What Is The Proper Role Of Framing?

The reasons to frame something, whether a piece of art, an object, a poster or anything else is usually two-fold. First is the desire to protect and preserve. The second is the desire to enhance the inherent beauty of whatever is being framed. Let’s address the second item first.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” is certainly a true quote. One person’s sow’s ear is another’s silk purse. Our goal is to enhance the item being framed so that it shows itself in the best possible way. We often hear “I don’t want the frame to overshadow the art”. Neither do we. The frame should not be the main thing that a person sees, but should be a beautiful backdrop for whatever has been framed. It’s like going to a play – you can have the actors on a bare stage, with the barest of props, or you can have a lovely set design that allows so much more of the play to be communicated. The play is still the main event, but how you perceive it will change, depending on the staging. Good framing is like a beautiful set design. Sometimes simplicity is the best answer to a piece of art or object. However, simple does not have be boring. Other times, a sumptuous, rich background brings out a piece’s tone or mood. What we strive for is to listen to what a customer wants to see (if they have an objective, sometimes they don’t), what their personal style or tastes are, what the artwork calls for in and of itself, and out of those things use our expertise pull together options that will let the piece shine. We understand how personal taste can be. Some people love ornate gold frames and rich, lavish textures. Others hate gold but resonate with more simple natural woods. Some love color and whimsy. It’s all very personal, which is why we ask questions and listen. Beauty is our inspiration and our passion. We don’t want a customer to walk away thinking that their framing will look “OK,” but to feel inspired too.

In regard to protecting and preserving a piece of art or object, this is the nuts and bolts of framing. “First do no harm” is the primary credo of medicine. It’s also the credo of preservation framing. Many factors contribute to preserving and protecting a work. Some may be familiar with terms like “acid-free matting” or “UV-filtering glass”, but there is much more to properly protecting a piece of art than those two items. There is how the artwork is handled and placed into the framing. There are numerous techniques and materials to properly attach artwork, objects, fabrics, needleworks, etc. in order to minimize the impact on the item. The next consideration is things that will come in contact with the artwork – either directly or indirectly. There include matting, backings, glass and any other materials that may be used in a mechanical or decorative capacity. We are dedicated to upholding the highest standards for preservation framing. We make it a priority to only use archival quality materials and techniques and procedures on whatever we’re working on. That does not mean we cannot do more basic, types of framing – we certainly can. But we will discuss the matter with the customer first to determine what the best course of action is for a specific item. A poster, for example, can be dry mounted – which fine art should not, and does not require any special handling. We will however still use UV-filtering glass to protect it from fading. Some areas of quality we don’t compromise on. Does preservation framing cost more? A bit, but the long term value received from knowing that it is done right and will not have a negative impact on the piece being framed, far outweighs the cost.

How can you know if your artwork is being properly handled or framed? This is a tricky question. Many so-called reputable galleries and frame shops employ shoddy materials or procedures in framing. We have taken apart dozens of pieces of art, that if looked at from the outside seem perfectly fine, only to be a nightmare on the inside. We have seen original fine art attached with packing tape, non-archival mat-board-used, refuse cardboard from boxes used as backings, the list is long. One way to be more certain that your artwork or object is being properly handled and framed is to look to see if the framer has any special training or certification. The Professional Picture Framers Association (P.P.F.A.) has two levels of certification that they confer on framers who have passed testing and continue their education. A Certified Picture Framer or C.P.F. is someone who has had at least one year experience professionally, and who has passed a lengthy written test, evaluation their knowledge on handling and framing of various types of art. A quick note about the term “Certified” – some chain stores and art-supply retailers claim to have “certified framers” on staff. However these are often self-certified, not by the P.P.F.A. We recommend finding out who has issued the certification before using them as a framer. A Master Certified Picture Framer of M.C.P.F. is the highest designation of framer that is conferred by the P.P.F.A. This is someone who has been a C.P.F. for a minimum of four years, has completed required additional education, and has passed a rigorous practical test demonstrating knowledge of and the ability to execute the highest levels of preservation framing. This test requires the candidate to frame four items – a work on paper, a painted canvas, a textile and an object, all selected by the testing committee to the highest standards. In addition, an object report must be completed on each piece detailing the handling methods, procedures, materials used and reasoning behind each decision. These four items are delivered completed to the testing site, where the testing committee takes them apart and examines them thoroughly. While that examination is being done, the candidate is given a fifth item, selected at random that must again be framed to the highest of standards in 90 minutes, using the on-site “frame shop” provided. This last part of the test is to assure the committee that the candidate has actually done the work, and not submitted work completed by others. This designation is currently only held by approximate 60 people in North America and Australia. We are proud to be one of the holders of this distinction.

Well designed and properly handled, good framing will not only let your artwork or object shine with beauty, but be preserved to be enjoyed by many generations to come.

Thomas M. Houston

541-482-1983541-482-1983 (toll free) 877-566-5542877-566-5542