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SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Aug 7, 2005
Nanticoke, PA
WOLFrames Picture Framing
I got a call from one of my good customers who told me that he's going to be bringing down a painting he found when cleaning up in a storage area in his church. He said it's at least 50+ years old. The thing is it had glass on it which was stuck to the painting. I say 'had' because it fell over and the glass smashed. But there are still a few pieces of glass stuck to the painting and he is bringing it down to see if I can get the glass off the painting before reframing.

They would probably put it back in storage for another 50 years rather than take it to a conservator, so any other suggestions? When I actually see it, I'll decide if I should try anything or just let it be.
Hmm if it were my painting, I would grab the glass and "rip" it off(I think this is the technical term isn't it Hugh?) . The only way I wouldn't do that is if in ripping it destroy the painting. In that case I would find some other schmuck to do it for me.

Questions like this happen often around here. What it boils down to is "I have been asked to do ________ which I'm totally unqualified to do." I think the answer is apparent.

This is akin to taking your car to a car wash and asking the attendant if they would rebuild the motor for you. Even if it saved you money, would you like the final outcome?

Carry on.
Why is everyone so frightened of conservators?

I've only met a couple, but they seemed like decent individuals.
I recommend referring to a conservator; they usually will give a free consult and a ballpark estimate and then the customer can decide what they would like to do.

I work very closely with a firm of Conservators, and they are great for referrals, and I refer to them in return.
Ron i never was frightened of Conservators. I also agree that while their fees can be costly they are worth every penny. In fact they do the jobs "WE ARE FRIGHTENED TO ATTEMPT" so they earn their fees.

On the other hand customers think WE are too high priced so you know where that leaves what they think of saving that old painting that was tucked awy in the attic for 50 years ,and they and even we don't want to gonear it with a 10 foot pole.LOL

By the way all the conservators i have met are wonderful peopel and that isn't limited to Hugh ,who is one of the nicest getleman I ever meet.I met a lady name Phyliss Hudson of some 70-80 years and she had so much to share with framers the PPFA asked her to lecture.I have never personally meet Rebecca but I loved to and I find her a fount of knowledge as well.I have attenede some classses taught by other whose names i forgte but whose knowledge I will never.
So I am not fritened by them at all in fact I relish their comapny ,as I think ALL framers should.
I want to be a Conservator when I grow up. ;)

No really, is there a school for that, like there is a school for Picture Framing, only more in-depth? I've been thinking seriously of going to the conservator at the Nevada State Museum who does restoration/conservation of documents and ask to take lessons from him. Start there.
I think to be a conservator, it is a serious degree. Like a chemist almost. I had a lady ask me if I could get foxing off of a print for her. WHen I said, "No, you should take it to a paper conservator, they can do that." She said that I should do that in my shop, learn how to do it...blah blah blah. I tried to explain that it's not that simple, it requires a lot of knowledge of papers and chemicals and what not, and it just blew right by her. I do think that being a conservator would be great, but I think the stress level would be immense, and I don't think I could take it.
There are four programs in North America for art
conservation. Each has specific prerequsites, including organic chemistry. After 2 to three years of class work, their students spend several
more years of internships and fellowships. Those
later experiences are critical to the conservation students'development, since they are
exposed to different views and techniques. After
that, they are ready to go out and if they are in
private practice, they are selling straight labor.
Let them take the risk, and getting glass of of
any medium is risky enough that no framer should
tackle that one. If the client doesn't want to pay, put it away and let the future cope.

Conservation may appear to be expensive, but from what I have seen, they are worth every penny. The paper conservator that I work with often, is working on mold treatment as a result of Hurrican Katrina. She spends many hours in a room with air handlers, and in special suits and masks performing the treatments. Not a glamorous job. She has much higher levels of education and has served many internships, etc. Her education is from Canada - she has met Rebecca, and speaks very highly of her.

The conservators I work with, are only 2 miles away from my shop, but they have world reknowned credits in their repoirtoire of work. Its an interesting profession, but, I never liked chemistry!!

Mark, if you don't have a conservator near you, they can always call WestLake Conservators here in Skaneateles, NY. They do painting and paper conservation. Let me know if you want a number.

Ditto on what Elaine says - a relationship with a conservator can be great.

It's one of those things that will help seperate "you" from "them". You don't necessarily have to refer the client - take in the work and contact the conservator yourself. Notify the customer of the cost and build it into the price - the treatment is just another part of the framing package.

Why is it that we can justify the cost of our framing, but conservators are "so expensive"!?!?

My customer brought the painting in today, here are pictures. The glass is really stuck in alot of places PLUS it has water damage you can see in the third photo where the canvas has fallen apart. In a word, it's a mess.

I did find a conservator in my area that works on paintings on canvas and boards (but not works of art on paper, something I would still like to find). I'll take it and show it to her and get a price, but my customer all but said that if it's too much work it might just go in the trash.
(I hope they don't really think that)



Before they trash it, maybe you could compose a letter to the church explaining that a conservator could restore this painting. Perhaps a wealthy member of the congregation would be willing to underwrite the cost of the work, or they could hold a fundraiser of some sort for the purpose.
If this is part of the church's legacy, maybe he is not the sole person to be deciding the painting's fate- others should have input into the decision as well.
The image in the middle reminds me of the old saying "If you can't fix it with Duct Tape, you need a new one."
Rick is right....this appears to be a very nice painting that may be quite valuable. I would discourage him from trashing it because it is salvageable. It probably just needs to be cleaned, lined, inpainted and varnished.

And as Preservator says, if they can't pay for restoration now they can put it away for someone to work on in the future, providing there is nothing growing on it that would contribute to its deterioration.
Originally posted by MarkyW:
...but my customer all but said that if it's too much work it might just go in the trash.
That is reality folks.

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where everyone had tons of disposable income to spend on things like Custom Framing, Conservation materials, and labor intensive Restoration work?

If the estimate is above what they are willing to pay, ask them to return it to the attic instead of the dumpster. Or possibly even give it to you.

Then you can decide what happens to it. At a minimum you could use it as a store display as to why "glass should not touch the artwork".
The reality is also that MarkyW's customer assumes that a conservator may be too expensive for their budget (which may be true, but we won't know until a conservator actually looks at it) but that MarkyW would be willing and able to do the same work for a whole lot less.

That's the part that I find insulting to both framers and conservators.
If they are going to trash it anyway, maybe you could just keep it.
I would dig that thing out of the trash. I think it is beautiful, even with the damage. I think it adds charactor! If you don't want to spend the money on a conservator just break the glass untill all that is left is what is stuck, Then do your best to peel what is left off.

That is a great shabby chic look! I would love it for my girls bedroom.

If they don't want it, and you don't want it, ship it to me and I'll pay for the shipping. If it is not too big. I think it has a great look.

By the way, How big is it?

some mens "trash" is another womans "treasure"!

Let me know how it comes out.

My knowledge of fine original art would maybe half fill a thimble but THAT piece doesn't appear to be a Bob Ross "happy tree" painting or a TK original to me!! Is there any indication of who the artist was on the canvas??

It is so sad that somebody allowed that painting to stand in water long enough to rot the bottom off of the canvas! Sure it's in bad condition but I would definitely recommend a conservator for no other reason than to get a professional opinion on the quality and value of the piece and to find out what really has to be done to restore it to whatever level it can be saved. That just appears to be too good a quality of painting to throw in the dumpster without getting professional opinions on it first and basing any decision on the findings of a professional.

Just my opinion.