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ASTM News

By Sarah Sands

With a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, ASTM members often declare that its well-known acronym actually stands for "Awfully Slow and Tedious Method," and if gauged simply from the standpoint of the time it takes to complete a Standard, one can see their point. The ASTM Standard for Acrylic Dispersion Grounds started 7 years ago, under the guidance of its original task chair, Bill Berthel of GOLDEN. In 2008 those reins were passed to me, with faith the committee would see the job to the finish. If all goes as planned, this Standard will be approved by the Subcommittee on Artists' Paints and Related Materials (D01.57) late January, and by the ASTM body, sometime that spring. Thank you to all who so tirelessly helped along the way, as this work can only happen with cooperation from the entire committee. We would like to single out Bill Berthel, Mark Gottsegen, Karyn Meyer-Berthel, and the Committee Chair, Michael Skalka, for their humor, patience, and willingness to participate in the round-robin testing the Standard is based upon. The hope is that conformance to this standard will provide artists with confidence that acrylic dispersion grounds and primers will meet minimum thresholds for flexibility, adhesion, and the ability to block oil strike-through. Currently no such standards exist and artists have no means of gauging performance before purchasing this essential material that artwork is entrusted to.

While this chapter is coming to a close, work on a pre-primed canvases standard is already underway. In 2007, when GOLDEN published a Just Paint article highlighting the potential problems of acrylics adhering to some pre-primed canvases, we expressed our hope the ASTM Subcommittee would establish minimum performance and quality standards for these critical products. In the last year, the work has taken shape under the leadership of Task Chair, Rick January of Tara Materials, with assistance from Mark Gottsegen of AMIEN, Sarah Sands of GOLDEN, and Michael Skalka, Conservation Administrator for the National Gallery of Art as well as the Subcommittee's Chair. While much still lies ahead, we are confident the team is in a good position to build on the accomplishments that have culminated in the ASTM Standard for Acrylic Dispersion Grounds. And you never know, perhaps even to do it in record time.

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