March 21st, 2013

19th C. Canvas Re-Frame

We do a lot of framing for DePaul University, our neighbor down the street. One of our many clients there brought in an oil painting from the 19th century of the founder of DePaul. It was in a very baroque 19th century frame that needed replacement. Upon examination, we discovered that there was no extra canvas on the sides of the stretcher beyond the 1" that was tacked down.

Our shop manager, Dana, had gotten some training in a process called "Striplining" that allows you to attach additional fabric to the edge of canvases to facilitate restretching. She used strips of Organdy (sheers) and BEVA (a hot-melt adhesive used in conservation) to attach the strips by means of a precisely controlled tacking iron.  She added new fabric to the edges, built a new stretcher for the canvas (the old one was just flat boards and had left a bit of a line on the face of the painting) and built a new frame (Gemini 425 Hudson River style). It also got Museum Glass with special spacers to keep it off the painting to protect it from light damage and incidental contact. Here are some photos of the process:

                                              Framed DePaul Founder Portrait

Stretcher corner support detail  Stretch Striplined Edges of Canvas









 Edge Detail after stretchingStretched Striplined Edge







Detail of canvas showing line  Corner Detail of frame and canvas






  Note that the picture at left shows, when light reflects off the varnish on the canvas, you can see a line that has formed on the surface of the canvas. This is caused by flat stretcher bars that have no outer lip to hold the canvas away from the stretcher face. Over time, these lines will form in this way if improperly stretched. It would require a major amount of conservation and expense to remove them at this late stage. At left, 3 photos up, you can see an adjustable, metal corner brace that we have started using on stretchers that may require expansion over time or adjustment. The only thing we might have done differently would be to use copper tacks to stretch the canvas again instead of galvanized staples. However, this is as professional a frame job as you could ask for, with conservation being performed all the way. The inside of the frame opening was lined with foil-backed tape (to prevent lignin migration from the wood in the frame) and Volara foam tape was used to create a cushion between the glass and the canvas. Even the stretchers were sealed with an acrylic varnish prior to stretching. 

All the work was done by our shop manager, Dana L. Fisher, CPF.

Photos by Brian Flax. Images shown by kind permission of J. Hallam of DePaul University, Office of the President.

The Cost of Canvas Stretching

If you read our blog last month, you may recall the opening blogpost about doing-it-yourself at The Great Frameup versus using a full-service framer like Flax Art & Frame. In that same vein, I received an inquiry that reads as follows:

"Hello. I was wondering if I could get a rough quote for stretching a canvas that I have purchased. The painting is 35.5" x 23.75" with a couple of inches of extra canvas around. So far, I have been shocked by a couple of other quotes for around $200 to frame (stretch) it. I purchased some stretchers at (an art supply store) for about $10, confused why I would be charged so much to have it framed (stretched). However, the width (of the painted portion of canvas) is really in-between the 23" and 24" bar, so I am not sure what to do at this point. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!"

Here is how I responded:   "When you go and buy ready-made stretchers at an art supply store, you are (trying to) save money by doing it yourself. What you are charged for those stretchers, though, has no relationship, whatsoever, to what a custom framer will charge you to build and stretch the canvas on a custom basis. "

Without recounting the whole reply, let's say that my quote was in line with the others she had received. We would use a medium weight stretcher bar (about 12 feet for a canvas that size) that runs $10 a linear foot to cut and join. Labor to stretch would run about $75. We, also, offered her the opportunity to provide us with her bars and we would only charge her for the stretching labor. Finally, we provided her with a number of examples of how our labor charges are reasonable and in-line relative to a lot of other professions.

My point is this:  Going to the drug store to get a flu shot or buying a cold remedy is way cheaper than going to see a doctor. However, expect to pay way more for professional medical help. The same holds true for a union plumber or electrician. Have you ever had an attorney do work for you cheaply? The same holds true for a professional framer, who has taken decades to learn all the skills necessary to stretch and/or frame your works of art properly. Further, the framer has to acquire a great deal of tools and equipment and pay for the retail space he works out of.  How is it that our skills are any less valuable or should cost a lot less than other professions? Where can you get something custom made cheaply, besides a hamburger at McDonald's? We create something unique, special and lasting for you.

Letter Man's Sweater

One of our clients brought in a sweater and some photos of his late father, who was an athlete in college and a Letter Man. Our framer, Julie Kotulak, designed this shadowbox with the sweater sewn down and two photos mounted and set up on risers to be between the glass and the sweater but not touch either:

                                                       Letter Sweater Collage Shadowbox

Collage detail #1  Collage detail #2





The frame is a Larson-Juhl 222940 Gallery series 3/4" x 1" shadowbox moulding and the glass is True-Vu Conservation Clear u/v filtering glass. The shadowbox is Crescent 7701 Canvas -colored linen. 

Frame designed and executed by Julie Kotulak.

Photos by Brian Flax. Images shown by kind permission of V. Bridges.

Peter Lik Gallery

When our shop manager, Dana, went to Las Vegas this past January for the West Coast Art & Frame Show, she wandered into the Peter Lik Gallery over at The Venetian. Peter Lik has galleries all over the world and has made a name for himself as a nature photographer. He travels around getting amazing landscape shots in deserts, tropical forests, mountains etc. His website calls him " The Indian Jones of Photography." From what I have seen, he is not too far off. Mr. Lik has, certainly, figured out how to brand himself and his work.

After returning from Vegas, Dana got a call from that same gallery, totally coincidentally. It seems that they had shipped a very large, face-mounted photo that was fully framed and it had arrived at the client damaged. They needed a framer who could have it picked up, unframe it and switch frames (they sent us a new replacement). It turns out that the frame was 4 feet by 8 feet in size. After opening up the back of the frame and surveying how it was assembled, it was not too difficult to switch the frames and restore it to be ready to hang again. We packed it up and trucked it back out to the client in a Chicago suburb. Everybody was happy. Here are some photos, below, of what we did:

                                          Peter Lik Facemount Reframed

Lik Signature  Wrapped Liner Detail-Lik






Lik Edition Authentication on Back







Peter Lik has spared no expense in this process. The images are adhered to the back of plexiglass in what is called a "Face Mount." The adhesive is applied to the face or front of the photo and then pressed onto the back of a sheet of plexiglass. This requires great skill, a very clean workplace, and lots of expensive equipment. Any dust, bubbles or debris that get trapped in between can ruin the whole print.  They are very good at what they do. The linen wrapped liners are custom made and very deep. The frame used is an expensive Italian moulding from Roma called Tabacchino.

Check out Peter Lik's website at:

Coming Next Month

We will be showing you a great collage frame that contains an official invitation from The White House for President Obama's second inauguration. Also up: a huge canvas we stretched for an East coast artist having a show here at Women Made Gallery. Also, some award frames we did for a foundation. Finally, the long-awaited pricing page for Canvas Stretching will appear.

See you in April!

--Brian D. Flax, CPF

President, Flax Art & Frame Inc.


Brian's Blog is our way of communicating to you, our valued framing clients (and prospective clients) what we are all about: Picture Framing and Framing-related services. That's all we do. Of the 66 years we have been in business, we have spent the last 22 of them as a framing company. Over all those years, we learned that the customer is king and customer service is everything. So, we focus on the thing that we do best: Being the most innovative, experienced, service-focused picture framer in all of downtown Chicago.

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