Friday, March 24, 2017

Distinctive Antique Frame Restored

We received a beautifully hand painted frame from the early 1900's that had experienced some severe water damage to the bottom rail. That, as well as its general wear and tear over the decades, called for some serious repairs and touch ups.The bottom rail, which had the most damage to it, was barely even attached upon arrival to the shop. Although all corners and rails needed some repairs, one of the corners was completely missing. The frame had originally been intended to have finished corners (meaning you were not supposed to be able to see where the rails join.) Our goal in restoring this frame was to clean and re-attach the rails, but also to accomplish the finish and look that it had lost while damaged, as well as to preserve the art that it held.

The first step was to get this frame back together. When assembling a frame, we would normally use vise grips to fit and attach frame rails. However, in the case of this frame, the outside had too much of a curved edge, not allowing us to re-attach the rails with the traditional method. Because we were unable to use the vises to glue the frame, we hammered rubber-coated nails into the work table to create a makeshift vise, thus creating the necessary tension for the frame to be re-glued.

Before, during, and after
Re-making parts:
There were 2 corners missing when we received this frame. Because all the corners are identical, and having 2 perfectly good corners available, we took a mold using an oil-based polymer clay of the good corners, and filled these new corner molds with plaster - a similar substance to what would have been used at the time. Once dry, the corners were attached, shaped, sealed, and then given a new patina to match the rest of the frame.

So, why do we go to such lengthy trouble to restore a frame that, at first glance, seems to have run its course? Frames are such an important part of the artwork itself. They are intentionally paired with a work of art to enhance the viewers experience, as well as to act as an extension of the artwork itself. With a frame as old as this one, it is especially important to strive to restore it so that the artwork can continue to be displayed as originally intended.

An important thing for us to keep in mind in the midst of re-building this frame is the artwork itself. The backing that came with this piece was 2 panels of wood. Although this is something we see quite commonly with vintage artwork, wood is highly acidic and will damage artwork over time. In finishing this project up, we kept the wooden backing, but compromised by putting an acid-free archival mat board between the art and wood, thus preserving the artwork as well as keeping the rustic look of the back.

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