Framed, You Hear!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Making,Pictures,Reflection | Thursday 13 September 2012 12:42 am

Since I’ve been regathering woodworking tools lost to Katrina, I’ve been able to get a start on what is likely to be a very ongoing project… picture frames. Sweets and I have been slowly gathering prints and posters and artwork over the last few years (with no apparent end in sight), and for the smaller ones that fall into a standard size frame that can be bought “off the shelf”, we’re doing just that. Anything larger, or oddly sized — and the majority of what we have falls into this category — requires a custom frame.

The few pieces I’ve had framed in the past, while being done well, are fairly expensive… especially considering our tastes and preferences. At this rate, we’d likely only get one or two pieces done a year and we’d never catch up. Even the cost of just getting a mat cut is stupidly out of proportion considering a typical full-size sheet of acid-free mat board costs ~$15 for a 32″x40″ sheet and it takes all of 15 minutes to cut it. Add to this the fact that you’re limited to the frame styles the shop has in stock — to be fair, while not a minuscule selection they do tend toward a variation on a small number of themes. Additionally, if I wanted something more stylized or thematic I’m pretty much out of luck. The materials the frames are made of is rarely ever solid wood (composite materials mostly), and far too many of them are hideously garish.

So, I decided to do my own framing… quite in the tradition of my grandfather who framed all of his own artwork. I have a full-size mat cutter, I have the tools at my disposal to cut, fit and assemble frames, I have the skills and know-how, and I can do it all for a fraction of the cost that a frame shop would charge me. This also affords me the opportunity to do many more pieces in a shorter span of time and not break my budget. I can also get faaaaancy.

Two recent pieces that I finished were prints by Terrance Osborne: Post Katrina Blues, and Hurricane Solution #3. Both purchased over two years during my annual pilgrimages back to the motherland. I wanted to do something special for these, but hadn’t any specific ideas.

While foraging around the local architectural salvage companies for materials for another framing project (that’s another post) I came across an old wooden white painted window screen. I mean old, and poorly repainted over the years — never scraped, so the scaly ‘gator skinned peeling paint from previous generations created a prominent texture, and of an old hand-made style not seen any more. I was instantly transported back to NOLA, and the ancient white houses with the hunter green trim that is still found in older neighborhoods today (I lived in one myself), painted and repainted over the years. This screen was worn, weather-beaten and a perfect representation of a home — both physical and spiritual — lost to tragedy. It was mine for all of $4.

I disassembled that screen, carefully so as to not dislodge too much of the flaking paint, and lovingly cut and assembled it into a frame. I lightly dusted the worst of the dirt from it and sealed the rest in with satin Polycrylic. I paired the frame with a hunter green mat, the entire assembly representative of the loss depicted in Post Katrina Blues. The funky weathered appearance may not be for everyone, but it strikes me profoundly. You can even see a white house with green trim to the right in the print.

The next frame is another find from my architectural salvage hunts. It’s pieces of chair-rail moulding, reclaimed from an old house that was obviously decked out in quite a bit of fancy millwork when it was built (the pieces I used came from a huge bundle apparently from the same salvage project). The moulding was painted with a high-gloss white oil paint originally — those old oil paints just had a way of sitting on wood that is unmistakable — but the paint had lost some of it’s luster and has faded to a slightly ivory off-white color over the years. At $1 per linear foot, I had more than I needed for a measly $25.

The trim was in fairly good shape (compared to the screen from the last frame) with just a few chips and scrapes in the finish to show its age. It reminded me of the loving restoration that is done in the very old houses in NOLA, where the original millwork, filigrees and fancy flourishes are painstakingly preserved, showing the wear of the years but still holding up — mostly — the the test of time. It spoke to me of hope, history, and carrying on even in the wake of destruction. That fancy, scrolly moulding was cut and assembled into a frame, and left as-is with no additional finish… warts and all. Paired with a goldenrod colored mat, it evokes the stubbornness, ingenuity and spirit of preservation in Hurricane Solution #3.

My intention hasn’t been to salvage materials for all of my frames, that style just happened to fit the prints I was working on. Going forward… who knows what I’ll be using, but I have the freedom and flexibility to do what I like. Just you try to get a frame shop to make one from an old window screen. *grins*

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2 Comments

  1. Wow, WOW. These look amazing!

    Megan M.
    September 13, 2012 @ 10:42 am
  2. Thanks! Having a good time making them.

    DmentD
    September 13, 2012 @ 3:18 pm


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