Worldy Wicked & Wise

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Clients Testimonials

  • The Frames look lovely, thank you.

    Katharine Meymell, Artist Exhibiting at the Poetry Library Exhibition on the South Bank, March 2012
  • Received and look good, artists are happy.

    [In relation to Exhibition at the South Bank Centre]

    Chris McCabe, Southbank Centre
  • I am the Interpretation Manager for ‘Victoria Reveal’. Thank you for mounting the photos so beautifully and for your patience with all our problems.

    [In relation for March 2012 reopening of Kensington Palace]

    Alexandra Gaffikin AMA Kensington Palace
  • Thank you so much for doing a great job at short notice. The Frames look great and the private view went well.

    Best wishes and thanks again.

    Susan Johankanecht, Artist Exhibiting at the Poetry Library in the South Bank Centre, March 2012

Conservation Framing

At Queens Park Picture Framers, one of the options available is conservation framing. Well worth considering if your artworks is of high sentimental and/or monetary value and you would like the best protection available.

What is Conservation framing?

‘Conservation framing’ is a term used to describe the use of materials and techniques which provide protection to framed works of art on paper. Conservation framing can be ‘Conservation’ or ‘Museum’ grade according to the quality and specification of the materials used.

How artwork can be damaged?

The majority of damage is caused by the use of  wood and straw pulp products which contain  acids harmful to paper. Artwork is placed  in contact with a cardboard mount or is glued down or dry mounted using ordinary glues and adhesive tapes. Worst of all there is nothing  between the artwork and the wooden backing board, this leads to discolouration of the artwork and making the paper brittle. Ill-fitting or broken backboards allow light and air pollutants to penetrate through even thick cardboard to  damage the artwork itself with tell-tale, characteristic dark brown streaks.

Some irreversible damage is caused to artefacts and papers by the action of  light, in particular ultraviolet light.

Placing valuable artwork is in direct contact with the glass, which means, air cannot circulate freely and evenly over the surface, moisture is trapped, providing ideal conditions for moulds and fungi to grow. It also can mean a transfer from the surface of the artwork to the underside of the glass irreversibly damaging prints, pastels, watercolours and photographs.

Poorly made or weak frames badly tied cord, rotting cord or corroded picture wire, incorrect hangings or placement of hangings and sometimes incorrect fixing into the wall are all causes.

Use of Correct Materials and Techniques Will Prevent Damage

The Conservation Mount

The conservation mount comprises a window mount and undermount. To provide adequate physical and environmental protection both boards should be at least 1.3 millimetres thick. The boards should be hinged along one edge using either a conservation gummed white paper tape or linen tape, (never pressure sensitive tapes).

Because the picture is in direct contact with the mount, the choice of mount board is crucial to protecting framed works of art on paper. As a guide, there are three main categories of mount board and framing.

Museum Level – For framing original works on paper

This is usually solid core, made from 100% cotton fibre – a traditional paper making material, proven stable over hundreds of years. It can be un-buffered (neutral pH) or buffered with an alkali deposit which prolongs the stability of the board and provides some extra protection.

Conservation level – For framing valued original works on paper

This refers to board made from chemically purified wood pulp and then alkaline buffered. Like Cotton Museum board, the core and facings must meet certain criteria such as light fastness, pH ranges and quality of lamination adhesives.

Photographs are a special case because some types may be affected by alkalinity: they should not therefore come into contact with an alkaline buffered board.
A pure, un-buffered cotton museum board is now commercially available.

Standard level – Not recommended for conservation framing

This is made from un-purified wood pulp. Un-purified wood pulp will gradually break down and release acidity, thereby damaging the picture. Although many wood pulp boards are now buffered with an alkali and described as ‘acid-free’, this is misleading and is no longer a viable marketing term for any mount board.

Hinging

The picture should never be stuck down to a backing card. Restriction of movement can be detrimental. Hinges should allow the picture to hang safely; they should be applied to the top edge and adhered to the undermount.

Adhesives used must be easy to remove at a future date, and must neither stain nor darken with age. The ideal adhesive is freshly made wheat or rice starch paste. Conservators like to use Japanese paper hinges as they are thin pliable and strong.

Pressure sensitive tapes, such as Sellotape and masking tape have no place in conservation framing. They cause permanent damage to the picture by staining and become difficult or even impossible to remove.

Water-soluble conservation gummed white paper mounting tape is acceptable but pressure sensitive archival conservation tapes are not recommended for use directly on the picture.

Glazing

Works on paper need to be mounted clearly away from the glass to allow for air circulation and movement. Pastels and chalk drawings should be held at least 5-6mm from the glass, using either double or triple mounts. If the picture is to be ‘close framed’ (without a window mount) it should be held away from the glass with a small slip, card or fillets (4-6mm deep) tucked under the rebate. There is a range of glazing materials with different optical properties. Where appropriate historic glass should be reused.

Reducing light exposure

  • Museum level framing must use UV filtering glass and it should be strongly considered for conservation level. Light exposure has a pronounced effect on paper condition and pigments.
  • The harmful effects of light can be reduced by using ultra violet filtering glass or UVA Acrylics . Ideally the glass should have the least amount of radiation below 400nm (invisible UV radiation) and the maximum amount of visible light transmission.
  • Perspex and Plexiglass can be useful because they are lighter and unlikely to break on impact. However, these materials do scratch more easily and because of static, they should never be used to glaze pastels, chalks or any other friable materials.
  • The mounted picture/glass sandwich can be sealed around the edges with gummed paper to prevent thunder flies or pollution from penetrating the frame.

Final Assembly

  • The back board should be made of a stable, rigid material, such as pH neutral conservation backing board.
  • Further protection from migrating acidity can be provided by the insertion of a sheet of polyester film or cooking foil between the back mount and back board.
  • It should be secured into the frame with sufficient non-rusting nails or fixings.
  • The air gap should be sealed with a good quality gummed paper tape only. Pressure sensitive tapes fail and leave a sticky residue.
  • All hanging fittings should be strong and secure. The tension of the cord or wire should be checked to ensure that there is no strain on the frame when it is hanging.
  • Riveted D-rings which go into the back board should be avoided: they may cause pressure against the art or admit dust if not well sealed.
  • Screw-eyes, hanging plates or rings should be attached to the frame itself and must be of sufficient strength to carry the weight involved.

Summary

Museum framing is understandably expensive with particularly costly materials. Conservation framing is actually only a little more expensive than standard High Street framing. If you value your artwork then conservation framing is recommended.

At Worldly Wicked & Wise we can, and have carried out many Conservation grade framing projects. Due to the very unique and specialised nature we do not carry out Museum grade framing.


We are always willing and helpful in discussing what is the most suitable grade of picture framing for your work. When suitable, we will offer alternative framing options and provide accurate prices for these.