Frame Of The Week: Jigsaw Puzzle

We love it when people bring us out-of-the-ordinary items to frame!  We’re always up for a challenge, and we can frame just about anything.

This customer brought us a jigsaw puzzle of a beautiful panorama of the Boston skyline.  The puzzle alone was over 38 inches long.  With mat borders the finished piece was a little over 44 inches long, making the piece officially “oversized”.  The customer wanted whitespace between the puzzle and the top mat, so we dry-mounted the puzzle to the backer board and put a spacer between the backer board and the top mat.

A word of caution to those bringing us jigsaw puzzles to be framed: be sure to secure the puzzle properly during transport.  You can either use a puzzle roll-up mat or sandwich the puzzle between two sheets of cardboard and tape them together.  The customers who brought this puzzle learned their lesson the hard way: they had simply placed it on a board in the back seat… and then they hit a pothole.  When they came into the shop they  had half a puzzle and a pile of pieces.  We set them in a corner where they could reassemble the puzzle while we tended to other customers.  Eventually all the pieces fell into place and the result is the beautiful framed project you see here!

Bring us your piece of whimsy and let us put it on your wall in style!


Frame Of The Week: Military Medal

Frame with military medalWith Independence Day nearly upon us, we should take a moment to consider those who helped bring about our independence and keep us free over the years.  A wonderful way to honor military service  is to frame some memorabilia from that career.

A few months back, this customer brought us a medal and ribbon, along with the citation for the award and a photo of the medal being awarded.  Working with the customer, we designed this tasteful and elegant layout.   The top mat is neutral but slightly warm and textured, to complement the color of the ribbons.  The bottom mat complements the color of the unit insignia.  The frame once again complements the red ribbons, and the layout balances the proportions of all the elements.

There are endless possibilities for framing military memorabilia.  Bring us your medals, insignia, and certificates and let us design a display that will do them proud!

Frame Of The Week: Floating In Midair!

This client brought us an antique Asian puppet to be framed.  Instead of simply attaching it to the back of a shadowbox, we decided to make it appear to “float” in mid-air.  We did this by attaching the puppet to a sheet of clear acrylic, then suspending that between the back of the shadowbox and the glass.  As you can see, the result is stunning!

In keeping with conservation standards, we did not attach the puppet with adhesive of any kind.  Instead, we drilled four pairs of tiny holes at strategic points and looped nylon monofilament through to hold the puppet down.  The holes line up with the perforations in the puppet, and the monofilament is nearly invisible.  It takes a very keen eye to even see where the attachments are, thus adding to the effect of magic levitation!

Bring us your keepsake and let us work our magic on that too!


Framing for Graduations!

It’s graduation season!  You or the grad in your family worked hard for that diploma.  What better way to celebrate all that hard work than by framing it to display proudly?  There are endless possibilities when it comes to framing a diploma!  Here are just a few:

Many clients like to include some piece of memorabilia from the graduation in their designs.  This client frames all of her diplomas in shadowboxes with the graduation tassel.
Another memorabilia design.  With small diplomas it’s often possible to include the diploma cover itself in the framing design.  This particular one is of historical interest, dating back to when Mass. General Hospital operated their own nursing school.
This client chose to include an iconic image from her university in the frame design.  The mat choices (green & gold) reflect the school colors.
Even a simple framing treatment can be enhanced with school colors and a little gold trim!

Remember, gift cards from Baldwin Hill Art & Framing make the perfect graduation present!

Custom Mats For Special Pieces

Sometimes a piece calls out for a special mat treatment.  This lovely little needlework has an arch on top, so we suggested adding an arch to the mat opening to mimic the shape.  The result is quite lovely!  The shape of the mat opening adds elegance and suggests the shape of the art even from some distance away.

This piece was done with a coarse Crescent fabric mat on top, reflecting the texture of the needlework, and a fine green fabric mat on the bottom.

Bring us your unusual pieces for an elegant framing treatment!

Project Profile: Two-Sided Bible Page

This customer arrived bearing a specially-built box, with specific instructions for how to open it written thereon. Inside the box was a plastic bag; inside that was a folder; inside THAT was:

Click for a larger image


A hand-copied, decorated Bible page from the 15th century!  This piece presented a few challenges: first, it was inscribed on sheepskin.  Second, it was inscribed on both sides, and the customer wanted to be able to show either side.

One particular challenge with sheepskin is that it must NEVER touch water, otherwise it will warp and curl (or to put it another way, sheepskin wants to try and return to the shape of the sheep!).  This means that we could not use our usual water-based adhesives to hold it in place.

The customer selected a silkscreen-texture top mat for each side of the piece, and a different solid-color bottom mat for each side.  She then selected an ornate silver/gold moulding with a somewhat distressed finish to complement the historic period of the piece.  Finally she selected Museum Glass to provide both optimal clarity and protection from UV light (The photos above were taken with the glass in place; note that there are NO reflections whatsoever!).

We used Mylar photo corners to hold the page in place on one of the mats (Mylar is approved by the Library of Congress for direct contact with historical materials).  We then adhered the two double mats back-to-back with a paper spacer in between.  This reduces the pressure on the edges of the page and allows it freedom to expand and contract.  We then built two frames back-to-back, and used spacers between the mats and the glass to fill out the thickness of the doubled rabbet.  The frames are held together with decorative metal plates on the bottom and sides.

As for hanging hardware: while we normally place a hanging wire on the back of a frame, this frame really has neither a front nor a back.  Instead we used a chain attached to D-rings at the tops of the side rails of the frames.  All of the hardware was painted with a dark hammer-textured paint to provide a proper Renaissance feel to the piece.

Project Profile: Memorial Plaque

This is one of our more ambitious projects to date, incorporating shadowbox mounting, heavy objects, and electronics.


The final result!

The final result!

This customer had a number of memorial plaques from the family synagogue that he wanted to incorporate into a display for his father’s 80th birthday. There were two styles of plaques: brass and plastic. The brass plaques were 1/4″ thick and rather heavy, requiring special mounting considerations.

The customer had devised an overall layout for the plaques but left the details to us. We used our visualization system to mock up a design for his approval. The customer wanted the overall background to be black. While from a design standpoint black was an excellent choice for the brass plaques, we believed it provided insufficient contrast for the black plaques. The solution was to use a double mat: black on top, metallic gold underneath. We would cut openings for the black plaques, leaving 1/2″ of gold around each set.

The other requirement was that we incorporate a yahrzeit lamp into the design. By Jewish custom, special “yahrzeit” (anniversary) candles are lit on the anniversary of a loved one’s death and at other high holidays. In modern times electric lamps have been used in place of candles. We chose to incorporate a circular light with a Star Of David motif above the plaques. We used a super-bright LED rather than a conventional bulb for long lamp life, low heat, and low power consumption. The LED is powered by four AA batteries built into the frame.

Here is how we put it together:

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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!