What Is Conservation Framing?

At Baldwin Hill Art & Framing we practice conservation framing. The idea behind conservation framing is to preserve the value and integrity of the items being framed. As a Certified Picture Framer, proprietor Jim Paradis has studied and been certified in conservation framing techniques by the Professional Picture Framers of America.

As in medicine, the guiding principle behind conservation framing is to do no harm. We want to make sure that whatever we do makes no permanent, irreversible changes to the artwork. Here are some of the things we do to make sure your art lasts for years to come:

  • We use only conservation-grade acid-free mats and backer boards. If non-acid-free materials are used then over time they can cause “acid burn”, discoloring the artwork and shortening its life.
  • We use minimally-invasive, reversible mounting methods. Most of the time this involves hinge-mounting the artwork to the backer board with acid-free paper tape and a water-soluble adhesive. In other cases mechanical supports are used (such as mylar photo corners) that do not adhere to the artwork at all.
  • For especially delicate or valuable paper art, we may employ Mylar encapsulation, where a sheet of archival-grade Mylar is laid over the image and secured on all four sides. Only the Mylar touches the actual artwork. The material we use is approved by the Library of Congress for direct contact with the work.
  • We ensure that artwork never comes in direct contact with glass. Condensation can form on the inside of the glass surface, and artwork in contact with this can be damaged. In extreme cases the artwork can actually stick to the glass, making un-framing all but impossible. In some cases direct contact with acrylic glazing is acceptable, but we do this only in rare cases.
  • Needlework is either laced around or stitched to a backer board with compatible thread and a ball-end needle. This ensures that no fibers are severed and the stitching can be removed at a later date with no damage to the item.
This etching shows acid burn caused by a non-archival mat

This etching shows acid burn caused by a non-archival mat

When you bring your valuable artwork to Baldwin Hill Art & Framing you can be assured that it will receive the best possible treatment and that it will last for many years to come!

Visualization Takes The Guesswork Out Of Framing!

We’ve all seen it happen: you want to paint a room in your house, so you go down to the paint store and pick out a bunch of color chips. Then you get home, hold the chips up to the wall, and settle on a color. Later, when the paint job is done, sometimes you realize that the effect of a whole wall of a particular color is quite different than that of a small color chip!

A similar thing can happen in custom framing. The traditional frame design process involves selecting corner samples of mats and mouldings, placing them against the artwork, and trying to imagine what the finished result might look like. Most of the time this works fairly well, but sometimes the effect of a whole frame of a given pattern is different than you may have imagined from the corner sample.

Another thing that can happen is to be undecided between two or more design options: “Will this look better with the black frame or the gold frame?”. Again, it can be challenging to imagine the different options and come to a decision.

Baldwin Hill Art & Framing has a solution for the 21st century: Frame Design Visualization. Using modern computer technology we can now simulate what a complete frame design is going to look like before the frame is built!

Here’s how it works: a camera mounted over the design counter takes a picture of your artwork, along with mat and moulding samples under consideration. With a few clicks of the mouse, we pick out the mats and moulding we want to use.

The software then displays an image of the finished frame design. Changing mats, mouldings, mat borders, even opening shapes takes just a few clicks of the mouse. We can even show up to four designs side-by-side for you to choose from!

While this system is not perfect–lighting effects in the camera mean that this is not for choosing between shades of white, for example–it is great for other aspects of the decision.  Choice of frame colors or widths, mat border widths, and what color to put on top in a double mat can now be resolved with a simple side by side comparison.  This system makes for quicker decisions and more confidence in your final choice, especially for customers that have a hard time seeing it without seeing.

This system is also useful when designing frames for the long distance customer, or the busy but opinionated partner who is unable to come to the shop. We use the visualization system to mock up multiple candidate designs and then either email them or print them out for the customer to take home for further discussion and approval. The customer then either chooses the design they like or propose changes. Eventually we arrive at a design that we and the customer know they’re going to love!