September 6th, 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.

Permanent Mounting: Hot vs. Cold

While the process of mounting has been going on for a very long time, using modern materials and methods has not. Let's debunk some of the mounting myths like--

"I don't want to mount it. The pressure of the glass will hold it in place." or how about "One should never permanently mount original artwork."

There are two major problems with the first myth. Most of the time, gravity will win the tug-of-war with the glass and the art will get all rippled. This is due, in part, to gravity pulling down on the artwork over time as well as the moisture condensation inside the glass coming in contact with the artwork and wetting it, causing it to ripple or warp. So, the rule of thumb here is:  Nearly all works of art on paper should either be matted and/or properly hinged, or permanently mounted. 

We talked about hinging techniques last month, so let's address mounting, be it hot or cold. Most of the time, when we mount a work of art on paper, be it a cheap poster or a large format inkjet photograph, we use a dry mount press to accomplish this. A dry mount press such as we use has a heated platen inside the lid, along with a vacuum pump to pull all the air out of the  press and force a bladder to push the art up against the platen. Most of the time, we heat the press to anywhere from 175 degrees to 220 (most mounting gets done around 180-185 degrees). The artwork is fused to a mounting board or substrate with a sheet of dry mount tissue. The tissue is a sheet of glassine paper impregnated with a hot-melt adhesive.  Some tissues fuse the art to the mounting surface in the heating process. Other tissues, some of which are reversible, fuse during the cooling process after the mount comes out of the press and is cooled under a glass sheet. 

The artwork spends, on average, about 5-7 minutes in the press to accomplish this. We have two dry mount presses that we use. One is by Seal / Bienfang that has a capacity of 44" x 68", while the other is a press made for Hot Press (also called Dry Tac these days since they acquired them) that will handle just over 48" x 96". The latter press was acquired to handle the growing number of jobs that require the mounting of oversize photographic prints.  These could be considered original works of art, so we come to the second myth about permanently mounting originals. 

Let's also define the term "Original." Each time a digital file is printed onto a paper substrate, an original work of art is created. While the cyberspace construct known as a "digital file" may be considered the original artwork, it is really not much different than an idea in the artist's head until he/she puts paint on canvas to express it. For the sake of intellectual property laws, the digital file is just as important as any print. For sales purposes, especially where an item is touted as a "limited edition" print or impression, it is the actual print and the number of prints made that is key here. 

While it is, perhaps, still better to hinge and mat art, where possible, it is not always practical to do this. In that case, we will permanently mount digital prints on acid-free, 100% rag mat board or mount board and then frame the prints with glass spacers to lift the glass up off the print inside the picture frame. The spacers are on the glass edge and are hidden under the lip of the frame. 

There are times when original works of art or photos come in for framing and are in such bad shape that the best thing for them, to stabilize them from further deterioration, is to dry mount them onto acid-free board. This will greatly increase their lifespan. In the case of vintage posters from the early 20th century, many of these posters get wet-mounted with acid-free paste onto linen canvas, which can be stretched or framed with/without mats. Those types of posters were advertisements and were never intended to last. Consequently, they were printed on cheap, sulfite-laden paper. The only way to stabilize them for the long term was to wet-mount them onto a nearly indestructable substrate like linen canvas. So, it is not necessarily true that one should never permanently mount original artwork. 

Here's another myth:  " I don't want to spend the money to dry mount it. I'll just buy a can of spray mount and spray-glue it down onto a piece of board."  Actually, it costs about the same or more to do it that way as it would for us to dry mount the art. Further, spray mount dries out over time and lets go, like old scotch tape. And, if you neglect to properly burnish the art down onto the glue-laden board and then frame it right away, you will come away with a rippled poster in a short time. The solvents need to completely evaporate or they will cause the art to bubble up within the picture frame.

Before we bought the oversize dry mount press, this was how we mounted paper art over 44 x 68. However, we took an iron (like the one you use to iron clothes) and, with a piece of release paper between the iron and the art, we ironed the print down all over to activate the adhesive and cause it to penetrate the paper fibers. What a pain that was! Getting the adhesive sprayed on in an even, consistent manner without blobs was very hard to do. Also, the chemicals you end up breathing are very bad for you without proper ventilation and an OSHA-approved respirator mask. So, I would ask the question, "Where's the savings in spray-mounting it yourself?"

Rippled Print Problem Inquiry

As I mentioned last month, I would be sharing with you an inquiry I received from a visitor to our website concerning a framing dilemma they faced. This month's inquiry read as follows: " I need to have you recommend a company or a service that can recondition a print that has absorbed moisture and rippled. I believe humidity and temperature differences from inside air conditioning and outside atmosphere as well as location that the print was hung created the problem. The print is still in the frame and I would like to have a reputable company remove the print from the existing frame and make suggestions as to how this can be avoided in the future. Please respond quickly as I do not want to lose this piece."

While the client did not tell me if the artwork was matted or not, I advised them that it could be taken to a paper conservator (and I mentioned several local ones I am familiar with) to be restored.  To avoid this, in the future, it is important to pre-dry the artwork prior to framing, along with any mat boards and backing boards being used. This can be done with running the items through a dry mount press for a short period. If heat will damage the art, then consider pressing it under weights between two sheets of blotter paper for a few days.  I, nearly always, tape the edges of the package (i.e. the glass, mats, art and backing) with a clear, polyester tape called J-Lar to sealing out dirt and moisture. 

Keep in mind that artwork should not be hung close to air vents or in intense, direct sunlight for long periods. Not only will it fade the artwork, but the temperature inside the framing package will cause moisture in the paper layers to boil out and be absorbed into the artwork, causing possible rippling (even if it is properly hinged).

I also warned him about hinging art all around its perimeter, thereby giving it nowhere to expand or contract and causing to ripple or cockle. And, if it was framed edge-to-edge, under the glass, with no hinges or mounting method, it will ripple over time from gravity and moisture, as mentioned above. 

Next Month: An inquiry about a stretched canvas with a wrinkled corner

Client Exhibition: David Schachman

One of our framing clients, photographer David Schachman, is having an exhibition in Evanston (the first suburb north of Chicago along the lake) at Perspective Group and Photography Gallery September 2nd through the 26th. They are located at 1310 1/2B Chicago Avenue. The exhibition's hours are Thursday through Saturday, 12-6 pm, Sunday 12-5. For more information, call -1224-200-1155. The title of his work in this exhibition is: The Veneto: Views from 135 o . David has a great eye for landscapes, and these came from Venice, Italy. Check it out!

Framer Film Festival: Keith Dukavicius

In addition to working for us as a framer, Keith Dukavicius is a talented underground film maker. He will be having a film retrospective at the Gene Siskel Film Center at 164 N. State St. (phone 312-846-2800) in downtown Chicago Thursday, September 16th at 8:15 p.m. (showing his film "I Am James Mason"), Thursday, September 23rd at 8:15 p.m. (showing his film "Daniel Wong") and Thursday, September 30th at 8:15 p.m. (showing his film "Egon"). You can learn more by going to the web links: or

Contact Us

As always, if you have any questions about anything on our website, or would like to make a comment about anything appearing in this blog, simply go to the contact us form and email us. Thanks for visiting.