Mastering the Art of Framing

Janine Buechner has worked with many unique and random items in her 12 years with the Artists Guild in Sturgeon Bay:  original paintings by Rembrandt and Pablo Picasso, parts of old ships, and an entire collection of Twinkie memorabilia. As the art supply store’s custom framer, it comes with the territory.

Similarly as rare as working with an original Rembrandt piece is Buechner’s certification as a Master Certified Picture Framer, a title fewer than 100 people in the world have earned from the Professional Picture Framers Association, noting her museum-level framing prowess.

Buechner admits framing is a delicate art, one that involves a fair bit of math and a balance of proportions, material and customer preference.

In short, a frame is meant to protect and enhance art. With a dizzying array of colors, styles and sizes of frames available in her corner of the Artists Guild, Buechner relies on a few guidelines to sort it all out. She was generous enough to share them with us.

Janine Buechner has been a framer with the Artists Guild for 12 years and earned her Master Certified Picture Framer certification in 2015. Photo by Len Villano.

Alyssa Skiba (AS):  What’s the most important thing to consider when picking out a frame?
Janine Buechner (JB):  You don’t want the frame to be the center of attention. It’s there to attract your attention a little bit but then to draw your eye into the artwork which is the main focus. You never want the frame to be the most, ‘Hi! Here I am!’ piece.

AS:  What elements from the artwork should you consider when choosing a frame?
JB:  Color, texture, subject matter as well. Even the era that the art is depicting. If you have an art nouveau print, you wouldn’t necessarily want to do a barnwood frame on that. You would want to find something that was more in the art nouveau era.

When it comes to framing, the possibilities are endless. At the Artists Guild, Buechner showcases this shadow box she created using her late grandmother’s purse and cosmetics. Photo by Len Villano.

AS:  Let’s talk about the mat.
JB:  The mat board’s first job is to protect the art and to protect it mostly from the glass that you choose. You never want to have glass right on top of any kind of artwork because with the changes in humidity levels, condensation can get in there. If the glass is right up against the artwork, the condensation goes right against the artwork and then there’s water damage that happens, there’s mildew that occurs, paper gets warped, so the mat board offers a little gap between the artwork and the glass. Anything on paper needs to have a mat on it.

AS:  What is a good starting point for choosing a mat?
JB:  A good approach would be to go with a neutral top mat because you want to have something that’s not going to take the attention away from the artwork. A lot of times people think, there’s so much of this red in this piece, I want a red mat. That’s not really the best way to go because all the viewer is going to be looking at is that red mat.

AS:  Are there exceptions to needing glass or a mat?
JB:  Acrylic paint on board or stretched canvas doesn’t need glass because it’s already a hard surface that can be cleaned. It can be wiped down or gently dusted. The same goes for an oil painting on a board (masonite panel) or on canvas.

AS:  Any colors to stay away from with a frame?
JB:  You don’t want the frame to be lighter in color than the lightest light in the artwork. If you have a painting that’s mostly off-white, you don’t want to put a bright white frame on it because it’s going to make the artwork look dirty.

Children’s artwork allows more creativity and rule-breaking with framing, as Buechner demonstrates with this snowman creation. Photo by Len Villano.

AS:  What is the most common framing mistake you’ve seen?
JB:  How they are anchoring the artwork into the piece. Usually it’s a lot of tape that I see – scotch tape or masking tape or duct tape or packaging tape. Some of those things have a lot of oil in the adhesive so the oil actually leaches into the paper and can stain the paper. Look for an acid-free tape if you’re going to use one. Also, just have two hinges at the top. People love tape so they tape all the way around and that’s not good either, especially with paper.

AS:  What motivates you to come into work everyday?
JB:  Framing is such a great balance between craftsmanship and art. I really love being able to use the heavy woodworking machinery…and figuring out how to get pieces together appropriately and then being able to see these wonderful pieces of art that people have brought in. To work on anything that someone trusts in my hands is an honor.

Related Organizations

Article Comments