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What must not be done in conservation picture framing?

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Conservation picture framing is a specialized, yet semi-industrial art. It is practised by a bewildering array of qualified andconservation-picture-frame-mount unqualified experts, all possessing and proffering a multitude or views, standards, opinions and qualifications. Nevertheless, in spite if of the diversity of views, skills and practices, there are several obvious, unambiguous and distinct framing methods and materials which should be anathema to any half-decent, self-respecting, practising conservation picture framer. First of these methods is using any kind of household or industrial tapes to tape, or hold into place, customers' artwork anywhere inside or outside the picture frame. These tapes have adhesives which not only tend to fail with time, but also tend to stain, mark and burn artwork.  A conservation, or at least, an acid-free,  hinging tape ought to be used and the artwork should be hinged, rather than taped.  The second would be to use M.D.F. (Medium Density Fibreboard) or plywoods or cardboards or newspapers as backing materials which may touch or come into contact with customers' artwork.  These materials may emit gases and, to varying saturations, contain highly acidic lignin, which embrittles, stains and discolours artwork when ambient heat and light are present.  The third is to fit a picture frame's glazing material (glass or plastic) in direct contact, or directly touching or pressing the artwork.  A window mat (or window mount) should instead be used to separate, or come in between, the artwork and the pane of glazing material. This will prevent any moisture transferring to the artwork should condensation occur due to temperature an humidity variations.  Damp or moist papers and artwork are susceptible to irreversible damage from mould and foxing. There are perhaps the main errors and mistakes that well-meaning handy-persons  (and some picture framers) inflict onto valuable artwork whilst framing, and are perhaps the most grievous. It is a saddening oxymoron that poor quality materials, unsealed picture frames and inferior picture framing techniques are the most common causes and effect of damaged art. More advice, tips and information, particularly on how not to damage valuable art by taping it is found in our Picture Framing Fallacies page. Thank you for reading this post "What must not be done in conservation picture framing?".

4 thoughts on “What must not be done in conservation picture framing?

  1. The information on taping is actually spot on. My aunt made several cross-stitches years ago which she then passed on to us. Because these were very elaborate and took years to do I had them them re-framed. When the picture framer took apart the old picture frames he phoned me as he wanted me to come and look at something. Well, whoever had framed the embroideries 50-odd years ago had used glues, tacks and lots of brown paper tapes to stretch the fabrics. All the glue and tapes had formed a smelly, mouldy, crumbly, yukky brown mess which had stained all the edges and back of the cross-stitches and inside the frames. Luckily the picture framer also liked to do restorations and so he charged me some more to dry, remove and clean the cross-stitches before re-framing them. the framer said you should never use tapes, glues or tacks to stretch and hold them into place

  2. I must say this is very useful piece. I’m a graphic design artist and every now and then I’m asked not only to produce prints and photographs but also, to frame them. I noticed that with most picture frames and photo frames I’d get those dark spots or wet marks under the glass. At first I though it was faulty picture frame glass. It didn’t occur to me until I read the blog here that it the problem was the glossy paper, not the glass. To fix the problem long term I switched to matte printing paper but, in short, term, the tip of taping the edges of the artwork with sticky tape helped me a lot! Many thanks!

  3. My family was bequeathed several valuable watercolours by a 1950’s Australian watecolourist last year. My daughter thought some of them were showing straight, yellowish and brownish strips around the sides. We took them to a specialist picture framer who took them off their picture frames and then called us to have a look of them. Around and across the top of the watercolours there were strips of cheap masking and brown packing tapes. The framer explained to us that these inferior and unsuitable tapes with their nasty, industrial adhesives had stained the watercolours and that the dirty acids were coming through to the front, hence the stains that we saw. We were referred to art conservator who quoted around $8,000 to try and remove the stains. All this unnecessary expense because some picture framer, somewhere, 50-odd years ago, tried to save a few pennies on cheaper tapes.

  4. Another simple, but bad thing people often do, is replacing any original picture framing wire from picture frames and replacing it with cheap cord, packing string or knitting wool strands even. While these replacement hanging devices may last a while, they’re unlikely to last long term and may fail at any time. If and when that happens, the picture frame may break, the picture frame glass may shatter and the shards may cut, shear, tear, puncture or otherwise damage the art within.

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