August 8th, 2010

Our blog is, like many others, a statement of opinion. I have chosen, however, to restrict my opinions to those involving picture framing, design choices and other topics that relate strictly to our mission:  To remind our current clients why they should continue to come back to us and why new and prospective framing clients should definitely check us out. Our goal is to provide you with the very best quality framing materials, the most innovative, eye-popping framing design possible and to give you the best service we can at a price we can both afford.

Sales Tax Change

You may not be aware of it, but if you shop at our store in Chicago, you will find that the sales tax we are compelled to charge has actually gone down from 10.25% to 9.75%. If memory serves me correctly, we got to 10.25% in 2 jumps over a period of a couple years.This record-high sales tax was voted into law by the Cook County Board, raising a huge outcry. Since this is an election year for Illinois politicians, it seems like a fairly typical move, trying to curry favor with the voters, given the circus like atmosphere surrounding our former governor's federal trial. Still, it is a positive move and a welcome one, given that the middle class in America (70-80% of the total US population) is being taxed to death.

The Art of Hinging / The Hinging of Art

Last month I said that we would discuss hinging artwork during the framing process. This came about after a column on matting vs. floating was presented to you.  Depending upon how art is to be presented, the manner in which it is mechanically fastened to the backing board will vary. I have boiled it all down to 5 basic methods:

  1.  #1- Art gets a pair of "T" hinges at the top edge, to be hidden under the overlapping edge of the mat.
  2.  #2- Art gets photo-corners or folded paper edge pockets to secure, non-permanently, the artwork. 
  3.  #3- Art gets hidden hinging on the back of the art, allowing it to stay-put but, still, be removeable.
  4.  #4- Art gets dropped into a "sink mat" or surrounded by "build-up" strips the same thickness as the mounted art.
  5.  #5- Art gets permanently mounted to backing board, using either hot or cold adhesive methods.

 Here is a brief discussion of each method to help you better understand what your options are and to demystify the "framer talk" that we, framers, throw out each day at clients, assuming they understand what we are blathering about:

Method #1: This is the most commonly used method for attaching artwork to your backing board. Incidentally, please note that you should always be attaching your artwork to the backing board, not to the back of the mat. This is to help the next framer, down the road, who may have to re-mat your art and will not have to disturb the hinging or the artwork itself while cutting and attaching the new mat.We define "artwork or art" here as being anything you frame, whether it is a photo, a drawing, a poster, etc.

A "T" hinge is shaped like a capital letter "T". You have a short piece of acid-free paper or linen tape sticking up off the top of the artwork, adhered to the rear top edge. Most "T" hinges need not be longer than 1". Usually, you only need one at each corner of the artwork near or at the top left or right corner of the art. Then, after positioning the art where it should be, you can hold it in place with a paper weight and then "Cross The T." That is, run another piece of tape across the hinge sticking up off the back of the art. This cross-wise tape, or "top of the T" is stuck to the backing board, not to the artwork. This allows the artwork to hang freely from the backing board. It is free to expand and contract without buckling. 

Method #2:  In the case of photos or artwork where you have a white border surrounding the art that you will be covering with your mat you can, very often, use photo corners or edge pockets to hold the art in place without adhering anything directly to the art. This is especially useful when the art is valuable and adhering hinges to the art would damage its intrinsic value. Also, some art has details on both sides that you may wish to preserve and not obliterate with tape.  The only way you can use this method is if you have a border sufficiently wide that will allow the mat to cover the corner and edge pockets completely. 

While most people are familiar with "photo corners", another method of securing artwork is to use "edge pockets." These clever tools are nothing more than a piece of rectangular acid-free paper or mylar that has been folded longitudinally and adhered to the backing board. The art is slipped, edge-wise, into the long folded pocket thus created. Do this on all 4 sides and then cover it up with the overlapping edge of the mat. Hugh Phibbs, head conservator at the National Gallery in Washington, DC, showed us this method in an article he published in a framing trade magazine. It is simple, elegant and brilliant.

Method #3:  In order for art to be visible on all 4 of its sides, you need to either frame it edge-to-edge, float it freely in the middle of a mat board backing, or surround it with a matboard that pulls away from the art's edges, called a French Float (see the July, 2010 blog discussion of matting vs. floating). In most cases, if the art is original and/or valuable, you will need to hinge it in a reversible way. Further, you always want the hinges to fail if the art sustains a sudden shock, such as the frame falling off the wall and hitting the floor. You want the hinge to tear, not the artwork. 

Using "folded V-hinges" along the top, rear edge of the artwork will work for this, as will "Pass-through" hinges.  The former is nothing more than a piece of gummed or self-adhesive Filmoplast tape, Linen tape or Japanese Hyaku paper tape that has been cut to about 2" in length and then folded in half, leaving the adhesive side showing on the outside. Depending upon the size of the  art, you will end up using 2 to 4 of these along the top, rear face of the artwork. Usually, when I have to do a float with these, I will use a water-reversible, gummed tape if there is some texture on the back of the artwork's paper. Pressure-sensitive, self-adhesive tapes work well only on smooth surfaces and will pull off of light or heavily textured papers, making a hinge that lets go prematurely. 

The latter, or "Pass-through" hinge, is a neat trick and very effective for hinging heavy paper artwork. It involves cutting a slit with a mat cutter at a 45 degree angle on the backing board at 2 to 4 points about 1" down from where the top edge of where the artwork will float on the backing board. Through this slot is passed your hinging tape (usually about 1" wide). One end of the tape is adhered to the rear of the backing board. The other end, after passing through the board and emerging on the front of it, is adhered to the back of your artwork. This creates a very strong mechanical hinge that is invisible from the front.  It takes a lot more precision and measuring to make this work and is an advanced technique. However, with a little practice, any framer can do this. 

Method #4: Creating a "sink mat" or doing "build up" around the artwork is only necessary when framing a piece of paper art that has been mounted onto a piece of board, creating a thickness that will not allow a covering mat to lay perfectly flat under the glass. You need to build up the area surrounding the artwork with board the same thickness as that upon which the art is mounted. Strips of matboard usually suffice. When the mat is laid over the artwork, it encroaches a bit into the image area, holding the artwork in place withouth having to glue the mounted artwork down. Sometimes, with the right circumstances, I will actually cut another mat instead of making one up from strips. I will cut a reverse bevel on it or take the mat and flip it over to create one. The reverse bevel grips the edges of the art very gently and, again, obviates the need for any adhesive to be applied to the art. 

Method #5: When a client tells me that they want the art framed with no mat, edge-to-edge, and it is not a valuable piece of art, I will often recommend that we dry mount the art to an acid-free board, using glass spacers to keep the glass off the art. That way, there is no moisture condensation forming under the glass to damage the art and gravity won't cause the art to want to slide down in the frame and ripple. Then, the art won't ripple or buckle over time. You just cannot rely upon the pressure exerted by the glass to hold your art in place.

Next month: We'll talk a bit about mounting art: hot vs. cold, when and why you choose one over the other. 

The Framing Troubleshooter

While I know that a number of letters to the Playboy Advisor were bogus problems made up by people with too much time on their hands, most or all of the inquiries I receive about framing issues are real and pertinent. If you have a question about a framing issue that has been bothering you and need a suggestion or solution to help move the project forward, drop us a note on our Contact Us page. We will, then, share it with our readers within the next few blogs.

A Tip For Hanging Groups of Frames

A number of framing experts at past workshops I have attended suggest that, when hanging a grouping of frames, you can lay them on the floor and group them in whatever way you wish to simulate how they might hang on the wall. However, the downside to that is that the floor is not the wall and you are still guessing. The best method is to take newspaper, cut it to the size and shape of your frame and lightly tape it on the wall with drafting tape or painter's masking tape (it has a lighter adhesive and won't pull off the paint or wallpaper). Attach these silhouettes to the wall and rearrange the grouping until it suits you. Then, start to hang your frames one at a time, removing each newspaper silhouette as you hang the picture.  Try to arrange it so that the center of the grouping is roughly eye level. 

Contact Us

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