Technical Framing Terms
The Prime Directive
Remember, we make sure that all we do can be undone. Acidity, light, air, and humidity are the critical elements to control in conservation and preservation framing. But the prime directive for fine art framing is reversibility. Everything must be reversible in order to be sure that we remain faithful to the goals of conservation. It also makes decisions easier, knowing that you can change the look at a later date.
First, Our Process
We have thousands of mouldings and hundreds of matting samples at our fingertips to choose from, but we never want a client to feel overwhelmed. We work to define the design problem and narrow down possible solutions, encouraging our clients to develop and use their own design aesthetic. Once tapped in to, their aesthetic can guide them through even the toughest design problems and decisions.
Design elements to consider are ornament, color, proportion, materials such as matting, moulding, and of course the style of both the art, the owner and the location the piece will be placed. Please see our framing philosophy for a more detailed discussion of the elements. Once selections are made, our experienced framers get to work. Our framers have well over 70 years of collective experience in the design and preparation of fine art frames, and enjoy each new framing challenge.
If you need help with the placement or installation of the piece, that service can be arranged. We love to see the pieces in their new homes. See our list of framing services for more information.
Glass and Glazing
In framing, the terms glass and glazing are used to describe the material covering and protecting the art. Whether the covering is glass, Plexiglass or acrylic, the term used is the same, ‘glass’. However, not all glazes are the same; some offer specific advantages or disadvantages as discussed below:
Ultraviolet filtering within the glass guards the art from the fading effects of ultraviolet light (UV). Some pigments, dye based as well as watercolors, airbrush inks and many digital inks now popular in desktop publishing are unstable or fade in sunlight, even ambient sunlight. Glass companies offer a film-covered glass to block out ultraviolet light, but it doesn’t filter the extreme ends of the spectrum, which are the most damaging. In addition, glass breaks and could cut the art. Conservation Clear Acrylic offers the best UV protection and has the added advantage of not breaking and tearing paper art when moved. If a valuable piece of art is being framed, we recommend Conservation Clear Acrylic.
However, Museum Glass providing non-interfering, true non-glare qualities is now available. It is not etched, but electro-magnetically coated with a mineral compound. This compound is a glare-reduction film like that used on camera lenses and eyeglasses. As with other UV glass, this product does not have full spectrum filtering in ultra violet light, but does provide 99% protection.
However, glass providing non-interfering, true non-glare qualities is now available. It is not etched, but electro-magnetically coated with a mineral compound. This compound is a glare-reduction film like that used on camera lenses and eyeglasses. A combined filtering and non-glare version of this product, called Museum Glass, is also available. As with other UV glass, this product does not have full spectrum filtering in ultra violet light, but does provide very significant protection.
Fine art should never have the glass sitting directly on the art. A spacer or mat provides the proper air space to absorb spikes in humidity that can be trapped in the paper fibers causing mold growth. The little brown spots seen on old prints, called “foxing”, are the result of mold growth. Photographs especially should never touch the glass because the emulsion can adhere to the glass and is not removable without destroying the image. Most paintings on canvas or linen are not glazed, so this is not an issue.
In picture framing matting is common on paper art such as prints and watercolors. It used to be that matting material was made of wood pulp, which is extremely acidic. These mats caused "acid burn" on artwork where the acid mixed with air and light. A brown line, sharp on the mat side and fading out toward the edge of the art characterizes the burn. There won’t be much burn from the back mat because no air was in contact with the art.
More modern matting material is made of 100% cotton fiber, or is a methyl-cellulose fiber buffered with agents that neutralize the acid in the fibers. An even newer board called "Art-care" has been developed to absorb acid and actually correct an unbalanced environment. The art conservation world has embraced this product as superior to 100% cotton or rag board. The life of the "Art-care" board is still unknown at this point and 100% cotton is seen as the more stable board for picture framing. Both are available at Brian Marki Fine Art and Framing.
Mounting, the practice of attaching the entire piece of art to a mat board or other substrate, was popularized a century ago as a cure for the warp that photographic papers formed in the developing process. This full mounting practice has been carried forward to the poster generation to keep inexpensive poster paper flat. However, full mounting, which is non-reversible, is no longer necessary. Plastic-backed photographic paper has cured the warped photograph, and posters are now often on canvas or heavy art paper.
Fine art should never be mounted, but should instead be secured to the mat with small tabs, or hinges of linen or paper. Because hinges are reversible and acid neutral, they are the preferred way to position and hold a piece of art in a mat or frame. There are several types of hinges that can be used to secure a work in a frame depending on the weight and size of a particular piece.
Photo corners are another way of securing art in a frame without attaching anything to the art. These are little paper pockets are made of folded paper and secured to the substrate (mat) to hold the art in place. This method is ideal for shipping art because it prevents the art from shifting out of place.
Last, we have mouldings that make up the frame itself. For oil or acrylic on canvas, this may be the only treatment or presentation element used. Watercolors, photographs, prints may use mouldings with a combination of the elements above. Frames can be made up of one or several mouldings put together.
We use imported Italian moulding because it is timeless in design, well crafted and of superb quality. The Italian patinas are like none other in the world; many of the recipes date from the Renaissance era. Styles range from contemporary to traditional, but the quality is consistently superb.