GUILD IN THE PRESS
It pays to have your beIoved artwork correctly framed.
By Christine Richard
Charles Avenue Magazine's Antiques and Art, 2004
Remember that Roben Doisneau poster of the French couple kissingor
did you lean towards reproductions of Van Goghs and Klimts? No matter,
you probably mounted the $15 poster on cardboard with glue and framed
it in cheap, thin metal. In college, that was art, and that was its
framing. But now that we're grown-up about artbuying original
oils on canvas, antique prints, historic photograph-- (maybe an original
Doisneau?)we need to frame responsibly. That means that framing
should not only accentuate the artwork, but conserve it.
"Framing is an art in itself," savs Joni Briles, owner of
frame shop J. Briles Gallery.
Rule No. 1 is to choose a frame that isn't going to detract from the
art, "When you go into some frame shops, they're all too happy
to show you a hot-red mat. But when you hang it, you'll see a giant
red square and not the art. With a lot of framers, the first mistake
they make is that they get carried away with the framing and they forget
that there is art in the frame."
Framers say the best way to choose molding and mat is to try them on.
Bring the artwork to a framing shop, and with the guidance of a reputable
framer, mix and match different colors and styles.
"It usually just jumps out at you," says artist Frederick
Guess, who has that sort of epiphany when framing his own works. "Each
artwork is unique and makes its own set ot rules. It's better to go
and try several [mats and frames]," he explains. One thing to avoid,
though, is the "peering through the window look," Guess says.
"You want to feel like the frame isn't there."
You also want to consider briefly where the art will hang in your house,
but don't let location dictate the frame style. The art itself should
be first consideration. Plus, you might move or redecorate.
"You want to complement the mood of the painting," says portrait
artist Sharon Marie Chester about the goal of framing.
BRAVING THE ELEMENTS
"Sometimes the frame is more the art than the art," Chester
states. She wouldn't be exaggerating. There are thousands of molding
choices hanging in frame shops today, mostly woods hut some metals.
Pretty designs on the moldings include etched dragonflies, criss-cross
patterns, gold leafing underlay, and raised decorative elements.
Some moldings are such pieces ot artwork that they can even be used
to turn a plain mirror into an elegant centerpiece, or a child's crayon
drawing into an eye-catching piece.
Blake Vonder Haar scours the globe for vintage and antique frames and
carries them at the New Orleans Conservation Guild and The Antique and
Vintage Frame Gallery. She is president and conservator-in-charge.
Among her stock are valuable 15th-century frames. These types of moldings
are certainly appropriate when framing original oils by masters. "An
old painting can look ridiculous with a new frame. The styles don't
jive," Vonder Haar explains.
As with many things old, "the quality of the frame is so much better
than what is made now," she says. "Older frames are handmade,
hand carved and hand finished."
Vonder Haar says a few modern-day frame makers do carry on the tradition
of fine craftsmanship. The two she cites are Abe Munn and AMCI.
Briles carries a wide variety of frames as well and says the trend now
seems to be silvers, as long as they're not shiny and gaudy. Another
trend is "the distressed wood look," she says.
ON THE MAT
Another important element of framing is the mat. Practically, the holds
the glazing off the surface of the artwork, Vonder Haar explains. "It
also creates a visual border... and it can disguise the edges of the
artwork," she says.
Even though there are many colors available, most framers choose neutral,
because they won't downplay the art. They also look elegant.
Other options Briles offers are French matting, an embellishment put
directly on the mat; and custom wrapped mats, wrapped in silks, cottons
and linens for a textured look.
DON'T FADE AWAY
While many people think of framing as aesthetic, it is also a practical
undertakingif you want your art to last into a new century. Good
framers use archival materials. Pulp-based materials (papers, cardboards)
emit acid and will destroy artwork over time, Available to framers today
are archival (acid-free) mats, backings hinges and fasteners made of
materials such as cotton and rice paper.
Glazing also protects art on paper from foreign elements and, importantly,
ultraviolet rays, which fade the colors over time. (Oils on canvas should
never use glazing; the painting needs to breathe.)
The choices in glazing are acrylic or Plexiglas, and regular glass,
both of which offer protection from UV rays. Vonder Haar recommends
Plexiglas or acrylic if weight is a consideration or if there is risk
of breakage (for example, the art is being shipped).
Also, artwork should never be placed against the glazing, says Denise
Berthiaume, owner of LeMieux Galleries, which has a frame shop. The
image will stick, leaving a ghostly image on the glass. Another no-no
is acrylic with pastels. Acrylic acts as a magnet with pastels, lifting
the artwork up onto it.
The frame shop at LeMieux has many choices in glazing, ranging from
anti-glare or non-reflective glass to museum quality"this
glass is scary to work with," Berthiaume says, "because it's
like there's nothing there." Prices vary considerably, with regular
glass costing $8.75 for a 16-by-20 piece of art, and museum quality
totaling $140 for that same size.
To promote the importance of conservation, Berthiaume is circulating
flyers to gallery customers for a free conservation check-up: "Is
your artwork dying a slow death?" Sinee the conservation movement
got started only about 15 to 20 years ago, many artworks are not framed
using archival materials.
A common conservation faux pas Vonder Haar sees is the dry mounting
of originals. "You completely destroy the value of the art,"
The state of original art -should never be manipulated. Berthiaume adds
folding and cutting art to fit into the frame to the list of what not
READY FOR ITS CLOSE UP
For any kind of art, improper framing can do more damage than good,
but particularly with a photograph, says, Philip Ricks, a framer at
A Gallery For Fine Photography. (A Gallery has a frame shop for its
gallery customers only.)
Special considerations include using archival corners to fasten photographs
to the frame. Ricks also recommends using acrylic glazing rather than
glass. Glass has a green hue to it that is noticeable when you hold
it against white paper; it changes the photograph to a certain extent,
Also, metal frames are best for photographs, because they don't release
harmful gases, Ricks says. When wood frames are used, framers must be
careful to line the wood with acid-free tape.
A photograph must also he handled properly. Don't crease itthat
will damage the emulsion; store photographs in an acid-free environment,
such as a Mylar sleeve, use cotton gloves when handling a photograph.
Whatever medium you are framing, however, perhaps it is wise to consider
this most important golden rule: If you've just spent money on a valuable
piece of art, don't scrimp on the framing.