teaching semi-conservation

B. Newman

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 5, 2001
Kodak, Tn. USA
I have a good friend who is a high-school art teacher. Given what school budgets are these days, and knowing what top-of-the-line conservation materials cost - if you were her, what would you do to teach, at least, semi-conservation methods for matting and handling students' artwork?

They cannot, of course, afford rag board or Nori paste. But, on the other hand, we certainly don't want them using hardware store masking tape. What's a good alternative?

Would you just "teach the difference" and use what you had to, or compromise in another way?

(This is, afterall, our next generation of artists coming along...)

(I've already saved her a chunk of money by teaching them not to tape the picture all the way around - to hinge instead. And for backing, to atg the foamcore to the back of the mat instead of masking taping...)
This is a crucial question in the framing world as well as the art world.

When the PPFA Guidelines were written, they were done on a good, better and best format. The English guidelines are done on five levels. It just makes things very confusing, especially when being taught. How can I, an MCPF, stand in front of a group and say, this is preservation framing, but it’s OK if you do this or that. It’s not OK. Can a framer ever do anything but Japanese hinges and a full four ply preservation grade back board.? Of course, but if it doesn’t meet preservation standards and guidelines it cannot be presented as preservation framing. It’s a compromise and must be recognized as a compromise.

HOWEVER, there is another way to look at it, and I think less confusing. If you read the old Library of Congress material taught through the PPFA or FACTS Guidelines, and soon to be new PPFA Guidelines, standards have been set as to what preservation framing is. A full four-ply mat, full four-ply backboard, removable and reversible attachment, art an inch away from raw wood. Corner pockets are OK, edge strips, etc. in certain situations, it depends on the art being framed. We do so many types of things now a days, preservation guidelines is a moving target, constantly changeable with new materials, new techniques, new framing challenges. As long as I meet the basic guidelines, there is no confusion, I am doing preservation framing.

HOWEVER, does that mean everything that comes out of my workshop meets those standards? NO! There are compromises I can make to meet a clients needs, but I do not then call it preservation framing. I am using better materials, but am compromising in some way or another. The compromise is up to me and my client. I can’t turn to the PPFA and ask them to OK what I am doing if it does not meet preservation framing standards.

What an art teacher presents framing methods and materials, the student should be informed about preservation framing standards, then compromise where they must, but not taught that the compromise is what it is not.

As long as I’m on a rant, we also MUST take out manufactures terms and names. I sent my husband for some ultra violet filtering glass and the sales person at the suppliers didn’t know what I was ordering because the person only knew the manufactures name for the product. That is not right. Rag is not rag, it is cotton, glass is non-glare or etched glass or regular glass and it has UV filtering or not. Anti- reflective is coated glass, not museum, the list goes on and on. If we don’t use terminology we all understand, it gets even more difficult. The PPFA is working on that also.

Enough, it’s early and I need my coffee.
Just an idea for all of us. Why not save our scraps, say 14 x 16 or so and under, of our conservation boards and donate them along with a roll or box of tape and paste to our fave school? Or schools? The cost of the scraps is zilch and the paste and linen tape and such are so slight plus we'll be doing a real service to the schools.

Somwe schools will even permit you to come in and teach a short-course on the proper techniques. Take some material with you and have fun with some interested students.

We could all do some real good here for a nominal cost and time on our parts
Betty, as we tradespersons have a need to reduce labor to control costs.... education is just the opposit.

The students would learn more from finding the grain on a 24"x30" sheet of mulberry paper and learning how to tear it properly. (Sheet costs less than a box of pretorn which has zero education value)

Next learning to cook rice, dry it, grind it, re-constitute it... would teach them Where it comes from, How it is made, When you make it, and they can replicate it them selves when ever they want. And a school year wouldn't even use a whole bag of Jasmin rice.

By the time you take them down those two roads (For less than $10) they are ready to understand the differences of Rag, AlphaCellulose, Lignun, Ph testing, and all the other stuff most framers don't have time to learn. :D

Give them time, and they will be making their own rag board...
We arange with the school a field trip to our store. The students(usually no more than 5 students at a time) bring an item to be mated and mounted (no larger than 8 x 10 image)
WE show them the whole process from measuring and evaluating the art to finished package.We then have them do their own. We supply each with the materials. We will give them frames(from in stock which I chop for them). We all have a good time (about 1 1/2 to 2 hrs). Of course we can't cover everything but it's a start. We have even had several students come back and work in the summer.
I would teach them what we know as "best" at this time. They can compromise as they wish but they will know the difference and why.

The major difference for the average frame job is neutral pH mats and reversible attachment. Big deal!
Good idea. It could help the framing business in the long run when these kids are adults and some of them are getting stuff framed. They may remember the tidbits about preserving art and paper and request this when framing.
Several years ago, we had in house two documents from the Court of Oliver Cromwell. We invited a handful of AP art students--advanced placement--into the shop to help frame them.

They did the "hands on" of cooking the paste, tearing the mulberry, backing the pieces on rag, etc etc. In other words, the actual hinging, mounting and everything short of cutting materials.

It was a hoot, enjoyed by everyone, the teacher commented on how it put "practicality" in their world of true conservation practices, etc etc.

Had a real discussion on the merits of museum vs. conservation glass vs. uv acrylic which opened my eyes as well.

All in all, a really good coupla hours, something I hope we can repeat.

Customer appreciated it too. Before becoming a CFO of a major corporation here in Knoxville he was active on the school board so we had his blessings.

Give a man a fish, vs. teaching him how to fish, and all that

O and Nona: sounds like someone did their marketing and "branding" job quite well. That's what effective advertising is all about when you think "kleenex" instead of "tissue"
Lessons that the students could learn about durable and non-donor materials can help them
make informed decisions when the buy art supplies,
storage materials for heirlooms and collectibles,
and framing. As Nona pointed out, they can learn
to make edge strip supports and profit from
it, since their work is likely to be overmatted.
Clearly, not everything requires the very best
materials, everything we learn about preservation
can be useful in many facets of our lives and with
that knowledge, we can as Greg said, make informed
decisions as to when we want to stray from the
best practices and materials.

And wheat starch paste is very cheap, easy, and fun! to make. Certainly cheaper than any store bought adhesive or tape.

Any health food store should have it, but if they don't, rice starch, tapioca starch will work too, especially for teaching purposes.

1 part starch:4 parts water, cook on medium heat stirring constantly till thickened and translucent. Let cool. Put the amount you need through a plastic sieve and then work in water with a sturdy brush till you get the desired consistancy. Experimenting with consistancy is fun too.

If money is a problem, they can also use plain paper for hinges, rather than Japanese kozo paper.

Think of it as teaching the basics. One might make Kraft dinner, but it's part of a basic education to know how to make a real cheese sauce.

Being educationally challenged, I left nerdy classes to the brains. I took probably every art course at my high school. I don’t remember once the teacher covering framing.

The teacher would be better served to cover, to the best of his/her ability, the entire spectrum of framing. I can’t imagine hinging being a very popular topic for more than 3 minutes. That’s not much time to cover from Japanese hinges all the way to tape. I would only hope the teacher helps the students learn an appreciation for what we do. I don’t think they need to go much deeper.

I’m not sure a teacher, or many framers for that matter, are qualified to discuss current “best” frame practices anyway. The things that destroy art don’t change. That is light, heat, air, humidity, ect. Those things should be covered. Framing is just to dynamic to say, “this is the best way to do this.” When I hear people say that, I run run run. Not to mention framers can’t even agree on what is best anyway.

The art teachers role in framing…..very interesting thought. I can’t understand why the teacher would specifically cover ANY specific level of conservation.
Jay: don't know about where you live but the advanced placement students here learn a little of art history, which led to a discussion of art conservation/restoration. I had info from Kenyon Oppenheimer on their work restoring original Audubons and such and that led to the idea of showing the students how we practice conservation techniques.

You say not many framers are qualfied to discuss these matters. I feel that's what the CPF certification is all about plus the various reference books you buy to study for that certification. I know we can argue over this hinge vs that hinge or one technique over another but the basics are rudimentary to the conservation technique.
Which high school taught that, Mike? I don't know of any with AP art classes, except that cover photography or clay (craft/art.)

And Jay, it's not that the teacher is wanting to cover conservation framing for her students, she just needs to mat the students' artwork for a show. And up until I stopped her, she was using hardware store masking tape, taped all the way around. She, herself, hadn't be taught any better, and she has a Masters!

Colleges teach "art" not framing (for the most part.)
I could say that my car tires are black and somebody will certainlly argue that theirs are red as if I'm the only one with black tires. It happens. I can handle it.

Betty, if its about cramming art into a mat, I don't see what difference it makes. You and I know that there are plenty of better ways. But I would suggest that in this case look rules out over everything.

Just as a dentist should suggest you don't chew ice, a framer should suggest to handle the art better. A dentist wouldn't lecture and a framer shouldn't either.
Just for argument's sake here, let's assume the teachers don't have the time or interest to get into teaching methods similar to those we would use. Wouldn't it at least be helpful, without belaboring things, to just point out to them never to use rubber cement; to "suspend" the artwork on a separate backing and not to attach all around to the back of the mat; and that at least frosted (810-type) tape would be better than masking tape? It seems like this would be at least a step better for those seeking the quickest, most expedient solutions with materials they already have around.
I thought so, Betty. We need to realize that there are many situations in which an improvement upon the "down and dirty" expedient is all that is really called for. These things are probably not destined to hang in the Smithsonian. However, maybe we can let them know that there are ways to "slap something together" that will do less harm than what they are accustomed to doing, with little or no extra effort or expense. That way, if they want to have the item professionally framed in the future it would be fairly easy for one of us to "rescue" it from its temporary trappings.
:cool: Rick

I guess you could say that, in this situation, rather than FACTS they need IDEAS (Instant Display w. Easily Available Stuff) ;)
Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to catch these art teachers early, like at the college level, and show them something about framing so that they aren't so clueless when they become teachers. How about getting in touch with local college art ed programs and seeing if you could do a day or a week of framing techniques for art majors? It may not directly benefit the framer or the teacher of the class per se, however, it would give the students a general idea of framing practices.
faminzfun, you start in PA, I'm already working on the three collages here in Portland, OR... maybe
by the time were in our 80s, we can meet in the middle...

I have yet to find the fine arts teacher who will give up one 2hour class for a presentation on applied arts. But I'm still working on it.

I also pointed out to a vice chancelor that they had a MFA program that prepared art students to frame their fine art in nothing more than black frame and white mat... because they had been exposed to NOTHING else.

One teacher admitted that in his 17 years in Portland, he had never been to the Portland Art Museum....

I'm going back to working on the High School teachers.
I agree with Hugh re: where the education should start.
I think it begins with the art materials used to create these works, the margin or border they leave, the paper used, where they sign it (!!), etc. etc. - all those things we can do precious little about when it comes to us for framing.

Then, if the only other lessons are: no cardboard, no masonite board, no masking tape, honestly, that would be a huge leap.

I just keep thinking about the very fragile Toulous Lautrec "masterpiece" on a piece of CARDBOARD that was being handled so carefully at the High a couple of years ago. The damage was done the day he sketched it. *sigh*

These works won't all be in museums one day. But some will. I want to frame the ones that had any lesson at all in basic techniques for preserving their artwork.

Yes, Baer, I know where he was when this drawing most likely took er, shape. :D Hush.
I think we should all be happy the day teachers STOP LAMINATING EVERYTHING! Who taught them that was a good thing?
It's just as easy to do it right as it is to do it wrong. I taught a bunch of 6th graders how to mend and hinge using wheat starch paste and Japanese paper and they just loved it.

I mean, why teach all those difficult hand techniques like drawing and painting at all - much cheaper and easier to do it on the computer

Just my personal rant here, but IMO presentation and technique are an important part of the teaching and learning package. Surely they don't hot glue the seams together in the dressmaking part of home ec (or whatever it is called now!)though it sure would be easier...or superglue instead of solder in shop... *Sigh*

We're in a University town and on good terms with the Art department. Once a semester, we offer a class at the shop, showing the students how to properly mount an original work of art on paper, cutting mats, etc. Each student that attends is given a goodie bag complements of many of our suppliers - they have been more than generous in their support of education.

It makes us happy that the students are learning how not to ruin their artwork - and many of them come back for mats, framing or UV glass.

We've taken some of the extra supplies we've received from suppliers (we have a rule, that the freebies are never to be used in the shop - they're strictly for education) and given to the local high school teacher. Artwork still comes in taped on all sides. So you can lead a horse to water, but.......

I am fairly new to framing. I have been trying to read the old threads to learn everything I can. Does anyone have a good source (book or the like) on proper mounting techniques? The main book I learned from does not discuss many of the terms used in this thread. I want to make sure that I am doing everything I can to be a responsible framer.

Columbia, SC
Go to the PPFA (Professional Picture Framers) bookstore website. There is a wealth of information.


If you're serious about your framing, join the PPFA. For newbies, it's $50.
You're then entitled to go to chapter meeting which are usually full of educational opportunities. The membership also entitles you to a discount at the bookstore.
Kevin, Nona..2nd post from the top, has a book you can order. Click on her name and go to her website and order if you like.
I have recently learned that you do have to have a going framing concern to be a member of the PPFA. At the very least you have to work for someone in the industry. I had a query from someone who was just thinking about getting in the business and wanted to join up. I was told by National that is is a "Professional" trade association. I know you can join as an individual but you still have to have a professional association with the industry.
Sorry, my post might look out of context here.....but Kburke had inquired on another thread where to find suppliers who don't require a resale license so, I am assuming he is not in the biz.