The best quality frame that a framer can show you is a closed corner frame. It is so called because there is no corner miter or corner seam.
Most custom picture frames are created by cutting and joining what is known as length moulding, in the form of 8 to 10 foot stick lengths all pre-finished from the manufacturer. The frame is then made to size by cutting (mitering) the four sides of the moulding to length and then joining it in a 90 degree vise by gluing, v-nailing or thumb-nailing the corners together. If there is a finish variation, or a pattern to the frame, the pattern in the corner will probably not match. Although the frame is joined, you can still see the corner seam The framer now uses various types of putty and creams to "heal" the miter joint until he is satisfied with the appearance of the joint.
With custom closed corner picture frames the frame builder joins the frame with raw milled wood, and then carves in the design or adds appliques (called compo) to embellish the frame. This yields a corner with continuity of the pattern, and when finished will not show the miter mark in the corner. The design pattern is symmetrical on the picture frame and all four frame corners have the same balanced pattern. Finishing in the form of synthetic or genuine gold or silver leaf, painting, staining, and antiquing is now applied, sometimes in stages over a period of several days.
It is mostly true, but not always, that a closed corner frame is more expensive than a cut and join frame. Our shop has many closed corner frames that we can sell competitively with pre-finished length moulding frames, so it is always wise to inquire.
And the end product is always worth the additional consideration
I've been thinking recently about the variety of wonderful folks who walk through our doors every week. By and large they are a great group of people. And we never know what interesting project they may be bringing us. As they say on Pawn Stars "you never know what's going to come through that door."
But, on very rare occasion, we will get a customer that is a "stinker". However, most are not intentional stinkers. What do I mean by this?
Over the past 30 plus years we have had four customers that I would call intentionally impossible. There was no way to satisfy them, no matter what. These are real stinkers. But the rest, maybe a dozen or so, were dissatisfied or unhappy with the result because we did not make something that fit the image in their heads or what they "felt" it should look like. I take as much responsibility for this as the customer should. It is my job, as a professional framer, to ensure that I get as close as possible to that design image the customer holds, even though I cannot do that 100% of the time.
At this stage what qualifies the customer as difficult is their reaction to our efforts. We are always willing to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy with the final result. But this circumstance, as is even the initial design phase, is stressful to both the customer and the framer. And different customers experience and express their stress in different ways. So we need to remember to not take it personally, unless the expression of that stress is really out of line.
Psychologically, people react in many different ways to stress. And yes, framing a picture can be a stressful situation, especially if the customer has not done it before, has had a bad previous experience, is dealing with a family heirloom, or has something of monetary or sentimental value. Add to that the stress someone who is not able to express themselves well, and it creates a situation where the framer is sent on a fishing expedition, and the outcome may be little more than a crap shoot. This in turn creates even more stress for both the customer and the framer.
Different personality types can express their stress and disappointment in several ways including helplessness, upsetment, anger, sadness, aggression, sweetness, over-communication, under-communication, micro management, just not caring, and any combination. Depending on the customer's particular m.o., we will address this circumstance for the best outcome and customer satisfaction, and have been successful in doing that with the exception of the four stinkers described above.
So back to considering the title of this post. A framer's ideal client is one who recognizes and respects the value of the art they bring us, and the value of what we will do with it. Then, in terms of design, they should either have an idea of what they want, or be willing to explore until we hit the "ahhh - I like that" moment together. This takes communication in some form, and time. Next they should appreciate the final result. But if we did not hit the mark, be willing to discuss and allow us to make the necessary adjustments so they leave thrilled. Then they need to pick up the work in a timely fashion when it is completed. And finally they need to make adequate provisions to transport it back to their homes. I can't tell you the number of times a customer will arrive with a sub-compact car to transport something that will barley fit inside and will sustain marginal damage while they load it in. This is very discouraging to us who, just moments before, handed them a pristine piece.
A client's ideal framer is one who exhibits exactly the same concern and qualities for the their work, is able to flesh out the customer's mental image of the finished piece, respects the customer's pocketbook and their time requirements. And most importantly, will do whatever it takes to ensure that this customer ends up with something that pleases him/her without reservation. The framer needs to recognize that the customer will be looking at the finished piece often, perhaps daily for many, many years. So the project is never complete when the payment transaction is processed and the art heads off to the customer's home.
Communication, mutual respect, careful treatment of the artwork and a willingness to remove egos and avoid knee jerk reactions on the part of both parties will ensure that there is an overwhelmingly satisfied clientele, and very few sinkers, either customers or framers, to be found.
This is great reference resource and I must cop to lifting it directly off of the Parker Jordan website. I imagine that they did the same. Although it is not complete, it's hard to improve on existing excellence.
I will have a similar Art Terminology reference coming in the near future.
ATG: Initials that stand for "adhesive transfer gum," a double-sided tape primarily used to
apply dust covers or to hold mats together in multiple mat designs. The tape comes on a paper carrier and is generally, but not necessarily, applied with a special applicator--an ATG gun.
Acid Burn: A brown line or brown coloration on paper that is the result of prolonged
contact with acidic cardboard or other materials. Acid burns often are seen on the face of
paper artwork that was matted with acidic cardboard mats.
Acid Free: A term used to describe adhesives, papers, matboards and other framing supplies that
have no acid in them. Acid-free materials should be used when framing works of art on paper.
Matboards, mounting boards, tapes, envelopes and other framing materials all are
available in acid-free varieties. Some have been chemically treated to remove impurities; others, such as those made of 100 percent pure cotton rag, never contained acid and are generally the best choice for framing fine art.
Acrylic: Clear plastic sheeting used in framing applications. Acrylic can be used instead of glass
to glaze a picture; acrylic also is used to make boxes to hold large pieces and three-dimensional objects.
Backing board: General term for the material used to fill the back of the frame; most often scrap
matboard or foam-core board. The backing board is held in place by glazier's points or brads and is covered with a dust cover (kraft paper, usually). The English refer to mounting board as "backing board." So, too, do some U.S. conservators.
Bevel: Generally refers to the 45-degree angle on the window opening of a matboard that has been cut with a mat cutter. When such a cut is made, the core of the matboard is exposed. A standard bevel, which leaves the core of the matboard showing around the window opening in front, is cut from the back of the matboard. Unless otherwise specified, it is this cut that framers generally mean when they refer to the bevel. If a mat is cut with a reverse bevel, the 45-degree angle cut slants away from the surface of the matboard so the matboard core is not seen from the front. A reverse bevel often is used when a visible bevel would be a distractingelement in the design. A reverse bevel is usually cut from the front; however, if the mat cutter head is reversed, this bevel also can be cut from the back.
Blocking: Refers to straightening and shaping a piece of fabric or needleart. The material is dampened, stretched slightly to straighten, and tacked to a board. It must be allowed to dry while tacked before it is mounted.
Bloom: A white or milky haze on an oil painting. It is caused by water vapor in the painting varnish.
Brad: A small nail used in joining frames and, sometimes, in securing the backing board into the frame.
Chops: Picture frame mouldings that are purchased already cut to size (chopped) by the moulding supplier for a specific frame. Chops often are more expensive per foot to buy than the same pattern purchased in length.
Chop Service: The service offered by suppliers who make precut moulding available. Some suppliers also offer "chop and join" services in which the moulding is not only precut, but also is joined by the supplier before shipment to the framer. Many retailers use chops primarily for ornate, wide moulding that would be too expensive to inventory only for occasional orders, or to try out new patterns before stocking them.
Chopper: One of several tools used for mitering moulding. Choppers may be foot- or power-operated; there are some tabletop models operated by hand. Two blades come down from the top to cut both miters at once.
Compo: (Short for Composition) A plasterlike substance used in making decorative ornaments for frame finishing. Compo ornaments are applied to a wood frame base to give moulding an ornate, hand-carved look. Compo also can be used to repair or replace ornaments on a frame.
Conservation Framing: Using materials and techniques in the framing process to ensure artwork is not damaged by framing. Hinging the artwork instead of mounting it, using high-quality acid-free boards and mats, using nonstaining paste, and glazing with conservation glass or acrylic are generally accepted procedures used to help preserve artwork. The same procedures are sometimes referred to as "preservation framing."
The process of attaching the artwork to the backing board in a way that will not harm the art. Materials used include ragboard, rice or wheat paste, and mulberry hinges, or other inert (nondeteriorating or nonstaining) materials and processes. Many framers call this process "museum mounting" or "preservation mounting."
A technique sometimes used on furniture and picture frame moulding to literally beat up the object with chains or other implements and leave random gouges in the wood before finishing. The treatment makes wood look old and worn.
Dry Mount, Dry Mounting: The process of using dry adhesive tissues to mount paper artwork or photographs to a board, using high heat and a dry mount press.
Dry Mount Press: One of a wide variety of machines that feature the use of heat, pressure and special adhesive tissues to mount artwork to board.
Dust cover: A protective paper sheet (usually kraft paper) attached to the back of the frame to protect
the contents from dirt. The dust cover often is attached with ATG tape laid along the frame edges; a variety of glues also may be used to attach the dust cover.
Foam-core board: A lightweight, plastic-centered board sold in large sheets. Foam-core board is used as a mounting board, as a backing board, and as a spacer in deep frames or shadow boxes. Foam-core board also is used in routine mounting of needlework and paper art. Foam-core board variations come from many manufacturers, with different compositions, colors and face papers.
Fillet: (1) A very thin moulding used as an accent in framing inside another moulding or liner. It is sometimes used under the glazing at the edge of the mat window opening. Some framers also refer to edge of an undermat (a thin border that shows around the artwork) as a fillet. (2) Any thick piece of paper or board or thin piece of wood glued to the moulding rabbet to hold the glass away from an unmatted piece of artwork. Another term for "fillet" in this second usage is "spacer."
The process of putting together the pieces of the framing package: the joined moulding, glass, mounted artwork, matting, backing board, dust cover and hardware. Fitting includes cleaning the glass and checking the entire job for flaws before closing the frame.
Foxing: Mold growth on paper artwork (typically appearing as brown spots). Foxing is found particularly on old prints and graphics, maps, letters and other documents.
French Mat: A mat with inked lines spaced at various intervals around a window opening. Often a watercolor wash is used between the lines to create a decorative panel. Colored powder pastels or chalk may be used in place of the watercolor wash.
Gesso: A brush-on white primer used as base coat over raw moulding prior to painting or leafing.
Gilding: The process of applying gold leaf and/or burnishing powders to a prepared wood frame. See "gold leaf."
Glazing: A broad term that includes a wide variety of glass and acrylic products used to finish and protect framed artwork. Varieties include regular picture framing glass, conservation/preservation glass and acrylic, anti-reflective and nonglare glass. Many manufacturers carry products that offer combinations of these features.
Gold leaf: Very thin leaves of real gold that are burnished onto a wood frame that has been coated
with several layers of other material in preparation. The process is painstaking and expensive because of the use of precious metal.
Heat press: A mounting press that uses a combination of heat and pressure to attach artwork to a
backing board. (See dry mounting, dry mount press.)
Hinges: Materials used to mount artwork in conservation framing. Strips of Japanese or mulberry paper are torn; starch glue is applied to the strips. The paper art is attached to the acid-free mount only by these hinges. In recent years, a number of hinging products have been introduced, including strips of paste impregnated mulberry paper that are water-activated.
Joining: The process of putting together mitered sticks of moulding to make the frame. Joining requires applying glue to each corner, carefully placing the segments in the vise or joining machine, and then attaching the corners. If placed in a vise, the corners can be nailed by hand. If placed in a power joiner such as an underpinner, the segments will be held together by staples or wedges inserted by the machine from underneath. The nails are important because they hold the corner together firmly until the glue dries. However, glue is most important to provide a strong joint that will not separate easily.
Lacing: The conservation-approved way to mount a variety of types of needleart prior to framing. The artwork is centered on a mounting board, and the excess fabric is wrapped to the back of the board. With a needle and thread, the framer draws cotton thread through a corner of the fabric on one side and across to the opposite side; he continues back and forth across the work as if lacing a shoe. With lacing completed across two sides, the work is turned and the pattern is repeated for the remaining two sides, until the work is held firmly in place around the support board. Lacing is time-consuming and painstaking work.
Moulding featuring high-gloss plastic, leather, wood or other material applied over a wood core.
Leafing: The process of applying real gold or silver leaf or imitation leaf to a moulding or mat.
Length: Moulding ordered from a supplier in sticks of eight to 12 feet and stocked in inventory. It
is cut to size by the framer after a customer orders a frame of that particular style. Also called "stick moulding."
Lip: The thin, projecting edge of the moulding that is just above the rabbet; mats and glazing
generally fit under the moulding lip.
Liner: A moulding, usually fabric-covered, used inside the outer moulding in a frame design. A liner is not completely finished, so it would not be used as the only moulding for a frame. Liners often are used in place of mats on framed oil paintings.
Mat-board: A paper or rag board used over artwork to separate it from the glass. Mat-board generally is made up of three layers: the face paper, the core and the backing. Mat-boards come in a wide variety of thicknesses (plys), colors, textures and compositions, and many acid-free mat-boards are for conservation framing. Mat-boards can be carved, cut or painted to add decorative elements to the frame design. Various colors and textures can be stacked, spliced and combined in numerous ways.Mat-board usually has a whitish material in the center so that a white line (bevel) shows when it is cut. However, some mat-boards also have black or colored cores, resulting in a colored bevel when they are cut. Cores may be the same color as the face paper or a contrasting color. Colored-core mat-board expands the design possibilities for framers.
Mat Cutter: Equipment used to cut mat-boards. There are a wide variety of manual mat cutters on the market, including hand-held, straightedge, and circle and oval cutters. The primary components are a blade in a cutting head and some kind of guide device. In addition, several companies offer computer-operated mat cutters that can perform complex or volume mat cutting.
Matting: The process of cutting and placing a piece of mat-board, with a window opening cut, over or around artwork. The mat serves two functions: It protects the artwork by separating it from the glazing and providing air circulation; and it enhances the artwork it surrounds. It may be a highly decorative part of the design, or it may simply provide a restful area around the artwork.
Mitering: The process of cutting two corresponding angles in sticks or lengths of moulding. When joined together, the angles form the corner of the frame. A square or rectangular frame uses 45-degree miter cuts; frames with triangles or other shapes in the design require other angles for the miter.
Miter Saw: A saw that cuts moulding at an angle so it can be joined with another piece of moulding cut at a corresponding angle.
Moulding: The material used to build a frame. Mouldings can be wood, metal, plastic or laminate,
and they may be purchased from suppliers in lengths/sticks or as chops.
Mounting: The procedure of securing artwork or an object to a surface to hold it in the frame. There
are many methods of mounting, including dry mounting, wet mounting, spray mounting, vacuum mounting, lacing, stretching, stapling and hinging. It is important to choose the proper method to preserve the value of the items being mounted.
Non-Glare Glass: A glazing, usually etched on one or both sides, that eliminates reflections and glare from
Oval Cutter: A machine especially built to cut circles or ovals in matboard. Some also are designed to cut glass and cardboard.
Profile: The shape or design of the moulding, including all carved or grooved elements.
Rabbet: The groove under the lip of the moulding that allows space for the mat, glass, art and
Rag-board: A board manufactured from cotton or other fibers. Virgin ragboard was the only choice
of conservators for many years and is still considered a high-quality choice for conservation framing. However, many conservators today find that chemically neutralized colored boards made of purified wood fibers also are acceptable for use in conservation.
Restoration: Work done on a piece of artwork to make it resemble its original condition. It really isn't "restoring," since nothing can bring the art back to its exact original state. Restoration may involve relining, in-painting, cleaning, revarnishing, etc., and is generally best left to experts in the field.
Shrink-Wrap: The process of wrapping something with plastic film, then sealing and tightening the film
with heat. Several companies offer shrink-wrapping equipment. Sometimes galleries shrink-wrap artwork that has been mounted to a display board; this protects the art when customers handle it.
Spandrel Frame: A frame made with a circular or oval opening within a square or rectangle.
Strainer: A wood support frame to which the canvas of oil paintings or the fabric of needleart is sometimes attached. Strainers also can be inserted behind large framed items to stabilize the frame. Strainers are constructed as solid frames and are not adjustable. (See "Stretcher.")
Stretcher: A support frame made of wood onto which the canvas of oil paintings or needleart can be mounted. A stretcher has adjustable corners that allow for periodic tightening (stretching) of the canvas, unlike a strainer (see above) which is solidly joined at the corners.
Small iron used in dry mounting. It attaches the tissue and the paper to one spot on the mounting board so that nothing in the package shifts as it is placed in the press.
Under-Pinner: Power machine that joins frames rapidly and efficiently. It generally is operated by a foot
pedal and can be either air-powered or manually operated. The two pieces of moulding are glued and placed in vises that hold them snugly together; a staple or V-shaped fastener shoots up from underneath and joins the pieces.
V-Groove: The process of cutting two close, facing bevels into matboard so they form a "V" when the board is taped back together.
Vacuum Mounting: A cold mounting system using the pressure of a vacuum press to mount paper art and
fabrics to a mounting board. Either sprays or wet adhesives such as paste can be used.
Vacuum Press: A press that creates a vacuum to generate enough pressure to mount artwork to a backing
board. Some presses are combination heat/vacuum presses.
Custom picture framing (or custom framing) is an oft used, and sometimes mis-used, loose term that describes the act of putting a frame around a work of art or a photograph. There are more kinds of custom picture frames than I will go into in this post , but they all basically provide a protective element, as well as a decorative element to the work being framed. They are not, however, pre-made or "ready made" to standard sizes by an outside source. These are made in bulk, and the quality is not as high as in a truly custom made frame. And the internal fit of the artwork can be at risk as well.
A custom frame is fabricated specifically to fit and to correctly enclose a specific work of art. This means the the frame moulding is cut, joined and mitered to size by hand, the mats or liners if used are also made individually to fit the frame, and the glazing, if used, is selected to treat the specific type of art being framed.
Frame moulding comes in pre-finished lengths that the framer then cuts to size, and miteres the corners while attempting to match the pattern of the moulding in the corners, which is not always possible. So each corner might appear a bit different from the other if the frame face is not flat, but has a specific texture or decorative pattern applied to it.
More expensive and higher end frame mouldings are joined raw and then the decorative elements and finish is applied to them after joining. In this case, decorative elements, leaf, paint or stain is applied to the frame as a single unit. Most times this type of frame is hand carved and gilded with a gold or silver leaf, or custom color work applied. The term "Closed Corner Frame" is applied to this type of frame.
The custom framer also has the experience to help choose which type of mat is to be used if the art is a work on paper or a photograph, or fabric covered liner if the work is a painting where glass is not used. Mats can be fabric covered also, and can be used over the edge of the art (over matting), or underneath the art (float mat) depending on the appearance desired. When floating artwork, spacers between the frame moulding and the mat must be used to create an air space so the glass does not touch the surface of the art. This is particularly important in framing original works such as pastels and watercolors.
A custom framer is also familiar with the proper way to mount specific types of art. Again information for a more lengthly future post.
Another type of frame is used behind the surface of oil paintings and sometimes reproductions on canvas to support them from behind. This is called a "stretcher" when the corners are adjustable to tension the canvas, and a "strainer" (or streighner) if the corners are solidly joined. The are many types of these as well, and I will go into more detail in future posts.
So although there are levels of "custom" in a custom made frame, the overriding element is that each material choice and process is specifically chosen by the framer along with the customer to fit the individual piece of art being framed. This allows for the best quality, appearance and balance of budget for the customer and the art being framed.
This post will talk about a boring subject - glazing. Which mostly means glass, but is often used a a general term for various materials that protect the artwork such as acrylic (aka plexiglas), styrene, and some newer products coming on to the market. So there is more to it than meets the eye (no pun...)
In framing we use a type of clear flat glass known a plate or float glass. This is usually 2.5 mm thick and also known as single strength. There are various quality levels, but in our shop we use glass exclusively produced for the picture faming business, which has additional properties such as ultraviolet blockers, and different types of reflection mitigators, in addition to being clearer and more distortion free than other types used for windows and the like.
There are a few types of non-glare glass, and anti reflective glass, and they are not the same product. Non glare glass is produced by etching one or both sides of the glass with acid causing a microscopic pattern on the surface which breaks up the reflected light. However it has a frosty appearance and distorts the art image when mats are added. Therefor it is not often used these days.
Conservation glass is clear glass that offers protection from U.V. light. There is an alternative called Museum Glass or Art Glass which both blocks U.V. light, reduces overall reflection without frostiness and offers a high amount of light transmission to view the art because it is not etched, but processed with chemicals.. As opposed to non-glare, this type of glass is known as anti-reflective.
Museum Glass is costlier than regular clear glass and conservation glass, but from both an appearance and preservation standpoint it is worth the money. It is also a bit more difficult to clean. Use a microfiber cloth and non ammoniated glass cleaner on the cloth
In terms of acrylic sheets, it comes in regular (looks like float glass), U.V. blocking (looks like conservation glass) and a product called Optium Museum Plexi that looks just like Museum Glass. It is static free and has an anti-scratch coating that will stand up to steel wool abrasion. You will want to use acrylic on larger pieces (anything over 32" X 40" in our shop), and for very valuable pieces the Optium Museum Plexi option is the best. it comes in 3 mm, 4.5 mm and 6 mm thicknesses.
More to talk about here in future posts, but this is enough for a basic understanding. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call us.
Because we often fabricate and frame custom mirrors, I want to take this opportunity to talk a bit more about how that is done.
Most people think that we simply attach a frame to the edge of the mirror glass and attach a hanging wire at the back. There is quite a bit more to it as you will see.
First we need to determine the anticipated weight of the mirror, as determined by size, glass thickness, and frame weight, and where it will hang. If the mirror is large and heavy (it can weigh up to 100 lbs or more) then we need to know that the mounting or wall surface will support it, and that will also determine what hanging system that we use. This can be mirror straps, or aluminum horizontal Z bars across the back at the top, or at the top and bottom if required. These systems are designed to engage the wall studs for strength. If the unit is smaller and lighter then a wire will be fine.
Next we want to determine in what room of the house it will hang - living room, bedroom, bathroom, etc. This will also dictate the type of hanging system used. A large mirror over a bed will require safety hanging devices for instance. A bathroom mirror exposed to moisture will need special treatment before being framed. This will consist of treating the edge of the glass with a sealant, and perhaps creating a moisture trough inside the mirror at the bottom with silicone wedges so it can evaporate out if trapped. For all mirrors, we black out the frame interior so it does not reflect through to the viewer at the front.
Th frame itself can be attached to the mirror glass itself in a number of ways. We can use framers points, Z clips, or non acetic silicone - again depending on the size and application of the mirror. Then determining the style of frame to be used, in relation to the size and weight of the mirror glass is the next step. There are pros and cons all along the way, so talking all of this over with the customer is really helpful.
Finally the thickness and quality of the mirror glass itself needs to be considered, whether or not beveled, and budget considerations. There is a difference in the appearance of the mirror glass depending on source supplier and quality which as always, relates to cost.
Finally it is up to us to bring all of this together and have a happy client when the job is complete.
Lets talk more about the frame itself and how it is joined together. Fame moldings can be made of a variety of materials, including wood, metal and plastic. The material type determines how the frame corners are joined. For this post we will talk about wood frames.
The shape of the frame moulding is called its profile. These are a couple of dozen basic profiles and thousands of variations. There are also many ways to finish a moulding, and we cover that in the next post. Here we will talk about cutting and joining a pre finished length of moulding typically purchased 8 to 10 feet in length. When a frame is constructed by first joining an unfinished raw wood profile and then finishing it as a single unit, this is called a "closed cornered frame". We will cover also this in the next post.
When constructing a frame, the frame moulding has to be cut, and mitered (corners cut at a 45 degree angle) and then they have to be joined. Cutting can be accomplished by a hand saw, electric saw, or foot chopper. A chopper is a mechanical device where a sharp blade falls down on the moulding and slices through it at the proper angle. Each of these methods has its advantages and its drawbacks. Cut moulding pieces have to be evaluated for the proper cut angles and "dressed" to ensure that a good joined corner will occur.
Once the moulding has been cut to the proper length and width with the correct allowance (see previous post) it has to be joined at each corner. This is accomplished by gluing, thumb nailing (a plastic wedge driven into both sides from behind), brading (thin wire nails), and/or v-nailing (a v-shaped staple fem the back) the corners together. We use a combination of these methods here at our shop. We may glue the corners together held together in special vise, and then either brad or thumbnail in addition for added strength. Gluing and v-nailing can also produce a strong corner. Brads or thumbnails without glue are not sufficient. The shape of the moulding and the desired appearance and strength will help determine which method is used.
Prior to gluing we may touch up the raw ends with color to match the frame finish. Once joined the frame then is inspected for any minor flaws and either touched up or color matched putty is used where needed, particularly if there are brad holes.
Lastly we test fit the frame with the art to ensure size and dimensions are as intended, and set it aside while we build out the rest of the package which can include mats, glass, backing and other special materials as designed.
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.
With the stressful events taking place daily in the US and the world, why would something as seemingly unimportant as picture framing be meaningful? To us at SBAFCo, it is obvious - it is our living and our passion. But why should it be important to you?
As an appreciator of art, a collector, or someone who just enjoys beauty or visual stimulation, many times a frame can make or break the effectiveness of the presentation of the art. And many times the right frame can oh so subtly enhance the piece so that a pleasurable view becomes even more compelling.
What do I mean by the right frame? This is a frame that both enhances the art and protects it to varying degrees. We have a rule of thumb here at our frame studio - if your eye spends time on the frame, no matter how beautiful it is, and distracts you from the art in any way - it is not doing its job. Some art is so strong and imagery is so substantial, it can hold its own with almost any frame. But some art is so subtle, so delicate, so serene, that anything other than a frame that almost disappears is an intrusion. This is not to say that a frame cannot be of high quality and beautiful in its own right. But it has to have "balance" and "continuity with the artwork". Another important aspect of the appealing frame is that it should "wear well", meaning it does not become tiring to look at or lose its appeal after a period of living with it.
In upcoming posts we will explore what, in our minds here at Santa Barbara Art Frame Co., are the properties of the perfect frame for your piece of art - in your eyes - not ours. We will also talk about frame construction and offer some insights into how that is done at a professional frame studio. All of these elements, combined with integrating the design with your taste and your budget, are what a good professional framer will strive to provide.