The beauty, and frustration, of history are the differing opinions by experts regarding what actually happened. After all, since the parties involved are long gone, it’s difficult to be precise.
So it is with the history of not only painting (with researchers propounding both Europe and Indonesia as sites with the oldest works, and dates ranging initially from 10,000 to a present consensus of 40,000 years ago), but with the frames that surround the paintings. One voice in the framing world, Church Hill Classics, asserts that frames have existed since the second century B.C., when borders were drawn around Etruscan cave paintings, while the UK’s Paul Mitchell Ltd, specializing in antique and reproduction frames, pinpoints framing’s origins to the embellishment of vase and tomb artwork around that same date . . . or a thousand years earlier.
Technicalities aside, framing artwork has been around for a long time, and as any college student with posters on the wall can attest, a formal outside border makes all the difference in whether the room feels like a dorm, or a home. It enhances, it upgrades, it protects.
“For all practical purposes, it holds the guts of the frame package together, and acts as another barrier to protect the art,” says Lael Loyd, principal framer at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, WA. “The frame is the last line of defense against the elements from the side.”
While it can be as simple as strips of barn wood (hopefully without the splinters) to the ornately crafted, gold-leaf gilded frames associated with 19th century French landscapes, the final choice, Loyd observes, strongly depends upon the artwork within.
“The frames, like the lamps, floor rugs, couches, and mirrors, should never detract from the room. We encourage each piece to be designed for what it needs, keeping in mind the environment it will live in.”
Like that interior furniture and decor, framing goes “in” and “out” of mode, Loyd says, explaining that the manufacturers of commercial framing keep an alert eye on the home interior market, introducing styles that are trendy without being “faddy.” Some elements, however, are like the little black dress — always perfect, and always timeless:
“Basic black, gold and silver always win . . . Browns, in a variety of tones, mahogany, black and shades of gold, silver and bronze are what I use most.”
Loyd has designed framing packages for everything from what one would expect to frame — a painting, a poster, certificates and diplomas — to the more unusual — a fossilized rock, a piece of the Torah (“No pressure there!”), a softball outfit including the ball and bat, a World War I Service Banner encased in glass on both sides. Her most challenging 3-D framing commission was her first, a Victorian shadow box that included a feather, pair of gloves, book, buttons, pocket watch, and more.
“I was terrified! I took a long time because I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I used techniques I didn’t know existed until, and in the end, it is one of my favorite designs.”
Some frames are works of art in their own right, and within the museum art world, curators are paying increased attention to this fundamental, but easily overlooked, element to the finished art package. In 2015, The National Gallery in London presented a 5-month exhibition entitled Frames in Focus: Sansovino Frames, featuring elaborately designed frames from the 16th century. It is the first in a series of exhibitions that the gallery plans on frames.
For the average person, however, what needs to be framed probably won’t be found in a museum, although this does not mean that the work doesn’t have meaning.
“I love the designs that come with a story,” Loyd says, “like a child’s refrigerator art housed in a basic frame, and the child comes in and clings to the framed piece, or the photo of a prize-winning husky, with ribbon included, and the owner brings out a Kleenex because the beloved dog has passed away and we’re now working to display a memory.
“It’s history, living history, preserved and protected for future generations.”
Framing Extravaganza is the Pacific Northwest Art Event from Monday, March 28 through Saturday, April 23. Both ready-made frames and a select inventory of link molding (from which custom frames are made) will be deeply discounted as the gallery makes room for additional frame styles and colors.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail email@example.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists. Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.
This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.