At Frameworks we feel it's time the general public learned a little about what ruins artwork on paper, and how to prevent it from happening. Whether it's a print or an original the damage done by lack of knowledge or neglect is usually irreversible.
Did you know that more art prints are destroyed in one decade by a lack of knowledge about the proper care and conservation than by wars and natural catastrophes. Let's talk about the dangers first and then we can learn how to prevent them.
Claude Monet was an avid collector of Japanese woodblock prints. He framed them and hung them on the walls of his home. Today his home is a museum and you can see how these prints look like after a little more than a hundred years. The colors are completely faded out - destroyed by light! Exposing prints to direct sunshine but also artificial light from bulbs is one of the worst and most frequent mistakes. Even with UV protective glass, prints are not 100% safe from dangerous rays. If at all possible, try and keep your more valuable artwork out of direct light.
Humidity causes molding and foxing. Foxing is characterized by ugly brownish spots sprinkled over the print. Storing art prints in a basement with high humidity and without air circulation will inevitably cause damage. Furthermore, humidity attracts pests like silverfish - another danger for your fine art print.
Until the second half of the twentieth century, central heating was unknown in most houses and apartments and heating energy was expensive. Today most homes have at least one heating radiator in each room and are chronically over-heated during the winter time. A permanent humidity below 40 percent will dry out the paper and make it brittle.
Museums keep a constant temperature in their exhibition rooms. Extreme temperature fluctuations cause expansion and contractions of paper and makes it uneven.
Pollution comes in the form of acids in papers and furniture, dust, dirt or the sweating from your hands. Also insects as a kind of natural pollution fall into this category.
Acids can be in the paper on which your etching or lithograph was printed or it can be in the mat or folder paper. It causes the colors to bleach out and it causes discoloration of the paper. Of course, you have no influence on the paper of your print. It should be acid-free. Maybe the most endurable paper is the Japanese handmade washi paper.
Now, how to prevent these dangers from affecting your artwork....
FRAME THEM CORRECTLY!
But what does that mean exactly?
Basically, that means that a professional, standard archival, quality frame shop will only use 100% cotton rag or other all natural and reversible materials in their mats and appropriate archival protective processes for framing. Framers who offer archival framing services will only use linen tape, for example, to secure the work of art to the mat so it does not shift in the frame. They should never use cellophane tape or masking tape or another adhesive such as basic glue to hold down a work of art within a frame. You should ask about this procedure and the framer, a good one anyway, will tell you that they are using the proper materials. Don't be embarrassed, just ask the questions so you get your work framed properly.
Here is a cheat sheet on questions to ask your custom framer as you're shopping around. I'm always surprised how many people get quotes for framing and have no idea what they are actually paying for. The hints are in parenthesis.
1.Do you offer and provide acid free mat board when framing?
(Most framers do!)
2.Is there an extra charge for acid free mat board?
(The answer is typically Yes since acid mats are usually more costly, but they are worth it.)
3.Is this frame solid wood?
(Solid hardwoods are expensive, but worth it in terms of protection. This is a cost and personal preference issue.)
4.Is this a molding made from another material? If so, what material?
(This is a cost question and you should know what you're getting. Are you getting glued together sawdust? plaster? something other than solid wood?)
5.Is it ok to drymount my valuable antique or work of art?
(drymounting is fine for inexpensive pieces like posters, if you are sure you only have a poster, but for valuable or original works it is a No-No as it reduces value significantly.)
6.Is that gold frame that I selected a gilded frame?
(Make sure you are not getting a gold frame and paying for gilding. A gilded frame is one which has had pieces of gold leaf applied to the frame. This is usually done by highly skilled artisans. A gold frame that is not gilded may be a very good frame at a competitive price, but it just may not be a gilded frame.)
7.How do you secure the work or piece to the mat?
(An excellent option is linen tape.)
8.Will there be space between your object and the frame?
(You do not want your object right up against the glass. A mat or invisible spacer provides the necessary space you need between your object and the glass.)
9.Are you using glass with a framing project that includes a textile or fabric like a sampler or sports jersey?
(Although you see it done everywhere and it may keep the dust out, the glass creates an environment that traps heat and moisture which will ruin your piece over time.)
10.How much is the mat?
(Depends on size of the piece being framed and archival qualities of the mat.)
11.How much is the labor cost?
(Depends on frame size, number of cuts in the mat, quality of the products)
12.How much is the frame itself?
(Wood frames are usually more expensive than metal frames or composition frames. Size impacts cost as does details, form or style, gilding, handcrafted frames, specialty stains, carving techniques.)
13.What is the difference in price between UV glass and regular glass?
(Typically, UV glass will cost about 40% more than regular glass.)
Ask as many questions as you like and if the framer doesn't answer your questions or explain the process well or to your satisfaction, go to another framer. I would bet that no matter where you live, there is more than one framer in your town.