Frames

In my apartment I have mostly black frames

In my apartment I have mostly black frames

 

Yesterday I mentioned that there are two things that I always stop to think about – one is lampshades and the other is framing. Two things to think about: how do you select a frame to go with your artwork and secondly, how do you mat it. 

I love frames. I’ve done empty frames mounted on walls to create a graphic pattern. There’s something surreal about an empty frame. Because of my photography collection I’m always framing something new and I try to look at the art and see what it calls for. Does it call for a plain 1 x ¾ inch frame or does it need a metal leaf finish like gold, platinum or silver or maybe mahogany or bleached wood? 

At the beach all my frames are bleached wood, white or silver. In the city I have a larger percentage of black, mahogany and some gold leaf frames. If it’s drawings – unless it’s old-master drawings – I like them floating on a mat, which gives it a more expansive look. If I’m doing it over mat I usually do 3” on all four sides. I know a lot of people like to make the bottom mat slightly larger but I like the evenness all round. If it’s a more formal photograph I like platinum-finished photograph, I like a silver double bevel which brings up the image, if not, I do a mat out of rag board (a double-double), which gives it some separation from the mat. In selecting mats I try to see the different tonalities, how they work with the artwork and part of the selection process is to decide what you want the mat to do – to blend in with the photograph or stand out from the piece of art. 

At the beach house, the art has lighter frames

At the beach house, the art has lighter frames

A piece of art cheaply framed or with wrong proportions and scale can detract enormously from the piece. I know it can be expensive, but if you’ve already invested in the art, you should finish it properly. It’s like buying a wonderful dress and wearing it with cheap, wrong shoes. 

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in framing was using glass instead of Lucite/plastic. It was an expensive photograph and the piece fell of the wall and when the glass shattered it destroyed the photograph. That was a hard lesson to learn. 

How you hang your piece is also important – two hooks on either side of the frame or a wire in the back. I’ve found that the best way is to hang it from two hooks instead of a center one. Like this it prevents it from going crooked and another secret of the trade is to put rubber tabs in the lower part of the back of the frame so it won’t move on the wall. 

Do you have any hanging suggestions or mishaps to share?

8 comments


  • I love when a picture is hung or placed at the correct height. One of the most common mistakes, I find, is hanging pictures too high, or in a poorly planned composition.

    Thanks for the great tips!

    May 25, 2009
  • I am a firm believer that good framing can make or break a piece of art. Find a framer whose taste and knowledge you trust and cultivate a relationship with him/her just as you would a seamstress or carpenter. I’ve had the same framer for 20 years and use her exclusively. Even as strong-willed as I am, I have learned to trust her taste, even when it runs counter to mine (especially when it runs counter to mine!LOL!)

    I am not a fan of lucite/plastic, though, feeling that it distorts the image. If it’s wired correctly and hung with the correct hooks (the double ones that screw into the wall – NO NAILS) there should be no problems. Mats should be archival, of course. I’m iffy about archival glass, unless the piece is extremely old – common sense says to place all paper-based art out of direct light. Archival glass can also distort delicate images.

    I almost got thrown out of the Met because of bad framing – but that is for another time….

    May 25, 2009
  • Wei

    I have found that using 2 hooks into 2 d-rings, 1 on either side of the frame, requires too much precision for someone without fancy tools, especially if you are trying to align a group of frames together. If you’re off by even 1/8″, it’s going to be obvious, and to fix it will require that you reposition one of the hooks on the wall or one of the d-rings on the frame. You’re going to end up making a mess of your walls or the back of your frame if you make just a few mistakes.

    As an alternative, I use a wire hanger which gives me maximum positioning flexibility, and accuracy. Your hook location on the wall only needs to be approximate (i.e., plus or minus half an inch).

    To adjust the horizontal positioning and level-ness of the frame, just move the frame by hand.

    The tricky part is adjusting the vertical position of the frame. You really don’t want to move the hook by nailing another hole in your wall. Therefore, you will need to adjust the length of the wire. However, unwinding the metal wire to adjust the length is a real pain. The wire stretches under weight, so you don’t know the exact length you need until you hang the frame and let it “settle” for a few moments.

    The easiest solution to the vertical adjustment is to string the wire on the frame so that it is at least as long as you need it to be, erring on the slightly too long side. Hang the frame on the wall to check the height. If the frame is sitting too low, take up some slack in the wire using a bent paperclip. That’s right, a paperclip. Simply unfold a small paperclip so that it’s completely straight. Then bend a 1/4″ section on each end so that they form 90″ angles to the main section, but pointing in opposite directions from each other so that you essentially have a very elongated “Z” shape. To use the paperclip to take up the wire slack, just wrap the wire around the length of the paperclip enough times so that the hanging height of the frame is exactly right. Usually just 1-3 wraps will do if you aren’t too far off the required wire length to begin with. The bent ends will hold the wire in place. It will take a little a trial and error at first, but will become second nature after a couple of tries.

    I find the technique described above consistently gives me the exact vertical and horizontal positioning I need, and more important, it allows me to make minute adjustments once I have the full group of frames together. All this without having to make additional holes in my wall, adjust hard to handle metal wire or make additional screw holes into the back of my frame.

    May 26, 2009
  • Kristian

    Perfect time for this post. I am about to frame several pieces. Who has a good rec. for a framer in NYC? Not tooo pricey?

    May 26, 2009
  • Agreed that the height a picture is hung is of utmost importance. I happen to think paintings/photographs hung too low are even worse than those hung too high.

    I love the “picture rail” around the room in the beach house. At some point, I must do that somewhere in my home. Brilliant for those of us who have a lot of art and not enough wall space!

    May 28, 2009
  • I love, as in the last image, to place frames on shelves or furniture, at times even on the floor. Pictures, being oil or photography or drawings, together with books create the life of a home. As for empty frames I always loved it and when in Milan I go to an antiquarian who only sells frames, the most beautiful pieces of art! Being also a director of a Photography Gallery I agree with every suggestion of this very informative post.

    May 28, 2009
  • I like to frame with double glass and make the pieces of art floating this way the colour of the wall is the mat and complements the space giving the art piece almost like a floating moment. I usually like very plain simple chrome frames, it is an inexpensive way to frame that looks very expensive an unique.

    May 30, 2009
  • Don’t overlook protecting your artwork – photographs, prints, drawings, watercolors, etc. – from harmful UV rays, just as we would for fabrics. If the client does not opt for UV film on all exterior windows with direct sunlight, we insist that all pictures are framed using UV plexiglass. It’s rather expensive, but faded artwork cannot be restored.

    Also, don’t forget to properly light the artwork. A great article for specifying proper location of tracks and about museum lighting techniques in general is: http://bit.ly/IPS79

    Great topic, hanging art *is* an art!

    August 28, 2009

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