Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Tony gives a talk to Chilcompton Art Group

Last Wednesday the 24th, Tony was invited to present a talk about framing techniques and tips to Chilcompton Art Group. This was Tony's first public talk so he was a little nervous, but everyone made him very welcome with coffee and friendly faces!

His enthusiasm soon got the presentation off to a great start as he began a demonstration from scratch of the entire process of mounting and framing a print, with tips and advice throughout.

(Print used was 'Brilliant Water' published by 'The Art Group')

Mountcards are recommended both to protect the print from contact with the glass, and for presentation. Tony began by describing the different types of mountcard and their various qualities from standard core up to museum grade, and discussed the effect of colours when choosing a mount ...

How a strong colour matched from shades within the image can be overpowering and deadening...

Whilst a neutral shade leads into the image and does not distract from it. And combining the two colours in a double mount gives an added definition and looks great!

Next he demonstrated the correct way to attach the print to the mount using 'T-hinges' and which types of tape to use (not masking tape!)... He also explained how taping a print all the way round can make it buckle and ripple. Attaching the print by two tabs at the top only, lets the paper breathe, expand and contract without rippling.

He has attached the print to the undermount which is hinged with tape to the top mount. He also talked about the importance of an undermount as a barrier to protect against the acids and lignin that would leech through from the backing board causing artwork to yellow and fox...

Then, after cleaning the glass - a framer's tip... Tony uses cellotape (yes cellotape!) to 'sandwich tape' the glass, mounted print and undermount together - just a tiny bit along the edge that won't show under the frame's rebate.

As well as cutting down on the frustrating need to strip a nicely finished picture back out of its frame because an annoying 'bit' has magically appeared (after you spent so long painstakingly checking for them) it helps to prevent insects like thunderflies, dust and other pollutants getting in.

Then a quick fixing in with a framer's points gun... ( you can also use staples or very fiddly panel pins if you wish!)

And sealing the back with nice smart gum tape which also prevents dust and insects getting into the frame and is much better than masking tapes or wax tapes that will dry and fall off in time.

Tony advised D-rings rather than eye-hooks which push a picture out from the wall, attached about a third of the way down, and nylon low stretch cord rather than wire which has weak points that can break.

And Voila! One gallery-smart framed print, well presented and protected with the right materials and techniques!
Phew that was a long post! But all that remains is to say 'Thank you' to the Chilcompton Art Group for your lovely welcome and enthusiasm, and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did...

( Brilliant Water is now displayed for sale in our shop in Midsomer Norton...)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Gilding and Gesso Course

A week or so back we travelled down to Bournemouth for a Gilding and Gesso course run by Pierre Lafrance of Galerie Lafrance, who is extremely knowledgeable and skilled - as well as being a very nice chap indeed!

Pierre has over 40 years experience in art restoration and has been a Fine Art Trade Guild member for 15 years or more. He is the recommended restorer that we use at Swan Artworks and his 'before and after' case studies are really very impressive!

We hope to be doing more courses with him to learn about the restoration of art on paper at some point in the future.

The first days course covered all aspects of gesso-work, including decorative effects...Shown here is a sample of 'sgrafito' - where a design is pressed into damp gesso, and 'pastiglia' which is a design built up with layers of cooling gesso.

There was lots of heating of pots of rabbit skin glue and gesso mixes, up to six or eight layers of gesso, then different clays and boles, smoothing and polishing...

This was a part I particularly enjoyed, and just a small taste of it had me brimming with ideas to create some really interesting and unique finishes... (watch this space for a new range of hand finishes!)

The 2nd day was all about gilding, from traditional oil and water gilding to more modern techniques and materials. We tried different types of gold leaf (some of it 22 or 24 carat!) and metal leaf with various techniques and types of size, burnishing and distressing.
We also used Pierre's own gold creme lustre as a highly versatile alternative to gold leaf finishes.

Certainly Pierre's demonstration of traditional water gilding was eye opening and fascinating... The sheer patience needed just to delicately manoeuvre the fragile sheets of loose gold leaf onto the suede cushion for trimming...

The little parchment screen you see attached to the suede cushion he is holding, is to contain the gold leaf which flutters away on the slightest draught or breath. He picks up the gold leaf on a very long fine comb-like array of badger hairs called 'gilder's tips' which hold the leaf by static or the faintest moistness from being brushed over the skin.

The wood is sized with very diluted rabbit skin glue, little more than water (hence the term 'water gilding') and the gold leaf very carefully and painstakingly applied with the tips. Extremely tricky!

(Apologies for the poor pictures - we didn't take a camera so these were taken on Tony's mobile phone!)

We shall not look at those big ornately gilded frames in galleries and museums now without a new appreciation and understanding of the huge amount of work, skill, time and patience that went into it! And with our quick and modern methods these days, traditional techniques like this and all the knowledge that goes along with them are slowly being lost.

All in all we came away tired but inspired and with new skills and knowledge we can't wait to incorporate into our own hand finishes.

So thank you to Pierre for sharing some of his considerable knowledge and for showing us around his wonderful workshop. If you are interested in any of his tailored courses you can find out more and contact him through his website at

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Welcome to our new blog!

Hello and welcome to our brand new blog all about the inner workings and goings on of our picture framing shop in Midsomer Norton, Somerset.
As well as news and upcoming events, we thought it might be interesting to give a glimpse of some of our framing and conservation techniques, and some of our more unusual works in progress... perhaps a little advice and hopefully some fun too along the way!
We are quite a new business, and opened our shop in September 2009. Tony is a 'Guild Commended Framer' with the Fine Art Trade Guild, and has worked as a framer for many years before going it alone as it were! Carrie is working towards building a professional portfolio for children's book illustration - but that is another story!
Please do drop by from time to time to see what we're up to and for our latest news...
Tony & Carrie....