These posts may seem to ramble a bit, but as we discuss more of aspects of custom picture framing we will touch upon almost all of the design, quality and construction considerations.  But not necessarily in a linear fashion.

When working with a professional picture framer, there are many considerations being processed in the framers mind at any given moment during the design process, many of which you will never become aware of as a customer. 

In the last post we talked about the necessary internal “allowances” needed for quality construction.  In this post we ramble back over to talk about a concept of frame design that we in this studio adhere to, although many framers do not.  There is no right or wrong here – it is just a matter of personal taste.

Our framing philosophy is as follows: if the frame, no matter how beautiful the moulding is, how fine the mats are and how intricate the design is,  distracts or draws the viewer’s eye away from the artwork, it is defeating its purpose.  The frame’s primary purpose is to protect the artwork.  It can also be a thing of beauty and a work of art in its own right.  It can add a sense of balance and continuity to a work of art, but it must not overshadow or distract from the art in any way.

This would seem to be a simple assignment, however, artwork consists of many visual aspects such as size, color, composition, time period and even artist recognition (e.g. a Rembrandt would be more deserving a genuine gold leafed frame as opposed to a raw ramin wood frame).  These must all be taken into consideration during the design process.

This now opens the door to interior design related discussions of the room décor, paint schemes and the like.  Our philosophy here is that we “frame the piece to itself”, providing it suits the tastes of the designer or the customer.  It is wise to consider that the piece may eventually hang in a different room, with different colors and different themes than originally intended.  Because good frame design is timeless, the piece should be able to hang almost anywhere, and “wear well” visually over long periods of time.

Another aspect to consider is the strength of the image itself.  A pencil drawing, one color etching or saturated watercolor cannot compete with a bold, bright, or overbearing frame.  But we have framed images that have been so strong - sometimes as much in emotion and meaning as in color, that we could (and have) put almost any frame on them that one could imagine.   And it worked.

More on design and construction in our next post…

In this and future posts we are going to talk about frame design and construction both as separate subjects, and together.  They are separate endeavors with each having its own set of rules, but they are tied together for the finished product.  We may meander back and forth because you cannot have a finished piece without both, so these ongoing posts will be a continuing stream of information and thoughts around these subjects.  I leave it to the reader to connect the dots.

For this installment, we are going to talk about a basic element of frame construction called the “allowance”.  You may have heard the term in the past in a frame studio.  So what is an allowance and what does it do?

Frame construction can be very simple, or very complex depending on what is being framed.  An example of simple framing is a stretched canvas being put in a simple perimeter frame.  An example of complex framing would be a work on paper with several mats including both paper and fabric mats, decorative fillets, museum mounting, U.V. protective glass or acrylic glazing and a carved and gilded frame. 

Both of these frames have something in common: that the materials will change shape with the changes in temperature and humidity.  They will expand and contract.  If the materials inside the frame fit tightly it will have adverse effects.  In the case of the framed work on paper, those changes could warp and or destroy the mats, make the acrylic glazing wavy or, if it was glass - crack, and adversely affect the artwork.  In the case of the painting it could stress the stretcher bars and also stress the painting canvas in several different ways.

So, as framers, we build an “allowance” into the construction of each piece from side to side, usually 1/16” space between the edges of the mats and glazing -  and the inside side surface of the frame.  If everything is centered properly, there will be a 1/16” gap all around the inside (1/8” total) that will allow for the inevitable expansion and contraction of the materials inside of the frame.  There could be more or less depending on the materials being used, the size of the frame and the type of art being framed.

We also have to be careful not to sandwich all of the materials in too tightly from front to back as this will also restrict free movement of the materials from side to side by binding them, and front to back as well.

An allowance is a critical component of all custom framing and now you know why.  Stay tuned for more usable information about custom frame design and construction from source here at Santa Barbara Art Frame Company.  

Questions and comments welcome.