Please Help With a Problem...


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Founding Member
Jul 30, 1997
Leawood, Kansas USA
About six months ago, I framed an etching on heavy watercolor paper. I hinged the art to rag cut slightly smaller than the art. I then floated that on a rag reveal, then spaced that up with more rag to give height. The whole was then placed in a shadowbox frame and hung.

I visited the piece yesterday as I'd not seen it up. I'm appalled. They mounted a downlight so close to the wall that the light beam falls about two inches parallel to the AR glass down to the floor. Every blasted imperfection in that watercolor paper shows and to me, it looks terrible. It's rather like shining a flashlight up from just under your chin: heck, we used to scare our little siblings with that trick!

I knew the paper had been handled before but didn't see these problems while the piece was in my workshop with normal lighting.

Is there a way to unfit and somehow mitigate these obvious "creases", etc.? Time in a press, a steam iron, or something? :( The customer hasn't mentioned it but I HATE IT.
I'd say the real problem is the light. How do you get that moved? The heat from the light has probably even caused some of it. Good luck.

We framed several pieces which came from Cambodia for a customer who had a restaurant and they were hanging near a steam table and oh my it was not good but nothing we could do at that point. I felt bad but the environment plays a part in treatment of framed pieces
Original art, especially watercolors, will have "imperfections". Ripples, small dings, and fluffy spots in the paper are part of the process. Perfectly smooth paper is usually only found on reproductions.

All you can do is suggest to the customer that they move the light. If you think they will not take offence. Evidently they are happy with the light where it is.

If you are ever called upon to flatten a piece of watercolor paper, it is possible to steam and press it, but I would not advise it. It would take away from the "character" of the piece.
Hi MM -

Ah yes, the old raking light shot. We use it to show imperfections not visible in normal light. Textured paper looks wonderful in this light, but it does show nasty handling imperfections and creases too. It sounds like this is what is aesthetically offensive.

Creases etc. aren't something you, as a framer, should be concerned about fixing, but you might mention to the owner that that type of lighting is a bit harsh for viewing art - and for its preservation.

If they really, really like the look and understand the implications re long term preservation, you can suggest that they contact a conservator for humidification and pressing.

Cathy I say "AMEN" to Reeccca,Hanna and Jpete's comments. However have you considered that as unattractive as you may find this viewing the costomer may be completely satisfied? I think it is Vivian Kistler or Nona Powers who says "we aren't Magician we are framers" and we can only properly frame what we are brought.The client may have known from the beging that there wher faluts in the work and is OK with the way it looks. They may be actually highlighteing them ( excuse the bad PUN).
PS:it has been my limited experience that customers will be all too quick to return ANYTHING they think WE should be able to improve . Even when we have no cotrol over what they are objecting to ,and this one hasn't .So maybe you are just trying too hard.LOL