old bear rug


CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Jun 4, 2004
A customer brought in a bear rug with a painting on the skin side. He wants it protected in a shadow box. My dilemma is that it is really brittle( forty years old) if I sew it down it will crumble (Its like a potato chip). I need a conservator in Cleveland Ohio. I don’t know if they can do anything. If they can’t do anything he wants it framed either way. Help Kim
Oh, Kim. I think you may be in trouble with this one. Is this thing bear sized? It's going to be huge and heavy - and need a very deep shadowbox.

I suppose the customer is bound and determined that is HAS to be framed, so I should stop being so negative and try to be helpful instead.

If you can't find a conservator, you might check with someone who sells/restores fur coats or leather goods. There may be some way to make the skin more supple. Without disturbing the painting of course.

Plan a frame with enough depth that you can fit the backing board slanted away from the bottom of the frame so the skin doesn't have to support all of its own weight.

Line the shadow box with whatever color the fur is - it's gonna shed.

Keep in mind that plexi is going to be static-y and might make the fur stand up - giving the whole piece a frightened look.

If you can't sew it, perhaps you can find some spots where you can thread leather thongs through it and tie it to the backing board.

I would be tempted to explain the mounting problems and hand it back to the customer. Let him be responsible to getting it into good enough condition to be framed.

Good luck.

This may not help the situation depending on the customer's ultimate desire. I would tell the customer that this needs to be a table top display if it is as brittle as you mention. Frame it in a shadow box that lays flat on the table. I don't know the size so this may not be possible.

You might contact Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland to see if they have the name of a qualified conservator.
And here I thought you had a picture of Baer without his shirt on!
Kim -
You might also want to contact a taxidermist. Older skins that have been tanned (excluding Baer) need to be "conditioned" to remain supple and soft. Perhaps they could recommend something to apply to the skin w/o destroying the painting. In either case, I would let the customer work directly with whomever can solve the problem. Like Vivian K. always says - we're framers - not magicians!