PRIMER:

FINDING YOUR FRAME

Framing fundamentals.

You’ve got a new work of art and think it needs a frame, but you’re not sure what kind. Picking the right frame can do a lot for the look of an artwork, and it can do just as much for the look of your space. The experts at American Frame walked us through why the material of a frame matters, how the right frame can preserve the longevity of an artwork and what you need to hang it with confidence.

Platform

A frame is a frame, right? Or are there different categories or types?

American Frame

Yes, but there are some important nuances worth knowing. Frames are typically made from three materials: wood, metal and plastic.

When it comes to wood, standard profile frames have a lip allowing other components (like matting) to be housed in addition to the artwork itself. “Float” frames leave a slim gap around the perimeter of a work so it appears to, well, float. Float frames were first commissioned by the famous art patron Peggy Guggenheim to help sell the large works of Jackson Pollock.

Metal frames are also common – many of them forged from extruded aluminum that’s durable and lightweight. They come in a standard profile with a channel at the rear to house corner hardware but can also take the shape of shadow boxes – which add depth – or have float profiles.

Plastic is used less frequently, but its malleability and light weight allow for many options in terms of style and color.

Platform

Are there any specific kinds of art that work best for each of those frame types?

American Frame

Not necessarily. However, there are some important considerations, chief among them being the overall size and depth of an artwork. A frame needs to be deep enough to house all the components (the artwork itself, plus any necessary matting). And if you’re looking to frame an especially large work of art, avoid thin wood frames as they can bow and warp over time, possibly causing components to slip out in the process.

Platform

Why frame artwork in the first place? Are there any specific advantages?

American Frame

This is a two-part answer. Keeping art away from environmental hazards – pollution, mold, infestation – is the more practical of the pair. But the right frame can also do a lot to enhance the experience of looking at an artwork because of its design, material, color or a combination of all three.

Platform

Are there any scenarios when framing artwork isn’t a good idea?

American Frame

Nope! As long as the frame is made of an appropriate material for the scale and kind of artwork, it shouldn’t cause any problems.

Platform

What types of art require matting or other materials when framed?

American Frame

The use of mats comes down to personal preference, but there are some additional materials that could be useful with the right artwork. Some artists who employ pastels or charcoals choose not to use a fixative spray to set the surface of the artwork, as they think it alters the look or color. In this case, a mylar encapsulation or direct contact overlay (a thin sheet of special, protective plastic applied to the surface of a work using static) is necessary to best preserve the work. Many artworks made from fabric (think tapestries) may need special pins or lacing to stay in place. Lacing is the process of squaring a fabric work from the back without using any kind of adhesive.

Platform

Can a frame’s material affect the longevity or integrity of an artwork?

American Frame

Yes! A great frame can enhance the aesthetic experience of seeing an artwork, but, for delicate pieces, they can also do a lot in terms of preservation. Besides keeping an artwork away from dust and pollutants, materials like acrylic with UV-resistant properties can help slow fading. It’s usually best to avoid frames and backing materials that contain wood pulp as this can become acidic over time or emit equally damaging gases.

Even if tremendous care is taken, it’s important that any mounting or framing process be fully reversible. Anything that permanently alters a work decreases its value and impairs its ability to be preserved over time.

Platform

What are the most important factors about a frame people should consider before choosing it?

American Frame

Customers should think about the frame’s main purpose – whether it’s decorative or aiding in preservation. Beyond that, they should also think about how the artwork will ultimately be displayed, so the frame can best complement its surroundings.

Platform

Should buyers look for any particular kind of hardware to hang their frames?

American Frame

A good rule of thumb is to avoid wire as it’s less secure. Corner brackets combined with some slip-resistant pads on the back will keep any framed work hanging properly. Most customers prefer wire because they think it means placing fewer holes in their wall. However, even wire hardware should use at least two nails since using only one nail can cause a frame to bow and warp over time. Corner brackets are also easier to hang, and American Frame streamlines the process further by sending a paper template with each frame showing where nails should go. Pads on the back also prevent the frame from scratching the wall and allow for better air circulation so insects are less inclined to start calling the space behind an artwork home.

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