We all have a special keepsake, meant to be framed. Doing up our bathroom, I really wanted to use an old postcard, a gnome scrubbing his back with a big brush. Alas, a postcard isn’t particularly pretty, pinned on the wall, so I looked everywhere for a frame that would go with it. It isn’t after I met my husband, seeing the amazing thing he did with that postcard, that I have fallen in love with the expensive art of framing pictures.
Custom picture frames are the priciest part of capturing your favorite photos, yet so wanted, as they personalize your home decor. But often what you want to frame, does not fit in a standard frame. Don’t pre-made frames always look cheap and only come in standard sizes?
When I first met my husband, I was amazed, to see my husband’s beautiful picture frames, the mark of a meticulous craftsperson. I loved each frame, all different, but ever so beautiful. Then I discovered, he made each and everyone of them. I couldn’t imagine somebody making frames from scratch and here he stood right beside me: my partner.
He told me that cutting one side for a frame is easy, cutting the second one, to be the same size as the first, is every DIY’s worst nightmare. Anybody, that is a professional frame maker, has to have a decent machine to help him, because the angles have to be exactly 45 degrees, there is no 44.9 or 45.2 they have to be exactly right.
My husband’s older brother Roy, was a framing expert, even picture framing for royalty. He was in the picture framing business in London, his shop was in Walton Street, just behind Harrods in London. He retired, sold his business and he had to get rid of all his material. So that was the moment for my husband to collect items of that workshop, as my husband’s daughter Ruth, a real artist, painting wonderful pictures, needed some and he wanted to frame them for her, showing off her work.
He did make some for friends, but his work was mainly done for his daughter’s pictures. Being already interested in fine woodworking, he just thought he didn’t need arcane skills and should be able to do that as well. Needless to say, he saved a good deal of money in the process.
His hard work and encouragement, from family and a few friends, who received frames as gifts, made him realize there could be a business out there, making bespoke frames. Behold the treasure of possibility! Our garage is now still loaded, with the requisite materials to make loads of frames.
It is so very satisfying, when you get a really good picture frame, which is really beautiful and enhances the picture, so you can’t see the joints. He told me learning how to build a picture frame, serves as an excellent lesson in basic woodworking principles and of course gives one the satisfaction that comes with doing it yourself.
Amateurs can get away with anything they like, but a professional can’t. My husband fell in love with a Norwegian Morso mitring machine, the major tool a woodworker dreams of, cutting exact angles for framing, alas they cost about a 1000 euros for a new one. It is like a guillotine, an ideal machine for cutting picture frame moulding. A dust free and noiseless cutting machine, ideal to make instant beautiful frames, moulds, without gaps or marks.
Some of the picture framing wood is very expensive, it can cost you up to 20 or more pounds a foot (30 cm)!
On any professionally framed picture, the slip (the bit of cardboard in the frame) is always about 10 cm bigger at the bottom, then at the top! It’s got something to do with the optical illusion, when you look at a picture in a picture frame, it has to be bigger at the bottom than at the top, to make the picture look as if it is in the center, to make it square in a frame! When people write something underneath it, it has to be bigger at the bottom. Just look at paintings in galleries! Depth plays a role in it too! Perspective!
All the gold frames are done by hand with gold leaf! Gold leaf is gold that has been hammered very thin, put between pieces of animal skin or parchment to keep it from sticking, whilst hammering on it. There is no other way of doing it, but by hand! You buy packets of gold and it is so fine, you have to pick it up by a brush, as it is so thin, you just put it on with a brush and a tiny bit of water (damp piece of wood, lay it on, brush it off flat) and it’ll stay there forever. No glue on it! Don’t ask me why! It won’t fall off. Go to a museum, all those frames have been done like that! It’s like dust, but in a sheet.
You can slightly polish the gold leaf and polish it through, it’s so thin, it is untrue, and rather than getting a goldish frame, you’ll get the colour of the wood coming through. Framing techniques they are, you can do all sorts with all these materials.
A good framer can frame anything, in any style you like, and make it look beautiful! You won’t get that at you’re local supermarket. Actual good framers, are old fellows, who have been doing it, all their lives! They can make anything, that’s how clever they are! A good picture framer will do all sorts, the frame will be a masterpiece.
But then again, a really good frame can cost an awful lot of money, a first class frame can run into 300 of pounds actually! No affordable art here.
Here’s Ruth’s website about books, don’t hesitate to contact her for her artwork!