Framing isn’t just for pictures. You can preserve all kinds of memories and turn your passions into lovely decor
As almost everyone knows, professional framing can preserve a piece of art, keep a canvas properly stretched and enhance the beauty of the work.
But Kyle King’s efforts don’t begin and end at photos and watercolors. Almost anything can be framed. King points to four antique marionettes hanging in a shadow box on the floor of Art & Frame Expo as just one example. Musical instruments and signed sports jerseys are other items King commonly frames. And it goes on.
The oddest pieces King has worked on recently were a doggie tutu (which he fluffed and preserved in a box) and a canvas of actual penguin tracks. That work was created by birds that stepped in paint and then walked across a canvas, he says.
"The basic essence of framing is to preserve and conserve what someone has created, to protect it from the outside world," says Caroline Berlanger of Pan American Art Projects. "Lots of artists are making the decision not to frame and particularly in a home, that’s an issue."
Berlanger recommends a professional framer to offer a variety of options from floating to matting and to use the proper materials.
Some customers come into King’s store knowing exactly what they want. But he often takes their pulse, interviewing those without a definite idea of what they want — and for what purpose.
"Some people want it framed for the piece. Some people want it framed for the room it will go in. ‘What’s your decor? What’s your wall color?’" he asks.
For more contemporary art, he usually begins with a modern design. King’s personal preference is a black frame with clean lines. Ornate framing, usually in gold or wood tones, may better accent more traditional works.
He might recommend a selection of elaborately carved white frames for a baby’s room to contrast with a darker wall or simply as a compliment to the particular work. A selection of colorful metal frames, he says, works well for posters, for a playroom or for a child’s artistic creation.
Art & Frame’s Christine Chan says some people who are having items professionally framed for the first time tend to overdo it. She warns, "Don’t make it too busy."
King agrees. "I don’t like more than two mattes."
Matting serves a number of functions. The matte may pull out a color in the piece you would not have noticed or it may serve as an accent. They serve as a transition from the frame to the art and may create a relationship between your home and the work.
Some framers, King says, like layers upon layers of matting separating the frame from the art. But he likes to keep it simple.
"I try not to design anything I wouldn’t want to look at myself."
There are some tricks to make a display stand out. Several pieces of similar but not identical size may work together well on a wall if they were all placed in frames that are the same size. Adjusting the interior dimensions of the matte fixes the problem.
Chan frames a surprisingly large number of mirrors for customers. While stores offer a good variety of sizes in an assortment of frames, she finds that many people spend quite a bit of time going from store to store to find the right size mirror in the right frame. For little more than retail, she says, a framer will match the other pieces in the room or the decor and cut the mirror to just right size.
It’s hard to generalize about pricing, which varies depending on the materials, size and other features. Wooden frames range from $1 to $20 per two inches. The type of wood and finish, and mattes (which can be made from linen, velvet, cardboard and other materials) can also affect price.
One thing that probably is worth the cost are materials that genuinely preserve the piece.
"It’s important to go to a framer who knows the importance of acid-free materials," Berlanger advises. She says that in addition to preservation, a talented framer will give the best advice on the many creative ways to display the work.
Chan says proper materials are essential. Even pH-neutral materials are not necessarily acid-free and can yellow the work. "With archival materials, it should last a generation or two," she says. "To go archival doesn’t cost much more."
"We’ve seen pieces that have been ruined," says King, referring to art that was improperly mounted or framed without using archival materials.
But when it leaves the store, you still have to take care with the work. Humidity shouldn’t be a problem with properly framed items, King says, unless water gets directly in it. But King’s final advice is simple: "Keep it out of direct sunlight."
Art & Frame Expo, 5620 Mock-ingbird Lane. 214-824-1214.
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This article appeared in Dallas Voice’s print edition of Great Spaces magazine April 17, 2009.