Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tyvek Disintegration???

Textile artists have found tyvek to be an incredible resource not only for the protection of artwork during shipment as well as storage, but also when used as a "textile" that can be manipulated through the application of heat and paint to produce amazing textural and visual effects.

However, recently on a Bookart list, there was an extensive discussion about tyvek and its archival properties - specifically whether or not there should be concern about the durability and longevity of this material. One person stated that a map printed onto a "tyvek-like" material crumbled into uncountable pieces and fell off his wall less than four years after he'd purchased it. Several others recounted instances of tyvek shredding and disintegrating when used to protect outside plants during the winter as well as contractor accounts of finding it deteriorated when used in home construction in less than 15 or 20 years.

I did a google search and also found accounts about tyvek deterioration posted to several different contractor forums (with crumbling being mentioned specifically). Sailors have found that it shows signs of deterioration within just a few weeks of exposure to weather and is therefore unsuitable for use as sails. Additionally, I found the website of Neda Niaraki, a textile designer who has created a fashion line of disposable garments made from soft structure Tyvek. She states, "My garments can be worn up to 12 times before deteriorating."

Clearly more information is needed, but artists need to at least consider whether continuing to use tyvek as part of the artwork itself is wise. While it is true that it is highly unlikely that the art will be subjected to extreme temperature and weather conditions, nonetheless textile artists do use various degrees of heat and apply paints and other chemical based materials to it.

Just something to think about...


Michele/TextileTraveler said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been experimenting with Tyvek and was considering using it for a large piece of textile art; I think now I'll reconsider.

Gwen Magee (Gwendolyn) said...

The possibility that your art might just fall off the wall is disconcerting. I'm like you TextileTraveler, this is a risk that I'm not yet willing to take.


Cathy Denton: Vested Interests said...

You would not use D'Arches paper as a sail, nor would you cover your plants with it in the winter. But you would still consider it archival for a print. Tyvek may not hold up to weather stress, That doesn't mean it can't be used for other purposes.
Most of the problems with Tyvek in construction (that are not contractor caused) are when it has been used under cedar siding and shingles which are quite acid.
I have acrylic prints on Tyvek that have been stored in a xerox box with newsprint for 7 years. They look perfect now. Maybe they won't in 20 years and we can say for certain that it is a poor choice. But even things that are supposed to be archival have aged less than gracefully in 20 years.
There are too many unknowns in the story of the crumbling wall map on a Tyvek-like material, to stop my experiments. I think doing inappropriate things with inappropriate materials is the fun part of being an artist.

Gwen Magee (Gwendolyn) said...

Hi Cathy,

It was not my intention to suggest that everyone should immediately "stop their experiments" with tyvek - only to let artists know that there may be risks in doing so. Until it was mentioned on the bookart list, I had no idea that there were any problems at all associated with the use of tyvek other than the precautions that need to be taken to protect yourself against fumes when heating it. And if I had not read about that risk factor a couple of years ago, I might have unknowingly been breathing in toxic fumes.

Each artist can decide for him/herself the extent to which they (1) consider the deterioration of tyvek to actually be a risk and (2) whether or not they wish to take that risk with their art.

I'd much rather make that decision for myself than to continue using the material while "unknowingly" assuming a risk I might otherwise rather not take.


Pattie said...

Wow thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

I was cleaning out a shed and came across a well protected (not exposed to sunlight)roll of Tyvek from a supply used to wrap my home 20 years ago. When I picked up the roll the Tyvek crumbled like old oxidized paper. The deterioration seemed to go all through the roll and was not just on the surface. I'm concerned for my house and I surely will never use it again for any long term purpose.

Gwen Magee (Gwendolyn) said...

Hi George,

Thank you so much for sharing this experience with us. It certainly adds to the information that will allow each of us to be able to make an informed decision about whether to use (or to continue using) Tyvek in our artwork.


Sarah Ann Smith said...

Gwen: I recently learned about archival tyvek. It appears there are different types, and as usual the "archival" is more expensive. So I'm thinking that tyvek used for things like envelopes and housewrap, which is made with binding agents, may well be expected to deteriorate, but that archival "Softwrap" Tyvek by DuPont may not have some of the negative properties you and others have mentioned.

Since I am loathe to use things that require me to wear a respirator (like burning and melting plastic products and Tyvek), I probably would not be using this product in my art quilts, but rather intend to use it to wrap the quilts where they are stored in my studio. There are some water pipes above, and I want to provide more protection than the muslin wraps I currently use.

Anyway, FYI! I found this site which had some good (I hope) information:

Cheers, Sarah

Sarah Ann Smith said...

one more link with information

Unknown said...

DuPont Weatherization systems offer superior protection against water and air infiltration.