I went down to Rhode Island last week and picked up a frame from PS Art. They make most of my frames. As I have written before, I use handmade closed cornered frames on my work, except if they are going to an art association or a gallery with a record of damaging my frames. Those folks get the Chi-Com units. I have worked with PS Art for years and they have been a valuable ally in my business.
These are museum quality, handmade, closed corner frames. Some of you may not know exactly what that means, so tonight I will show you. I brought my celluloid phone and took some pictures so I could explain the process of making a fine frame.
|Henry Karakula, owner, PS Art frames, Central Falls, Rhode Island|
Here are lengths of molding in raw wood, they come from a specialty shop that has an enormous machine that mills them. Usually it is basswood. They come in lots of different profiles in "sticks" from 8 to 12 feet long. Some frames are assembled using two or three mouldings to build up a wider or more complex profile (shape).
Here's the heart of a frame shop, the miter saw. This beast cuts both sides of a 45 degree angle at the same time. This is a 30,000 dollar saw, if you want one for your basement workshop. Accuracy is real important and this sort of saw cuts to very close tolerances. Slight inaccuracies in the angle of the cuts add up as each corner the frame is assembled. By the time you are ready to join that last corner unless each chop is nearly perfect the corners won't meet up properly. If you pull the frame together anyway it will be skewed. That is, it will rock when set flat on a table top, and look twisted hanging on a wall. It may also come apart down the road in your collectors house, who will then return it. He might want a new frame.
After the frame is assembled, screwed and glued together, it goes to the carvers bench. Above are carving tools, called gouges, that thin one is called a veiner. A skilled craftsman using a gouge makes it look easy, but it requires a lot of skill and practice. Many of of the carvers in New England are Polish immigrants.
Here is a partially carved corner with the drawn outline of the design on the wood.
|Heres a fine One, a nice wide frame is important|
After carving, the frames are sprayed with bole, a red clay that serves as a primer upon which the gold will be laid.
The frames are sanded next, this step can be laborious, although less so if the frame is accurately cut and joined. You can see there is plenty of hand labor involved in this. Little of it is done by computerized robots.
Another skilled craftsman, the gilder, wets the bole activating the glue included in it and gently drops the microns thin and very fragile gold sheets called leaves onto the bole. This is done with a tool called a guilders tip, a sort of comb like flat brush made of soft hair. The gold is pounded so thin that a breath will tear it to uselessness. It cannot be picked up with your hand without disintegrating. Some frames are laid with imitation gold, sometimes called Shlagmetal, which is bronze. It is thicker and easier to lay but tarnishes eventually and doesn't have the gleam of the real thing.
Here is a finished frame that will be toned. Toning is applying a thin coat of paint or dust or any of about a zillion concoctions onto the surface of the frame to antique it. Sometimes areas, usually the high points, are rubbed back to the red bole beneath to soften up the look of the finish. Often frames are waxed after toning. Every shop has secret methods of toning frames and it is one of the things that separate a merely good frame from an excellent one.
Here is a pile of corner samples in different profiles and tones.
The frame on the left is a copy of one that is on a Tarbell in the Boston Museum. It is about 30 by 40.
When I opened my first gallery in Rockport in 1983 I made and leafed some of my own frames, in those days there were very few framers making closed corner museum quality frames. Today almost every part of the country has someone making fine gilded frames. Along with traditional painting, frame making is enjoying a renaissance.
PS Art frames http://psartframes.com/index.htm