Anyone who has renovated an old house or been saddled with a leaky condo knows all too well that dreadful things can hide behind the smooth-faced surfaces of plaster and drywall. The same is true of framed art – who knows what evil lurks behind that plain brown dustcover?
If your art was framed before 1980, you can be pretty darn sure there are some conservation no-no’s like acidic matboard, cardboard, and horrible paper staining tapes in there. Even with more recent framing jobs, it’s quite possible that cost-consciousness and/or ignorance have put your art in a less than optimal environment.
To complicate matters, there are different standards of quality that even the best framer may work to. The perceived value of the art, cost conscious clients and the framer’s bottom line can all affect the job you will get. There is no one correct way to frame art on paper, and your best chance for getting a job that will protect your art is to become familiar with the basics of framing materials and methods.
Overview of Framing Components:
Advantages of Glass:
Disadvantages of Glass:
Regular: filters some UV light*
Specialty Acrylic: offers options such as increased UV filtering* (which gives a yellow tinge), anti-reflective etched or coated surfaces, anti-static coatings, anti-scratch coatings
Advantages of Acrylic:
Disadvantages of Acrylic:
*N.B. UV Filtering will not prevent damage by visible light, which can be considerable
The matting (and frame) should be larger than the artwork to allow room for the art’s expansion during times of elevated humidity. If there is no expansion room, art can become irreversibly rippled. The amount of expansion room given will vary according to circumstances. If it is not possible to provide this room for expansion (e.g. original frame) framing should be sealed (see Sealed Framing below).
The function of the window mat is to keep the artwork from touching the glazing. This is especially important when glass is used, because glass’s high temperature conductivity can allow moisture condensation (encouraging stains and mold growth) at points of contact. Acrylic glazing has lower temperature conductivity so does not cause condensation, but static can pull loosely adhered pigment particles (e.g. pastel) from art. Both acrylic and glass can be hazed by oxidizing oil based printing inks and other uncured media so keeping distance between glazing and art is desirable.
Foamboard underlays to increase space between art and glazing are not recommended for valuable or important items due to foamboard’s potential for outgassing.
In some cases a window mat is undesirable or impractical. In these cases spacers should be used to keep the glazing raised from the artwork.
The function of the back mat is to support the artwork. The larger and heavier the art, the sturdier the back mat needs to be.
Substituting foamboard, even acid –free foamboard, for a back matboard is not recommended because it can warp and may outgass damaging chemicals.
Securing Artwork in Matting
Non Adhesive Methods
Adhesive Method for Float Mounting – Pass-Through hinges
Used when it is desirable to show edges of artwork.
Useful for water sensitive items (e.g.items that cannot be repaired should they be water damaged such as screenprints, water sensitive dyes, some pastels). Also useful to protect artworks from uncontrolled environments (e.g. locations with high or rapidly fluctuating Relative Humidity).
Placed behind back mat to add rigidity and provide a barrier to the outside environment.
Advantage: Light weight, reasonably chemically stable.
Advantage: Light weight, chemically stable, water resistant.
Advantage: Light weight, chemically stable, allows gallery labels on reverse of original backboards to be seen.
If there is space, a wooden strainer screwed into the sides of the frame can be used instead of staples or points. (Barrier tape should still be used). This gives more even pressure and a tighter fit to the backing board and framing package. A Coroplast backing board with strainer gives much greater protection against water damage than conventional foamboard/staple/paper dustcover frame closures.
Often used to seal and “finish” the back of framing package. May be paper or the more protective Tyvek. A dustcover is unnecessary if the back of the frame is tightly sealed (e.g. aluminum frame sealing tape) but is a traditional method of finishing a framing job
Often plastic coated wire and D rings screwed to the reverse of the frame. Self leveling brackets such as “Wall Buddies” are also available. Hanging mechanisms are rated for their weight bearing capacity and should matched to the weight of the finished framing package.
Thanks to all of my framing friends who have introduced me to, and instructed me in, the mysteries of the frame!
November 19, 2013