Our Conservation Framing Service complies with The Fine Art Trade Guild Specification. The basic principle of conservation framing is that the method of framing must be reversible, without any damage to the artwork. This means that items must not be stuck down on boards of any kind, and all materials within the framing package must be of conservation quality having a ph value of not less than 7, which is the neutral point on the ph scale.
Of course we recognize that not everybody will require conservation framing, and so we also offer our standard framing which can include, if required, elements of conservation such as UV or low reflection glass, or drymounting onto foamboard in our heated vacuum press.
Protect with UV Glass
We offer 3 different types of glass, high quality Float Glass, UV Glass, and Low Reflection Glass, which also has UV protection.
The Low Reflection Glass is coated with a multi-layer interference coating (OIC) which is similar to the coating on a camera lens. About 92% of light is transmitted through glass, the remaining 8% is reflected towards the viewer. Our Low Reflection Glass only reflects about 1%, giving a brighter image with minimal reflection.
Light damage is gradual, and irreversible. Artwork or prints should never be exposed to direct sunlight from windows, especially early morning or evening when the sun is low in the sky and UV exposure is greatest.
Light enters rooms from windows and bounces from walls and ceilings. This indirect light is less damaging of course, but this exposure is often overlooked. We use a UV Protection glass which has a filter that absorbs 99% of the damaging ultraviolet energy. Vulnerable items include fabrics, cross stitch, needlepoint, silks, watercolours, papyrus, and sports shirts with signatures.
Method of Framing
The glass is sealed to the foamboard and window mounts, with a conservation white paper tape called Filmoplast P90. This sealed package prevents the intrusion of dust and small insects, and fits neatly into the frame rebate.
If necessary we sometimes use a small spacer placed under the rebate of the frame. This gives a small air space between the artwork and the glass allowing any condensation which may form on the inside of the glass, due to sudden temperature changes, to gradually dissipate without affecting the artwork. This method is very useful for embroideries. A double mount will of course do the same job as a spacer, and gives about a 3mm air space.
Finally, a solid 3mm medium density board, or an archival corri-cor board is used as a final backing and sealed with gum paper tape, so essentially the frame is double sealed. Felt pads are placed on the bottom corners of the frame to allow an air space between the picture back and the wall, which promotes air circulation.
Mounting Prints and Artwork
Our Conservation method of attaching prints and artwork on paper is to use gummed Mulberry paper T-hinges on a conservation mountboard or foamboard. Only about 5mm of the hinge is actually fixed to the artwork. This enables the hinge to break at the crosspiece of the hinge if the frame receives a violent shock, without tearing the artwork. Two hinges are required for most items, placed about 3cm from the top corners.
Paper should be able to expand and contract with the change of humidity therefore the paper should never be taped all around the edges as this restricts movement causing cockling, the wavy undulation of the paper which is difficult to rectify.
A strange phenomenon called photo-transference can occur on framed items under certain conditions when the glass lies directly on top of the artwork or print. An image of the art is permanently transferred to the inside of the glass. The image disappears when the glass is washed, only to return when it dries. Photo-transference is caused by a chemical and light interaction with inks and paints together with the gases in the glass. The solution is to replace the glass and use a mount or spacer.
Sometimes fragile items such as newspaper articles and old documents need to be supported on the conservation board. This encapsulation method, often used by museums, works by placing the item between two sheets of polyester film held together with double sided tape, with a small air space so the work can breathe.
Letters and certificates are hinged on conservation board however when both sides are required to be shown the encapsulation method is used, the framing is sandwiched between two or more mounts and two sheets of glass, and then framed.
Heavy items require a different method of support called a sink mount. A Magazine/Book or Artwork rests within a supporting cradle of foamboard to the required depth of the object, and a mount is fixed on top of the package, which in turn is glazed and framed.
Artists often used light weight paper for pastel drawing which causes a problem for framers. To dry mount the drawing in a vacuum press will flatten the pastel medium, so for Conservation Framing a hinging method is to be preferred. Fixative spray is best avoided because it has the tendency to slightly darken the colours of the pastel.It is very important to use a double mount or spacer to provide an air space between the drawing and the glass. We leave a small space between the drawing and the bottom side of the mount to collect any particles of pastel that may detach from the drawing.
Watercolour paintings on paper should be hinged on to a conservation board, not stuck down. Often the paper is wavy in appearance but this is only the result of the water applied to the paper during the painting process and should be considered a natural consequence of the medium of watercolour. The technical term for this is cockling, and this is more pronounced on lighter rather than heavy weight paper. The artwork can be pressed flat before framing but this only reduces and does not eliminate the cockling. Watercolours are almost exclusively window mounted with a double mount often employed to give extra space between the glass and the artwork. A wash line mount may be used to further enhance the artwork. The mount is hand drawn with an ink pen and then a very thin watercolour wash is applied between the lines.
Conservation Framing of Prints & Photographs
We sometimes drymount prints and photographs onto foamboard in a heated vacuum press. The result is a permanent bond, but the prints remain absolutely flat in the frame. However this is not a conservation method and valuable prints, or potentially valuable items and, prints created by the artist such as silkscreen, and etching, should be hinged onto a Conservation Board. Glass should not rest directly on these prints therefore mounts or a spacer should be used.
Large super glossy cibachrome photographs present a difficulty as cotton gloves must be worn when handling to prevent finger marks which are impossible to remove. Even your breath can cause damage to the sensitive surface. We mount these directly onto a Perspex sheet and the static alone keeps these beautiful prints flat. Of course mounts or spacers must be used to keep the glass well away from the print surface! These photographs are very resilient to UV exposure so much so that they do not really require any special glass. Also resilient to UV exposure are the relatively new high priced giclee prints which employ special ink jet pigment inks. According to aging tests they should resist the effect of sunlight for maybe 150-200 years. Again no special glass is really needed except perhaps the low reflection type.
One of the Tower of London Poppies - framed with a gold slip frame around the two apertures. UV Glass was used to protect the colour of the mounting and the certificate. Other examples of the Tower Poppies can be seen on our Conservation of 3-D Objects page.