Have you ever wondered how to frame and preserve your art collection? I've had a few photographs warped or ruined by sun using the wrong framing options and it's truly heartbreaking to have a piece you love destroyed by sun, poor material used in framing or an inappropriate framing system. The process of getting your art collection framed can be intimidating so when Jo Minhinett reached out to us regarding another article published on Fox and Park, we jumped at the chance to ask her about her experience with framing. Having received her masters of Arts in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management a few years ago, she has held various positions as a Curatorial Intern at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, a Travelling Exhibitions Coordinator at the George Eastman Museum and is now working as a framing consultant at the Gilder in Toronto. Below are her tips to make the process of framing and preserving your collection a little less daunting.
I have to say, custom-framing at a high-level is extremely technical and I'm definitely not an expert. The shop I work at is called The Gilder and it's entirely unique in that sense. It is run by an incredible husband-wife duo, that have designed and fabricated everything from scratch-- to include frame mouldings, finishes, gilded frames, and even their own tools. They do a ton of research into historical styles, woodworking, and trends in framing. It all happens under one roof, from helping the client select the right frame, to milling the lumber, joining, sanding, finishing, and gilding frames to make a one-of-a-kind piece that exactly fits the artwork. The shop has about 10 artisan-framers and woodworkers, each one specializing in one step of the process. Contrary to what most people believe (including myself until recently), there is a huge amount of labour, craftsmanship, and problem-solving that goes into making a single frame!
Since this kind of custom work is entirely unique and so much of it depends on the artwork, but I can give a few general tips that will be especially helpful to beginners who are thinking of framing some of their collections.
1. Go to a Trusted Framer and Always Ask Questions
You need to trust that your framer will not only create a complementary and harmonious display for your artwork but also help to preserve it. Many framing techniques out there are non-reversible and unfortunately, can change the material integrity of the artwork or damage it over time. Ask specific questions about hinging, mounting, and what kinds of materials are used for backings (acid-free, neutral pH, and 100% cotton are all good ingredients for long-term preservation,). For example, Rising Museum Board as a backing is preferable to foamboard or foamcore. While in some cases the cheaper materials may be suitable, your framer should be making you aware of your choices and give you the option of having the highest quality materials.
2. Enlist the Help of an Art Consultant or Interior Designer
Frames, like artwork, have their own history, trends, and styles. So, it's not always easy to know what to choose. Oftentimes, it is worth enlisting the help of an art consultant or interior designer to assist in finding the right frame that will suit your space and stand the test of time. The best kind of framer is one that is also knowledgeable in the history of art and can meet your consultant or designer halfway in recommending something that will make the artwork stand out in every way.
3. Don't Settle for Email Quotes, Go in Person and Bring your Artwork
To find that special frame, I think it's important to bring your artwork into a shop and look at frame samples in-person. Don't settle for getting a quote by phone or email. Take the time to meet your framer, discuss the artwork, and have a conversation about the options. Art is personal, and therefore framing should be as well.
4. Make Sure the Framer is Using UV-Filtering Glass or Plexiglass
The glazing on your artwork can be glass or acrylic (also known as plexiglas). They are both good options with their own pros and cons. For example, plexiglas is lighter and less breakable. Glass is more scratch-resistant and has greater clarity. Either way, it's best if these materials have UV-filtering properties (aim for at least 90%). Works on paper are particularly vulnerable to UV rays and proper glazing will protect your artwork from discolouration.
5. Start Small by Getting One or Two Pieces Framed at a Time
Framing can be overwhelming, not to mention expensive. If you're unsure of what to do with your art collection and what direction to take it, start small. Maybe frame just one or two pieces at a time. Then, as you become more familiar with framing terminology and materials, you will start to see frames in a totally different way. To find inspiration, stop in at your local museum or gallery and have a look at what's on the walls. These are places that put a lot of time and resources into selecting the right frames for their collections and they often display the best examples of custom-framing.