out there and have no idea where to begin when it comes to collage so I haven't played much at all...but this makes me want to give it a try! =0)

FarStarr said...

Okay, so my post doesn't have anything to do with glue, but it still answers one of those ubiquitous Mailart questions...

Anonymous said...

Glues, glues and more glues. I love UHU sticks too, they are the best. I also(RANT) hate Modge Podge because the stuff just does NOT dry - I would rather use good old elmer's school glue, at least that dries. When I need something to stick well I use Crafter's Pick, like school glue on steroids- works great and does come off your hands. I also like Collage Pauge Matt for finish coating, dries satiny and looks nice. Like you I am an uber messy gluer, so when I need something to stay really nice and clean and it's not old vintage papers which are fragile I use a xyron machine with permanent adhesive. That' s my gluing story and I am sticking with it....xox

Anonymous said...

Great post, Karen, lots of information that I'll be able to use with my own gluing, so thank you.

I use Mod Podge, love the way it makes things shine. One tip i was given for using it is that after it has dried as much as it's going to, give the piece a light coating of hair spray. The hair spray will dry clear and non-tacky. In fact, I'm so fond of hair spray that sometimes that's all i use for my clear coating.

I also use plain old Elmer's school glue, as well as Elmer's glue sticks, preferably the purple ones, for the same reasons that karen mentioned. My main reason for using the Elmer's is that I don't always have transportation to a place that would sell the Uhu or any other "better" glue stick, but Elmer's is available everywhere, even my grocery store. And it does seem to work quite well. Any other opinions on Elmer's glue sticks?

Joyce said...

Great Post , Karen. I am like you and get glue all over everything. That's one reason I always have one of those special erasers that you rub and it removes dried glue from things on hand. I pick up free gift cards with pretty pictures on them while I'm shopping to use to rub down the paper after gluing. And wax paper is cheap and works perfectly to put over the works you are pressing down with books. I always have a roll or three on my work table to use when glueing or rubber stamps the ends of something or painting a little.
I buy super cheap and super sticky double sided tape as Diaso here in SF and it works great for gluing. Unfortunately I know most of you don't live in SF so that tip is limited. But I love the stuff.
Other than that I think I do everything you do in the glueing department. I like Liquitex mat medium for glueing and finishing as well as Golden.
I think I'll go grab a glue stick and bring my coffee down to my studio. I am making Postal ATC's and gluing them with mat medium.
PS I don't think I could make that widget link to my blog....

Cate Rose said...

Great tutorial on gluing, Karen! I essentially do all the things you do. I don't use Yes Paste, though -- with things that are hard to adhere, I'll use Gel Medium or PVA (polyvinyl acetate -- used for bookbinding).
Oh, and there are other brands of permanent glue stick that I like -- Elmer's and Blick, and there are likely others. That Uhu gets pretty sticky in my experience, and difficult to manage.

Unknown said...

This is more of a general gluing tip than a plug for a particular product. I am working on a mail art card, and had affixed a collaged APC with scrap double-sided sticky paper. (I tend to prefer dry adhesives, especially with found materials.) The card stuck wonderfully, but there were some cockles along the edges. I'd press them down flat, and they'd stay, for a while, but then, in an hour or two, they had loosened again. So, for appearances sake, as well as durability once the postcard arrives in its new home, I knew I needed a way to get enough glue into the spot to overcome the card's tendency to warp.

I used a pointed toothpick and a clear type of "super glue." I'd cover the pointy end with some glue, then carefully slide it into the raised area and sort of smear it around. Slow going, but eventually I had it covered, but found, alas, that even with weighting it down with a book, that it did not yet adhere.

I did notice, however, that it was closer to adhering that it was before, so I repeated the process several times more. I liken it to using a spray fixative on a charcoal drawing, where they recommend several light applications, letting them dry in between, instead of one heavy one. So this was basically a 3-d application of that counsel. Thus, I "filled in" the gap, and as I did so, the successive layers allowed the warped edge to finally stick to the substrate.


And as a suggestion, maybe, for a future Mail-art Monday, how about some tips for homemade envelope design? It's easy to use found paper for envelopes (such as atlases or other coffee table books) and there are plenty of templates about. What I find, though, is that the front generally looks okay, but my backs are looking insanely busy. It doesn't help that any writing or design that looks right on the front is upside-down on the back, but there's also the flap, which comes from the opposite side of the sheet, and looks like it doesn't belong there.

How do people get an envelope design that's pleasing on both sides?

Leslie said...

My link is to a way to attach things that hasn't been mentioned yet - machine stitching! I love to stitch stuff down and to keep the stitching from showing on the back, I use two pieces of card. One to put all my front embellishments on, including stitching, and the other is just plain or very lightly patterned and I use gel medium to glue it to the back of the main one when I'm all done. Then I often stitch around the edges.

I use glue sticks when gluing to plain paper to plain paper. But when gluing to a painted surface, like my gelli prints, the glue sticks weren't holding, so now I do all that with gel medium and a plastic card. Gel medium isn't cheap but I use Michaels coupons because it's often the only thing that works well for me and I don't want to send items off in a swap that might come undone.

For things that need a final sealing coat, I use Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish. Again, not cheap but wonderful stuff and at 40-50% off, affordable for me. And I use it sparingly. Only things that really need it get a coat.

I use E6000 for heavy/3D items. Also like Fabri-tac and the various Tacky Glues for different things. I have a couple Xyron machines and use them occasionally but they seem wasteful to me cause there's unused stuff at the beginning and end when you run things thru.

I've never used UHU or YES, and don't like ModPodge at all.

Grammargal said...

I use Yes! glue, too, sometimes. It can be diluted with a little water (in a separate dish) and then it isn't so sticky. It just never makes paper wrinkled, which is great. I always cover a finished postcard with a coating of MATT Pod Podge -- love that. Just tried the UNO glue sticks -- they are reallly sticky and kinda dry in a good way....but regular (tho tinted) glue sticks work just as well. Use your Michael's and JoAnn coupons to buy matt-medium with -- cheaper that way.

Jo Murray said...

THANK YOU for all the glue is often a problem.

Anonymous said...

My Xyron machines rank at the top for adhesives but Xyron can't be used in every situation. Sometimes you need a glue stick or a liquid glue. Glue sticks and I don't get along; I don't like them, but if forced to use one my fave it Inksssentials Collage Glue Stick. My most favorite adhesive is Inkssentials Glue 'n Seal Matte Finish. I've had good luck with Traci Bautista's Collage Pauge but I prefer the Inkssentials Glue 'n Seal. Sometimes I use Mod Podge, simply because I seem to have a lot of it that needs using up, but as others have stated, it doesn't always dry well. Golden Gel Medium is, of course, great stuff, but it's expensive so I use it sparingly. Sometimes Aleene's Tacky Glue is called for, or Inkssentials Glossy Accents, or the occasional dab of PVA.

Anonymous said...

Three things I forgot to mention. Most often I apply adhesive using my fingers. After applying adhesive, I do a lot of burnishing and a lot of drying the item in my hot garage and a lot of leaving the item under a heavy weight, oftentimes overnight. My favorite heavy weight is a ten pound bag of rice! Or, better yet, two ten pound bags!

big mamabird said...

I have to confess that I use mod podge all the time, and yes it is messy, dries, slowly, doesn't like to be hurried and wrinkles things, but I don't care about the wrinkles too often and I can't see spending that much on the golden mediums at this point...I have glue sticks which I always forget about and a thing of yes paste that I never seem to reach for...I do varnish over the top of pretty much everything and sometimes rub a little wax over it all at the end...squishing things overnight always good! It's so fun to see what everyone likes! said...

I make envelopes daily using all kinds of found paper -- I don't use a template -- just fold them myself and position the folders to show the papers to the best advantage. The front is always better than the back but you can add label stickers, rubber stamps, washi tape etc to cover areas you don't like. I have a tutorial on my blog and lots of handmade envelope photos if you are interested. But great suggestion -- I'd like to see more handmade envelopes by others.

Parabolic Muse said...

Dear Great Ruler Over Us All;

You are a gracious and benevolent Being.

Okay, here's the deal: I don't like mod podge. I know it's cheap and works. I've tried, I really have. It smells like nuclear meltdown must smell like at the reactor core.

I have never used YES. This makes me want to try it, if only for the increased likelihood of getting lint, dog hair, popcorn hulls, cracker crumbs, and various other things stuck in it before sending.

I think UHU is the best glue stick on the planet.

The only adherents I ever use are liquitex matte gel medium, elmer's, and UHU gluesticks. Elmer's is my favorite favorite favorite because it holds the most pesky papers and it's cheaper than gel medium. However, I don't use it on top because I tend to think it's a little cloudy. I usually use gloss gel medium on top because it dries completely clear. Elmer's is a little bit less clear. Matte medium is cloudy. I have thus spoken.

If I'm not adhering paper I often start with a blot of Elmer's left to dry a bit. Sometimes I start with a glob of gesso, if I don't need it to be clear. Once the elmer's has gotten a little dry, I add Fabri-tac around it and then push the embellishment into those and let it sit. I've been known to hold one thing to another thing until the dog tells me that her paw doesn't have any feeling left in it. Then I know it's ready.

As for collage, I almost always put something heavy on it and then a paperweight and leave it. That almost always ensures things will stay. I mean, once they peel off the table surface.

Then I put the piece in a padded envelope with plastic wrap and a combination lock. If that thing doesn't get there, it was 'not meant to be', and/or, 'spawn of the Devil', depending on my mood.

There have been times when I've sent cards out without envelopes. They were the most stress-ridden times of my life.

I love your post and this recurring series of promise!

Lorinda.C.F said...

Well this is certainly one to bookmark! Thanks for sharing your awesome wisdom with us once again Karen!! xx

GinaVisione said...

Hi Dawn~ I totally understand your intimidation by all the possibilities, but I do hope you DO give it a try and have fun too! I was the same way, but have been able to have fun with collaging for over a year now. I started off simple with good ol' glue sticks, and still use those and Mod Podge now, but haven't ventured further (Ok, I take that back; I've had some PVA glue in a drawer for a few years that I got back into circulation recently :D); I will some day, when I'm ready :D. For now, those work for me (even though I am not a fan of sticky stuff! :D). You have all the great blogs to choose from, but feel free to peek at my Collage MailArt set on Flickr too. The collage picture for the set was made in 5 minutes, just to get my collage juices going!

GinaVisione said...

Yes! Yes! More envies by everyone!! :D :D

GinaVisione said...

Hi bigmamabird! Would you be willing to share more about how you use wax? :D

lam said...

I would like something to stick to playing cards and slick card stock paper. They are usually plastic coated and when paper and card stock dries the embellishment just pops off. And sometimes slick heavier paper does not want to stick to other things. Or other things to it."
I tried a "dozen" types of glues on the shinny paper front of a Strathmore Visual journal. Craft Amazing Contact & Sealant adhesive and Bond 527 were the only things that really stuck. I had to peel it off to put a decorative cover on the journal. Everything else just dried to a shinny surface and popped off. I have not tried E6000 (ran out last year and haven't replaced it) and Testors (made for plastic models). I even ran across some old (10 years) ATC's that were made with paper stock and UHU and some of that stuff popped off.

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