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Exactly What Is Custom Picture Framing?

4/7/2016

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.

A Framer's Ideal Client, and Visa Versa

5/4/2017

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.

Closed Corner Frames - the Rolls Royce of the Industry

9/15/2017

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.

About Glazing

3/31/2016

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.

A Custom Picture Frame is not an Automobile

3/1/2019

That’s really obvious, you might say to yourself. So what's his point?

Both have similarities: they can have aesthetic appeal, pride of ownership and utility value. And some can acquire asset value. Beyond that the differences occur in what they are actually used for.

Sometimes the distinction is not so obvious from a framing customer's perspective. Many customers feel that, like an automobile, a picture frame is something that is manufactured as a single unit and is just waiting for someone to bring a painting or a print to fit inside of it.. This can be true of ready made frames ((frames mass produced to certain standard sizes), but the majority of framing projects involve the use of materials that are cut, finished and fitted to each project individually. Even fitting artwork into a ready made properly is a custom effort.

An automobile is also mass produced, so a part for a vehicle can be bought over the counter and fitted into the vehicle by a mechanic or vehicle owner in pretty much of a "take the old one out and bolt in a new one" activity. With a custom picture frame however, even a simple glass replacement can be an exploratory adventure involving disassembling the piece carefully, determining how the art was mounted, determining if the frame is square and true enough to accept a piece of glass also cut square and true, and whether the moulding and other components will fit back together properly once they are taken apart.

Building a new frame job from scratch involves sizing and assembling every single piece of the job individually and there are always little surprises along the way.

The chains like AAron Brothers have given the false impression that there are tens of thousands of frames in a multitude of sizes and colors just waiting for someone to bring in a suitable picture. And this has produced a customer who often wants a frame for their art to be handed over the counter, like at the auto parts counter. And it is expected to simply fit with a minimum of effort, and perhaps picked up the same day or next day.

Nothing could be farther from the daily reality of a true custom picture framer. And the closest analogy I can get to comparing our work to an automobile would be a hand built one off vehicle; a thing of beauty and quality - requiring experienced personal attention to build, maintain and to repair.

Why We Hate It When the Competition Closes Their Doors.

11/6/2018

For a small business in a town of about 135,000 people, a competitor closing their doors can be good news. From a selfish standpoint, it might be cause for celebration. But it could be ill fortune that caused the closure, and that is never good news. And there are other negative consequences that will be felt by us and the rest of the small business community as well.

We own and operate a custom frame shop, among about a dozen others, and that makes our business a highly competitive one. We are tasked with paying constant attention to ensuring that we stay visible and accessible to both our existing client base and new customers as well. If we don't, there is a small crowd of framers behind us willing to take up the slack. So why would one less be a problem? And what happens when it is?

In a small and tightly knit community, every business is important. There is an overall synergy that is created by residents that strive to spend their dollars locally. That actually solidifies among the small businesses that, even if competitors, all have the same objective in mind; provide quality work at the right price point, satisfy the customer, and continue business not just to survive, but to thrive.

When one of those businesses closes its doors, there is a financial, emotional and psychological ripple effect that extends itself into both the business and retail customer communities. It is felt on some level by everyone.

In the last three years, four frame shops have closed in our town. In a community of this size, a dozen frame shops could be considered over-saturation. But each had its specialty and maintained a respectable market share. One of them was Aaron Brothers and the other three were small mom and pops like us.

So exactly how did this affect us? Frankly, Aaron Brothers closing was a relief. It was one less shop that might give the rest of the framing community a spotty reputation because the quality of the work was inconsistent. 'Nuff said.

Another combination gallery and frame shop in a small adjacent community closed due to health issues of one of the mom and pop owners. They had been there for over 30 years, and although we did see an increase in business from their customers, we knew, liked, and respected the owners so this was not a happy event.

A single owner shop of over 30 years also closed last year, and this one was located about a mile from our shop. Because we knew the owner had closed in order to care for her aging mother, we were sorry to see her go, but the circumstances were not dire. We had supported each other when we/she was out of a mat board or needed a piece of glass. So we felt the loss of a friend. We also experienced a migration of her customers to our shop, especially since she ran a newspaper ad announcing her closure and then recommending us.

Most recently, another mom and pop shop closed that had been doing business for over 20 years. Escalating rents and cost of doing business forced them out. We considered this shop "worthy competition" because they did top quality work, had great design capability and we also came to know and respect the owners over the years. They closed without any previous announcement, and this one really hurt. When their customers come to our shop for framing, and the discussion goes to their shop closure there is a real sadness shared by all of us.

Although we appreciate the new business, this is not the way we want to acquire it. In addition to the loss of their presence within our own circle of business associates, we also have had to increase our lead time from 2 to 3 weeks all the way to 6 to 7 weeks. That does not set well with some customers. But we do not want to hire and train additional help, which is both expensive and costly quality wise. And a spike in business affects cash flow, crowds design appointment times, requires longer hours and creates a lot of distracting visits and phone calls from customers who want a one-day turnaround, or a ready-made frame.

Then there is the physical vacancy of an unoccupied space and the psychological effect that has on the community at large. There is also a psychological/emotional component with customers who have been loyal to a business, sometimes over generations, and the personal loss that occurs when that business disappears.

The loss of friends and business associates and the added stresses associated with a competitor closing their doors makes that event a blessing and a curse for the competition. The next time things are slow and you want to grab some of the competition's market share, heed the old proverb "Be careful what you wish for..."

Custom Framing: Creative Projects With Many Moving Parts - And What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

9/22/2018

Many times a customer comes to our studio with a desire to have their ideas translated into a finished product - immediately! With the recent closing of Aaron Brothers, we have had a larger number of their customers visit us with expectations of a same day or next day turnaround. I explain to them that timeline is not realistic at our studio as we are currently running a four to six week backlog, and based on the complexity of their design ideas and frame choices, that may not have been realistic for Aaron Brothers either.

On the surface, a custom frame job can appear quite simple simple. Just attach 4 frame corners together, mount the painting and voila', a finished job. For works on paper just add some glass.

But then the inevitable question: whey does it take so long and cost so much to just do that?

Here's why. First there is a sometimes intensive design session where the frame corner samples, mat samples, glass and plexi samples, and fabric samples must be present for the customer to be able to visualize the finished product. All of this must be acquired and housed in a professional business environment. Good commercial business space rent is expensive. Displays, design and assembly tables, specialized equipment, and great framing talent are expensive as well.

Next a good frame designer must try to translate what is in the customers head into an actual design to meet their expectations. This takes years of practice and experience. Often times the customer has no idea what they want and, if they do not communicate well, it can be deep detective work. At our studio we stay with the customer to reach that "I love it" moment no matter how long it takes. Good design experience is a native ability honed by years of experience.

When a design is finally agreed upon then we physically get to work. We order the frame itself and miter and vise join it by hand. The ordering activity by itself can produce a moulding that is out of stock or discontinued. We then go on a hunt to find it one the secondary market, or have to call the customer back in for a redesign if we cannot find it elsewhere. Then, when the moulding does arrive, we do a close inspection for color and finish match to the sample, and cosmetic damage. We find that to be the case about 50% of the time and it must be dealt with. It can take days or even weeks to finally have a run of moulding that is acceptable to us and joins properly.

Next we must do the same thing with the mat boards, the fabrics (if the job requires a fabric mat or liner), and any other component that will go into the job such as spacers, special backing paper and special hanging hardware. Finally we must procure and closely inspect the glass or acrylic glazing being used, as it often has fine scratches or imperfections present that may not be seen until the job is nearly complete. In that case we must completely disassemble the piece and replace the glass, or offending glazing piece.

After we pass over those hurdles, we must now actually build the job. This means hand cutting the mats perfectly (we do not use computer cutters in our studio), hand wrapping the mats/liners perfectly with live glues and adhesives, making the backings, and then assembling the final product without a spec of dust, fingerprint or visible flaw anywhere. This is highly stressful, even for someone (like Dyana, our framer, and partner) to be doing day after day.

And then there is actually mounting the artwork, which deserves a separate discussion. Because we museum hinge mount most of the artwork, other than canvases and sometimes photos, we must take the time to make friends with the artwork. What is its age, medium, paper type? What size is it, is it square and true, does it have damage, was it properly prepared by the artist? What type of hinge should b used? As importantly, does the customer understand the visual results of hinge mounting in the form of slight hinge impressions, permanence of adhesion, variations in appearance of the artwork under different mounting circumstances? Again, once all of that is achieved, then we have to do the actual work, which can sometimes be as intricate as heart surgery. Think in terms of mounting an authentic Chagall drawing, which we have done.

These above situations are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are any more aspects to this and each has its own unique challenges. There is a whole different set of circumstances for doing other types of projects such a plexi boxes, display cases  for objects, war medals, jerseys, flags, and the like.

Finally we are tasked with ensuring that everything has come together as the customer expected, and that they will be really pleased with the overall job. The piece needs to "sing" in appearance. This is highly subjective, but if it dos not, we must discover why and address the situation. It must pass muster with us before the customer ever lays eyes on it.

So, the next time you have a piece to be custom framed, instead of asking your framer "when can I have it", you might ask your framer "when would you like to complete the work?". You will gain a great deal of respect that way and make a friend in the process. And, if you will be patient, you will get a superior job.

How Our Customers Teach Us To Have Heart

8/15/2018

Custom picture framing, like most other crafts, requires patience, skill, experience, creativity, and an aspect not often included: heart.

With all the other elements in place a crafts-person can execute a technically beautiful project, but, like amazing food preparation requires love, framing requires heart.

Heart becomes a part of every framing project; it shows up in the care taken to cut a beautiful mat, lay the fabric just right, join the frame with care, mount the art in exactly the right position, and then stand back and view the finished piece in its entirety, and make sure that it visually “sings”.

But there is another kind of heart, the heart used in dealing with the customer. In our day-to-day business stresses (and in crafts based businesses there are many) it is easy to see the customer as a commodity that pays us for quality work executed to their expectations.

But it is too easy to lose sight of the fact that these human beings have concerns, stresses, and are impacted by life on a daily basis the same as we are. No matter how wealthy they are. No matter how intelligent, beautiful, talented, and how “wonderful” they may be. No matter how young or how old they are. We all seek to be happy. We view it as our responsibility to provide them with a reason to be happy.

What occurred to us only recently is that our customers also care about making us happy. They do that by continuing to bring us new projects, even if a previous one did not turn out quite as expected. They do it by referring their friends and family. They do it by bringing us small gifts from their travels, bringing us wine and chocolate, and by providing good social media reviews without our solicitation. And they do it by being genuinely interested in how we are in our personal lives.

What a beautiful gift! What a great reason to be in this business - to be the recipient of such heart, and to be taught and reminded that without heart, no matter how precisely executed, a craft is just another craft.

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Why Picture Framing Really Matters - in Three Short Stories

2/21/2018

As professional framers for over thirty years, my wife and I have been a part of some very important life events of our clients - from births, to marriages, divorces, and deaths. The relationship becomes a familial thing. We have a family of three generations that we frame for, and that is not unusual for established framers. We have also been chaplains, confessors, educators, cheerleaders and have provided strong shoulders many times over the years. I know you business people who are engaged with your customers can relate.

What I want to talk about here is the part we framers play in these events, and what we add to the lives of those involved, even if it for a limited period of time. I am speaking of both life and death here, as a part of the human experience which we are all engaged in. Here are three true short stories we wish to share.

About 2 years ago we had a sweet woman walk in to the shop, shaky on her feet and pale, asking if we could re-frame a favorite piece of hers. She wanted to see it and enjoy if from her bed. But she needed it quickly, in a couple of days, as she had only a short time to live. Perhaps two to three weeks - it was unsure. We were running a three week backlog at the time, but did everything possible to get it for her within the next few days. It was to go into a plexi sandwich. Our plexi fabricator, Superior, bent over backwards to accommodate and deliver immediately. When the piece was ready, a relative showed up to take it to her, as this woman was already in hospice and no longer mobile. But we were in time! We later heard it went up on the wall in her line of vision, and she enjoyed it until her last breath. My wife and I cried on news of her passing.

Believe it or not, we had an almost identical situation occur last year with a woman who had perhaps three weeks to live. This was someone we knew and were close to from a business association, and we were able to get hers completed in time as well. So we assisted two dying people in making a a more comfortable transition into the next life.

The next events came from the Thomas Fire wildfires and resulting Montecito floods that occurred here in Santa Barbara during December and January of this year. Homes were lost and lives were also lost, but many were saved as well.

With a backlog of work going into Christmas, we ended up being closed for three weeks over the Christmas and New Years holidays because of these tragic events. When we finally reopened, my first mission was to find out who, of our customers, may have lost their homes, or lives during this time. It was a difficult task to pick up the phone and speak with the customers or their families about their survival. Fortunately, no loss of life. But some homes and businesses were lost.

This story involves a young couple in Montecito operating a restaurant, making a home with their young child and building a life together. Their business was closed for an indefinite period and they were prevented from moving back into their flooded out home after being forced to evacuate. Before the fires, they had left a piece with us to frame for their young son's room. When we were finally able to get back into our shop and complete the work, I called to let them know it was available to pick up, but also told them there was no pressure after learning of their situation.  Because they planned to occupy their home soon, they said "Oh, we want that piece of art so we can re-enter our home with something fresh, new and comforting to our son. Your work will help us do this as it is a very emotional time for all of us. Thank you".

Another story involves a young pregnant woman who had, along with her husband, just purchased a home near the water, and were in the process of remodeling it. Miraculously it was spared during the floods/mudslides, while homes around theirs were lost. It turns out they went out of state during the tragedy, and she delivered her baby while away. However, when speaking with her, we learned that the work on the home was proceeding, and that they really wanted five upbeat paintings, that they had left with us for framing, to welcome them when they returned. A friend picked them up and installed them for their return, and we became aware, once again, how what we do impacted the lives of a family in distress and gave them a welcome sense of familiarity and warmth upon their return.

Lastly we have a great artist client who, after he learned we had reopened, rushed to finish a painting for us to frame. Because he usually shows us what he is working on, many times we design and measure up the canvas while the work is in process so that the frame will be ready to fit when the painting is complete. "We didn't know you were doing this" we said to the artist. "Nor did I" he replied, "but I wanted to bring you work when you reopened because I want to make sure you don't have to go out of business". This came from his heart. We were speechless - still are.

There were, and continue to be, more stories like this. Doing business in a community for over thirty years, you become a part of the community in ways that would probably not occur otherwise.  If you have been around a community and in business for any length of time, I know you have stories of your own like this to share. If not, but if you really care - be prepared - it will happen.

Framing Terminology

11/9/2016

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." 

Conservation Mounting: 
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."

Distressing: 
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."

Fitting: 
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.

Laminate:
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 
room lights. 

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 
mounting board.

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.

Tacking Iron:
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.

Exactly What Is Custom Picture Framing?

4/7/2016

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.