Monday, March 27, 2017

Large Frame Restoration

IMG_5248.jpg One of the largest and most involved frame restorations we have worked on to date was a 7 ft. by 5 ft. ornate frame. The piece had fallen off the wall and down a flight of stairs. This was an instance where the frame had been fit with inappropriate hanging hardware for it's size and weight. Because of the impact, we ended up with hundreds of individual pieces that had fallen off the face of the frame, as well as parts of the large decorative corner pieces. Luckily, the painting itself was not harmed during this accident. 

IMG_20141216_161004.jpgWe began the treatment by re-gluing and stabilizing the corners so that they were ready to be put back together. Although we were able to puzzle in and adhere most of the pieces, there were still a significant amount of smaller pieces that needed to be re-made. All four corners were affected to a degree - some worse than others. Luckily a few of the larger pieces could be salvaged. On top of re-making some of the smaller pieces, the larger pieces were the biggest under taking.

For many small repairs we can sometimes use an oil based polymer clay to make a mold, but this would not be sufficient for such a large repair. In this case, we needed to go one step further and make re-usable silicone molds. Before the mold can be taken, we had to re-make one of the corners so that we could have an accurate shape to replicate. 

Newly shaped and fitted
plaster corner

Making a rubber mold is a more complicated process than taking a clay mold. The mold has 2 parts – silicone and a setting agent. The 2 parts are mixed together and immediately poured and left to set. The finished corner is prepped by creating a buffer to keep the material contained around the shape, as well as sprayed with a quick release spray so the mold, once set, could be easily removed. After every corner and shape was adhered and refined with carving tools, we could start getting the new pieces ready to patina. 

Corner after bole is applied 
To stay consistent with the rest of the frame's finish, we used plaster to make the rest of the corners. Traditionally, when gilding and finishing the patina of a frame, bole (a mixture of a soft clay and rabbit skin glue), is used to prep the surface. Bole can be colored many different ways, but we chose a dark gray to stay consistent with the original patina. The color of the bole underneath ultimately changes the overall look of the top layer of gold when finished. Other traditional colors most seen are terra-cotta and yellow. This whole process was executed over many months, but in the end, we were able to get the frame looking as good as new. 
Of course, to make sure the piece was secure, we fixed the back with a french cleat, instead of the two small screw eyes it had originally been installed with. Although very laborious, this was a fun project to see through to the end. After installing the piece back in the client's home we felt assured it would stay put for many years to come!

Completed frame hung up post-restoration

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