Thursday, March 26, 2009

Night of 1000 Shadowboxes

Whew! This is the after photo and I did all the sidewalls and fitting in one afternoon.
This collection of fans was brought in previously framed by the collector. She had ordered metal shadowboxes online (the type with the glazing channel) and thin plexi cut to fit. And as most home framers do, she did the mounting and fitting herself with her own invented techniques. I will not embarrass her by posting the before pics (but framers, pm me for details), but I will show some of my professional 3D object framing process for future home framers.

I prefer to sell wood shadowboxes, though we do offer metal with channels, too...I just don't like how the glass rattles around in them. Wood frames give you a better fit, but require sidewalls. I now do my sidewalls in a pinwheel configuration rather than top and bottom first, then sides. (Thanks, Raf!) and ALWAYS atg AND glue. These are done with black foam instead of a coordinating mat over foam to reduce cost.

And as for 3D object mounting, my basic rule is to show no visible attachment, almost at any cost. It should look like it's staying up by magic and should be able to stay that way forever. And as always, the mounting should do no harm to the object. I have many secret and creative solutions to this problem. The fans were mostly done with stitchery tape and my new favorite glue.

And this bowl was recessed slightly through a small circular opening in the mat.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This is decidedly not a political blog. You won't see me debate any religious, moral, or ethical issues here either, unless they pertain to framing. (And also, fyi, you won't see any client names, info, or pricing.) But I do need to comment that I've seen a ton of Obama art come through the shop and the guy hasn't even been in office 100 days yet!

Most of what has come through are variations on the iconic Shepard Fairey poster. My first client arrived in the shop with one last August, even before Obama was the official Democratic Nominee. I thought nothing of it at the time, I didn't even photograph it, I just thought it was a cool image by a great street artist. Evidently that original first-pressing is worth some serious coin, now.

Here are some more recent incarnations:

And I have also been privileged to frame an original portrait.

I began my framing career during Clinton's second term, and I can tell you that I have seen more Presidential images in the past 6 months than I have seen collectively in the ten years prior.

I went through my photo archives and all I could come up with for any previous President was this collage I did for an attendee of a White House Hanukkah Dinner Party. She took a guest towel from the rest room (lower right).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Antique Map: A Must-Have Item

And Pretty-Much Required for all Philadelphia Residents

I have been framing on Pine Street for over 2 years now and have seen dozens of historical Philadelphia maps come through the shop. I have grown to really appreciate them independent of any cartographic knowledge and shamefully limited study of city history. Fortunately, my clients are very well informed and articulate and friendly (not to mention stylish and fascinating ;)! I have learned much through them, and recently this book has been suggested to me and is in my Amazon cart as I type. I look forward to furthering my knowledge on antique maps and doing subsequent blogs on the topic.

All the maps here are large format uploads, so clicking on them will greatly increase their size.

These are two of my favorites. You'll note they are very similar. They are unusual in orientation (West is at the top, North is right), and they both have gorgeous botanical motif borders, though the borders are not identical. They are both hand-colored with various effects.

This one is diminutive but unique in its mileage circles which center on Independence Hall. (City Hall is in every other consideration the city's center.) I also like that the neighborhoods are labeled, and those names still exist today. I thought Northern Liberties was a modern convention, like NYCs Tribeca and Noho, but lo, the area has been designated with that name since the city was planned, or so a client informed me.

And here are 4 more that have been through the shop recently. You'll note the bottom 2 are very similar as well.

And as for the framing of them, I love to do them in ornate dark brown mouldings with wheat-colored mats, and a fillet if the client is agreeable. Here are 3 recent examples.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ahh, Spring!

And a young(ish?) framer's fancy turns to...

Mounting, of course!

But first, the fever took hold when my toddler and I made bunches of construction paper flowers together. They adorn my dining room table at home and have made their way to the shop as well. Just in time for the Flower Show and a new window display. Just anticipating the milder weather inspired me to change up the coif a bit, too.

And because my mood is so great, I am now compelled to reveal simple mounting secrets to the DIY crowd as a public service. I am doing this because I see a lot of talented struggling artists trying to make money in this town, and attempting their own framing to conserve funds. To see art handled improperly makes me weep. Truly. And also, I think of families struggling to get their treasured photos into an Ikea frame and and doing more harm than good. A brief tutorial is the least I can do in these uncertain economic times.

  • Mounting 101

In general, a framer's job is to do no harm. Wherever possible, no adhesive should be used on any sort of art. Here's how this is accomplished using acid-free photo corners.

This is a technique that can be used if your art has margins that extend 1/2" or so beyond the image. Center art on the backing board and get it as flat as possible, using a weight if necessary. Slip photo corners onto each of the four corners and press firmly to adhere.

Apply acid-free double-sided tape, here shown being applied by a special gun, (but craft stores carry inexpensive disposable ones for the home framer) around all four sides close to the image on the backing board. Lay mat on top of the art, position into place and press firmly to adhere. And mounting is really as easy as that in an ideal situation.

Here's how it should be done when you don't have 1/2" wide margins to work with. Here, the client wants to show the margin around the image, so if photo corners were used then they would show under the mat. As before center the art on the backing board. Place a piece of single-sided acid free tape under one of the top two corners, only allow 1/8" tape onto the back of the art. Next, put a second piece of tape across the first, forming a "T." This is called a T-hinge and you'll need 2 of them. Just at the top two corners.

Do not do anything else to the art. Do not attempt to tack the bottom corners, it will look better is allowed to hang behind the mat naturally. As before, run a line of double-sided tape around the backing board on the outside of the art and press the mat down firmly on top. The image on the right is the completed piece. Oh, alright, I guess if I'm giving away free information, I might as well get the job done. Let's go back to the first image as it goes into a wood frame. I think most readymade frames are wood and probably a little easier for the home framer to work with.

Clean glass and fit mat package into frame. Readymade frames usually have flex-tabs that bend to hold the art in place. On the back of the wood frame (metal frames have an entirely different fitting procedure) run a line of the same double-sided tape near the edge of the moulding. Lay kraft paper (ours is fancy black paper at the shop) neatly over the frame and crease. Trim excess with a razor blade. This will give you a professional-looking dustcover on the back and prevent the casual insect passer-by from entering at will. Apply hanging hardware and you're done!

The art here is a silver gelatin print by great Philly photographer, JD Dragan.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

FIN. for now.

The last in my series on Frames and Film (probably)

When last I blogged, I gave you my list of great framing moments in film history...but it left so many of you asking, "but, Elaine, what about the small screen?" And to those of you, I say there is no greater program for fabulous framing than Frasier. No joke. Check it in reruns and you'll see what I mean. Although I'm told there was some fine stuff in Hack, too ;) And incidentally, I have now had two lawyers on separate occasions ask me to frame their degrees and documents like those they'd seen on Law & Order. I'd never seen the show, but the look as explained to me is 8 ply pure white mats and wide matte black wood frames--a gallery style look typical of contemporary fine art, but not usually parchment colored documents with ornate calligraphy. The result is really clean and simple and probably looks elegant in a high rise office.

And speaking of lawyers, these are the most recently completed items for the big movie job. The Set Decorator said they are to appear in a scene in a lawyer's apartment--great jazz posters in pewter-toned Ferrosa wood frames from Larson-Juhl.

And also there's the charming print of a nun in its perfect frame from Omega, a 2" Tuscan Distressed Gold Panel.
I will keep an eye out for my little starlets when the film hits theaters next year.