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REALLY thin oriental painting... HELP!!!


MGF, Master Grumble Framer
Aug 28, 2002
eastern pa
We have one of those really thin (it's like tissue paper) oriental watercolors... I think it's watercolor... anyway... The customer doesn't want a mat and when we try to staple the piece into the frame sandwiched between glass and mounting board, it gets hopelessly wrinkled.
We also tried spacers and that doesn't help either. What can we do to minimize the wrinkling?
You might consider encapsulating it in Mylar, although some clients then have a problem with reflection caused by the Mylar (non-glare glass helps in this regard).
You have been presented with an unfinished work.
In Oriental painting, watercolors are done on very
thin paper, with the expectation that the work
will be wet mounted onto a paper and silk backing.
From your description, it sounds as if your item
is severly cockled and any attempt to flatten it
will make big cockles in to more little ones.
It should be over matted at its edges and secured
with the lightest of hinges. There should also
be a spacer in front of the window mat, so that
the painting does not get pressed against the
glazing, which would cause more of the cockling
you have been seeing.

Is this candidate for “static mount”? I heard about this method from a CPA at the décor show a couple months ago but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. The idea is that you use a piece of acrylic in place of backing board. Static is enough to hold up the art. You would definitely need spacers, and glass rather than acrylic for the glazing in front.
Maybe someone else has more information?
Static holds plastic better than paper, but this
might work and it can be tested without harming
the item. If it does work, it is likely to hold
those parts of the sheet that are not cockled, but
it will still require space to accommodate the
cockled parts of the sheet. If the climate gets
too damp, the static may loose its grip, so over
matting and minimal hinging are a good backup.

I've had a test piece of old silk static mounted in my lab, and I can say for sure that the static does give out when the RH goes up. You'll absolutely need a mat and hinges! The good news is, you can recharge the plexi backboard by rubbing it with silk.

Why didn't the customer want a mat to begin with? Trying to save money, I suspect. If so, don't use up hours of your valuable time trying to accomplish the impossible. Might be time for the "we are framers, not magicians" speech.
The following web site details the technique of Chinese or Asian mounting of original watercolours. They are not something that you learn to do in the typical frame shop. There are several frame shops here in Vancouver that do this type of work on a daily basis, because of the large Chinese population here and the regular flow of Chinese art from China. I would highly recommend that those wanting to have it done send it to someone who does it professionally. I am sure that Rebecca and Hugh can comment on this as well. It usually costs more than normal framing due to the many steps that must be followed.

The Treatment of Chinese Portraits: An Introduction

Alan's suggestion is most helpful. That kind of
mounting is what is needed to finish a work like
this. It allows us to enjoy it and since the
resulting painting will be flat, it also aids in
its preservation. Knowing that such services can
be found in North America is good news, since
sending such items to the Orient for treatment was always a bit daunting. Those who do this sort of mounting commonly use paste and good paper and the screens and scrolls made in this fashion have
an excellent record of long term stability. Keep
in mind that these materials are not kept in
constant display, when traditional Oriental practices are used.

Great link Alan, thanks!

Yes there are a number of people here who mount Chinese paintings - I only know one who speaks English. As far as I've seen, his work is very good, and quite well priced.


Thank you so much for that link. The restoration that was done on that scroll was really interesting and educational to somebody like myself who has little knowledge of how to handle Oriental works of art.

I suspect that many of the framings done on both Japanese and Chinese works of art are not done correctly. I know that some of the Oriental art that I have worked with would not be handled in the manner that I chose, even though that was of a preservation manner. The old techniques have much labor and time involved in treatment but it almost seems "unhallowed" to handle them in any other manner.

BTW, Wally, did you notice what wood they were using for the scroll rods??

The rods or the end caps?
The rods look to be a form of poplar, but not enough detail in the pictures to tell, The end caps are made from any number of varieties of the super dense rosewood family. I have seen Ironwood as well as Ivory end caps on these kinds of scrolls. I have two in the shop that were done on Taiwan and the end caps are a generic mahogany grain that has been stained to resemble Rosewood. So, as to what wood is being used, your guess is as good as any. (I can't believe you could actually ID the wood...you must have one of those 28" HD monitors)
I have a set of ivory (possible faux) end caps that I removed from a scroll before framing it. The dowels had been torn mostly away and the client wanted me to remove them so they wouldn't have to shadowbox the scroll.

If you read through the entire procedure it states that the rods are made from Pawlonia!! :cool: Now I know why I planted all those seedlings at my old farm! Only the guy who lives there now won't have a clue about the background of that tree.

Ah Ha! Another of your trick kwestions....requiring actual reading.