Friday, December 30, 2011

Grandma's China

Talking about things that matter!

My wife's grandmother, the kindest most gentle human being who ever lived, left behind a collection of coffee cups and saucers. Each design unlike the next. We had them in storage for years, in a box labeled "Grandma's China". You know, even the ink in black markers fades over time.

These nine cups placed into three identically fabricated acrylic box cases hang an inch or so away from each other. The saucers are mounted to the background of a very light neutral colored silk and the cups are adhered to the clear bottom of the case. No dusting required as they are completely enclosed. They're a beautiful focal point in our dining room. Nice!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Victory Plate

While spending time in front of my computer a few months ago, I googled  my grandfather’s name. I was astonished to find that there was at auction, a ceramic plate, a "Victory Plate" with the date 1920, with granddad’s name on it and the name of the little town in Pennsylvania where he owned a mercantile store. The plate commemorated the end of the First World War. These sorts of plates were used as promotional items or premiums given to customers of the store. As I have only a few things left behind by him, I wanted to win the auction and I did. Being a picture framer for over 30 years, I have fabricated shadow box frames for family and museum collections many times but never anything for myself. The time had come.

The plate is adhered to a white cotton fabric which has been vacuum mounted to a heavy foam-core back board and has spacers covered with the same fabric to hold the Plexiglas away from the ceramic piece. Although I often fabricate acrylic box frames for 3 dimensional objects because of the clear sides of the box, the frame I chose for this piece is square and is made of a slightly distressed off-white wooden moulding that holds the piece securely and protects it well. Granddad would probably wonder why in the world I would frame such a thing! He would have no idea.

Civil War Uniform Framing

In picture framing, there seems to be no greater fulfillment for me than to frame an item or collection of family memorabilia.

I look at it as a “rescue mission”; preserving important artifacts that can be handed down to family members while knowing the item or items will be protected and kept intact.

A customer recently asked me to frame a cap (kepi) and short coat of a Civil War uniform that belonged a distant relative, a Union soldier. While he researched the history, I went to work sewing these pieces on an acid free fabric that was mounted on a 100% cotton board. Then, I fabricated an acrylic box about 3” deep with clear sides. Sewing is very time consuming but, in the future, should the owner wish to release these items from the framing, a quick snip of the scissors, will do the job. I think that anything done to artwork in framing should able to be undone with no harm done. The means applying glue, tape, staples, etc. are outside the bounds of responsible framing.

This acrylic box frame solution was somewhat contemporary given the subject matter to be framed but one that allowed the side angles of the piece to be visible.

The material used was an OP-3 acrylic which screens a high percentage of ultraviolet rays.

I discussed with the customer where in his house it should hang and we determined that a north facing room that received very low amounts of indirect natural light was the perfect place.

I’ve framed items for families from the Civil War, WWI, WWII and the Viet Nam War. And sadly, there will be more to come.

Framing Collectibles

Some things we collect along the way become more important to us as time goes by.

Collectibles such as signed posters or signed photographs, signed jerseys, a pennant that flew over Yankee stadium, etc., need special attention.

In my view these sort of items need to be preserved and many times rescued from their owners who may be looking at price and not be looking into the future. Being able to glue an item flat and have it stay flat for all time is not the measure of responsible framing. This may be true with a lot of promotional materials such as publicity materials, etc. However, if the item is worth keeping, it is worth framing responsibly by using proper archival materials and techniques and proper installation.

Inherently acid free materials such as cotton are used in the manufacture of many framing papers and boards and many fabrics are acid free. Matting provides an interval of space keeping the artwork away from the frame which in the case of wood moulding, contains lignin which produces acids and can create “acid burn” turning matting and artwork brown. We’ve all seen old newspapers and books that have turned brown over the years because the paper used was derived from wood pulp.

Also, using a matt provides an interval of space which keeps the artwork away from the picture glass. The moisture can trap condensation and stain artwork. This is the case particularly with photographs when the moisture inside the frame can reactivate the emulsion and will cause the photo to stick to the glass. In my experience, it is impossible to release a photo stuck to glass because of moisture.

If someone knows, please tell me how this can be done!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Framing What Matters

Of the many things I have been asked to frame, personal memorabilia is one of the most rewarding subjects. Often times many of us have things that mean a great deal to us but we never have the opportunity to gaze upon them. They are in a box, under the bed, in a storage garage or some other unreachable place. Once in a while, the cobbler actually gets to make himself a pair of shoes. Well, I as a picture framer actually framed something of great value to me!

I am thinking about a particular framing that I had done years ago and how much the frame has become a part of the artwork. The artwork in this case was a photograph of my father. My father worked at two of this country’s Naval shipyards. He was first at Pearl Harbor in the 1940’s, and later at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, until he retired. He spoke of being at Pearl Harbor once that I ever heard while mentioning some experience unrelated, in an off handed way. I was astonished. He had been discharged from the Navy in 1939 and was working for the Navy as a journeyman pipe fitter when the Naval shipyard was attacked. He later transferred to the West Coast where he worked for the Naval Shipyard in Long Beach. After he died, and my Mother started sorting through his things, she gave me this portrait of this carefree bachelor wearing his white dinner jacket. So, in my wife’s and my bedroom hangs this portrait along with every pin of recognition and commendation that a shipyard employee could receive. These are not medals that a soldier might have received but mainly commendations for doing good work and never putting his crew into dangerous situations in the engine compartments of the various naval ships he worked on. Also attached, under the acrylic to the matting, is a snap shot of him in his sailor’s uniform on leave in the late 1930s. The frame is a medium stained Birdseye maple and it suits his personality perfectly; honest material roughly finished. Thick matting wrapped with plain durable cloth. I look at this framing every morning and every night. 

-- Mark Dietrich, Wing Gallery Framers