Conservation Framing

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Mounting and Conservation

At glebepictureframes we are experienced in framing all types of artwork and we can often suggest a number of different ways to frame any given item. As probably the majority of our work involves the framing of art done on paper, this page is mainly concerned with this type of artwork.

Works on paper often need careful handling during framing due to their fragility in comparison with other items which may be framed such as canvasses, memorabilia, etc. They must be mounted using materials that won't cause the artwork to deteriorate in any way, and they must be glazed to protect the paper and art from ultra-violet light, insects, and dust & other airborne particles such as smoke.

Essentially anything that comes in contact with the artwork (ie the mount) must be of conservation standard. The mount consists of a number of parts: the mat, the backing boards and barrier papers; the quantity and type of each will vary depending on the type of mounting chosen for the artwork. We will discuss this with you when you bring in your picture for framing.

Mounting materials are generally paper products (though plastics may also be used, see below) made from fibrous matter, usually wood pulp, plus other constituents. The wood pulp contains lignin, an acidic substance which over time breaks down and leaches into the paper of the artwork, turning it brown and affecting the integrity of the paper. Poorer quality materials will brown more quickly, especially in humid or damp environments, and to combat this paper manufacturers have two main options. They can use better quality fibrous materials such as cotton fibre (which contains little or no lignin), or they may add alkaline chemicals such as chloride and calcium carbonate to the paper-making process so that the paper achieves a neutral pH value (the cheaper alternative). It can then be marketed as "acid free". Unfortunately "acid free" materials of this type will revert back to being acidic over time as the alkaline chemicals dissipate, leaving the acid behind in the material. Thus the term "acid free" is virtually meaningless for conservation purposes, though many framers still use it despite knowing that their customers will assume they mean "conservation" or "archival".

Mounting and Conservation

At glebepictureframes we ensure that only the best quality mounting materials come in contact with your artwork. The boards we use and recommend are recognised as the best available such as "Rising" archival mount board, "Crescent RagMat" museum board, "Bainbridge Alpharag", "Bainbridge Alphamat", all manufactured in the USA; and "Artique Conservation Matboard" made by James Cropper in the UK.

Rising mount boards, Crescent RagMat and Bainbridge Alpharag (known as "ragboard" because they are made from cotton fibre) come in a small range of whites and useful natural & earthy tones. Ragboards such as these are the preferred mounting materials of museums and galleries around the world. We like the look of it a lot, and use it in the framing of most of the artwork for sale here at glebepictureframes. It is available in standard 4-ply thickness (what you're used to seeing) and also double-thick, or 8-ply. We think the thicker the better - ask about 12-ply and 16-ply - all are available at glebepictureframes.

Alphamat and Artique come in hundreds of colours and textured surfaces, are fade resistant and have a pure lignin-free solid white core. Technical info on these products is available - if you'd like to know more about them, please have a look at the manufacturer's websites - links are on our Books and Links page.

The matboards we use are manufactured using environmentally sound adhesives and colourants that don't contaminate waterways. The alpha cellulose pulp used in Alphamat comes only from plantation grown trees, and for every tree that's used, another is planted.

Backing Materials

As important as the matboard is what goes behind your artwork. Our preference is to use a rag barrier paper immediately behind the work, and behind that a moisture-proof backing of inert polypropylene board which will not allow dampness from walls to pass through and contact with the artwork. We also stock and utilise materials such as neutral Ph foamcore (a good light-weight and inexpensive backing material), mdf board (which though highly acidic is sometimes useful to add rigidity to the frame, and as a backing for mirrors). Backing options can be discussed with you when you visit us.

Glazing

There are a variety of glazing choices for your framed artwork, and again we can discuss the pros and cons of each with you. In most cases we will recommend standard 2mm clear float glass. This is the cheapest option, it looks good and of course protects your picture from dust, etc. It doesn't, however, offer much protection from UV light, which in some circumstances can cause the artwork to fade and also cause the structural integrity of the paper break down over time (think of newspaper left in the sun). Complete conservation framing should eliminate UV rays reaching your artwork. We can do this by using UV blocking glass or perspex (acrylic or plexiglas). The perspex has added advantages in that it doesn't break easily and weighs less than glass. We also have available "Tru Vue Museum Glass" - anti-UV and anti-reflective due to a special coating similar to that on a camera lens, and the new(ish) wonder product Tru Vue "Optium" - an acrylic that wont break, weighs next to nothing, is anti-UV, anti-reflective, anti-scratch and anti-static - ask to see what it looks like, you'll be surprised! We don't recommend the diffused type of non-reflective picture framing glass for reasons we can explain when you drop in (though it is available for those who insist on it).

The importance of conservation framing

There are many environmental factors that can have an adverse effect on your artwork. Proper framing should minimize the impact of these factors on your valued possessions. Please bear in mind, however, that even the best framing will not protect your pictures if they are kept in extremely adverse locations.

Temperature and humidity:

Extremes of temperature and humidity can detrimentally affect the condition of artwork, particularly those made of organic materials. Paper will expand as it absorbs moisture from the air and will often flatten out again during drier conditions. Mould flourishes in high levels of humidity causing disfiguring stains. Brown spots known as "foxing" can be due to mould activity, and may also sometimes be a result of metallic impurities in the paper which will rust in a humid environment.

Dust and insects:

Moisture is attracted to dust, and this can create a food source for insects. Insects like to eat organic materials such as the starch and cellulose in paper, wood and textiles. Insect damage is visible as staining, holes and surface grazing.

Light:

Damage caused by light accumulates with each exposure and is irreversible, resulting in the fading of colours in paintings, photos, textiles and many other materials. Some materials are particularly sensitive to light and are rapidly affected by exposure. Sunlight is an intense source of energy and contains invisible ultra-violet radiation (UV). UV rays cause irreversible reactions within materials resulting in visible physical changes: paper and fabrics can discolour and become brittle; watercolour pigments, colour in photos and dyes in textiles can fade. Sunlight is not the only source of light and UV radiation which your framed artworks will encounter. Many fluorescent and halogen lamps emit UV rays and even tungsten lamps emit low level UV, as well as generate heat.

Handling:

Objects are most likely to be damaged when they are being handled or moved. Oils and acids from the skin can cause staining and can even corrode some metal surfaces.

Suggestions to assist preservation after framing

  1. Ensure good air circulation (eg ceiling fans etc).
  2. Cool dry, places are better than warm moist ones (avoid hanging valued pictures in bathrooms or above fireplaces).
  3. Avoid displaying objects on external walls or near windows & doors and away from air conditioning units & heating vents.
  4. Ensure items are framed with moisture resistant backings.
  5. Keep framed pictures away from direct sunlight.
  6. Frame works on paper and textiles under a UV blocking material.
  7. Control light levels through the use of curtains & blinds on windows, and timers & dimmers for light switches. Consider lighting pieces indirectly by bouncing spotlights off walls or ceilings.
  8. Swap over displays of works on paper and textiles periodically, and leave them in dark storage to slow down the accumulation of light damage.

The glebepictureframes Conservation Rating (CR) System

At glebepictureframes we have developed a scale to enable customers to determine the level of conservation achieved by any framing solution.

What is conservation rating?

At glebepictureframes we want to frame your art using the best preservation methods and materials available to ensure that it will survive looking as it does now for as long as possible. This is known as conservation framing. Of course not everyone needs, or wants to pay for, the maximum level of conservation framing, but a good framing job can be done using less than full conservation materials. The conservation rating (CR) is a scale developed at glebepictureframes and designed for our customers to easily identify what level of preservation is being quoted for in a framing job so that different options can be compared. It also explains what level of conservation is being offered on items for sale in the showroom here at Forest Lodge. A CR of 70/100 or more can be considered "good framing" and this is the lowest rating we recommend at glebepictureframes (the maximum is CR100/100). Many framed pieces brought here for re-framing have rated as low as CR15/100 on our scale!

Conservation values for all the relevant components of a framing job are listed below:

Glazing:

UV blocking 3mm plexiglas 25

UV blocking 2mm glass 20

Clear 2mm float glass 15

Matboard:

Ragmat (cotton fibre) 25

Alphamat Artcare 20

"Acid-free" (a/f) white core 10

Non a/f (acidic) 0

Attachment:

Archival hinging 25

A/f hinging (eg.P90) 15

A/f glue to a/f board 10

Non archival hinging 5

Non a/f glue to acidic board 0

Backing:

Rag barrier with polypropelene back 25

Mylar with Ph neutral board or polypropelene 25

Rag barrier & acid-free foam-core back 15

Acid-free foam-core only 10

Non acid-free board 5

Wood product only (mdf, plywood) 0

Note that the choice of frame is usually irrelevant in terms of conservation as it doesn't generally come into contact with the artwork

A note on pricing

When comparing glebepictureframes prices with those of other framers its important to also consider the level of conservation being offered. Our prices for a CR of 70/100 are comparable to the prices of our competitors even though they may be offering a lesser standard of preservation for your artwork. If you require a standard of preservation for your artwork of up to CR 100/100, you may find our prices slightly higher.

For more information, we invite you to refer to the lists of publications and websites on our Books and Links page...

Glebe Picture Frames Green Credentials

Glebepictureframes intends to be Australia's first carbon neutral picture framing business. In order to be able to claim carbon neutrality we have minimized our carbon footprint by applying the cliched maxim: "reduce, re-use, recycle" to the materials we utilise, and then offset the remaining carbon emissions we are responsible for through the purchase of carbon credits.

Carbon is emitted when a material in which carbon is stored, such as wood or paper, is burned or allowed to decompose (usually after being disposed of and sent to landfill). Greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are released at each stage of the production chain - glebepictureframes is part of a long chain of manufacturing processes, at the end of which are our customers - and every manufacturer in the chain has their own carbon footprint for which they are responsible.

Materials we use and the implications they have for our carbon footprint are summarized below. If we are the end user of the material (i.e. we dispose of it) we are responsible for any CO2 emitted. Greenhouse gasses (GHGs) produced through manufacturing, transportation, etc prior to the arrival of the materials at our door are the responsibility of businesses further back in the production chain, and similarly our customers are responsible for any GHGs released when they dispose of the final product (the framed picture), and the stored (or sequestered) carbon is then released into the atmosphere, perhaps in many years time.

Wood

Reduce:

At glebepictureframes we try to keep our waste timber to an insignificant level. Although popular wooden mouldings are always kept in stock, we are often able to purchase frames cut to size from our suppliers, in which case we have no wastage at all. When we cut the mouldings in-house we have a strict method of measuring to ensure that off-cuts are minimal. Old picture frames removed from customers art and no longer required are put out by the front door on Saturday afternoons. Passers-by collect them for their own use (or so we assume, as they're usually gone by Tuesday!).

Re-use:

There is little opportunity to re-use the timber off-cuts, so the disposal of these contribute to our carbon footprint.

Recycle:

The timber off-cuts are too small to be of value to recyclers.

Offset:

Due to our efficient methods, we estimate a wood waste of less than 2 or 3 kg per week. This (for want of a better method) we offset by purchasing carbon credits from Greenfleet.

Paper & Cardboard

Reduce:

Matboard is only purchased as required. Barrier paper is purchased economically by the roll. We purchase no paper for the wrapping of customers framed pictures. A quantity of cardboard is received as packaging on goods supplied to us - we encourage our suppliers to limit their use of packaging to a minimum and use recycled cardboard. When practicable we receive bills by email.

Re-use:

Off-cuts of matboard are used for smaller custom framing jobs or for pictures for sale at our premises. Smaller off-cuts or unusable pieces are sent to local primary schools for use by children in craft projects or to Reverse Garbage, where surplus materials of all types are redistributed and used by other individuals (please click on their logo below to visit the Reverse Garbage website for more info). Small off-cuts of barrier paper are used as notepaper. Much of the cardboard we receive in packaging can be re-used, especially the boxes in which matboard is delivered - we make folders for ourselves and our customers, and use it to protect frames for transportation.

Recycle:

Matboard which cannot be re-used is sent for recycling, as is unusable packaging, envelopes & junk mail. Note that the processing of paper products sent to the recycler then forms part of the recycler's carbon footprint - the next step in the paper's production chain.

Offset:

Only a negligible amount of paper is disposed of.

Paper & Cardboard

Reduce:

Matboard is only purchased as required. Barrier paper is purchased economically by the roll. We purchase no paper for the wrapping of customers framed pictures. A quantity of cardboard is received as packaging on goods supplied to us - we encourage our suppliers to limit their use of packaging to a minimum and use recycled cardboard. When practicable we receive bills by email.

Re-use:

Off-cuts of matboard are used for smaller custom framing jobs or for pictures for sale at our premises. Smaller off-cuts or unusable pieces are sent to local primary schools for use by children in craft projects or to Reverse Garbage, where surplus materials of all types are redistributed and used by other individuals (please click on their logo below to visit the Reverse Garbage website for more info). Small off-cuts of barrier paper are used as notepaper. Much of the cardboard we receive in packaging can be re-used, especially the boxes in which matboard is delivered - we make folders for ourselves and our customers, and use it to protect frames for transportation.

Recycle:

Matboard which cannot be re-used is sent for recycling, as is unusable packaging, envelopes & junk mail. Note that the processing of paper products sent to the recycler then forms part of the recycler's carbon footprint - the next step in the paper's production chain.

Offset:

Only a negligible amount of paper is disposed of.

Glass

Reduce:

2mm picture framing glass comes in a range of sizes. The larger the sheets ordered, the less the wastage. We have a system for ensuring the most economical usage, but being located in a nineteenth century terrace building we are only able to stock glass in 920 x 1220 mm size. When larger pieces are needed we buy it in cut to size (with, therefore, no waste).

Re-use

Smaller glass off-cuts are kept to be used for smaller jobs.

Recycle:

To the best of our knowledge clear float glass cannot be recycled in Australia and therefore must be disposed of.

Offset:

There are no GHGs released as glass does not decompose and it has negligible carbon, if any, sequestered within it.

Plastics

Reduce:

Plastic is used at glebepictureframes for two main purposes: acrylic "plexiglas" is a UV blocking, light-weight, unbreakable alternative to glass; polypropelene "corflute" is a moisture-proof & acid-free backing protection - an alternative to acid-free foamcore. Both are purchased in larger sheets than glass and we optimize their usage in order to keep costs and waste to a minimum. Some plastic is received in packaging, mainly bubble-wrap and plastic matboard bags. We encourage our suppliers to keep the packaging to a minimum. We don't purchase any plastics for packaging customers framed pictures.

Re-use:

Off-cuts of acrlylic and polypropelene are used by local schools & child care centres or sent to Reverse Garbage. Approx 95% of bubble-wrap received in packaging is re-used (a small amount is unusable) for wrapping customers work, as are the plastic matboard bags when possible.

Recycle:

To our knowledge the plastic products used at glebepictureframes cannot be recycled locally. What is not re-used is collected by a private waste disposal company. Offset: It is difficult to estimate the GHGs that may be emitted from the plastics disposed of by glebepictureframes. For the purposes of off-setting we guess less than 1 kg is thrown out per week, and calculate it's effect on the environment the same way we do for wood, for want of a better method.

Energy

Reduce:

We limit the amount of electricity we use where possible. Equipment and lights (low wattage led and fluoro) are always turned off at night. Where possible we use hand tools in preference to electric machinery - i.e. we have no electric saw; mouldings are cut by foot-operated guillotine. The glebepictureframes vehicle is a modern diesel model which achieves a low fuel usage (av. 5.6 l / 100km). No other energy types are used.

Re-use:

Not applicable.

Recycle

Not applicable

Offset:

The producer of the electricity we use is responsible for the carbon emissions associated with its production process; using the power does not release further GHGs. However, we purchase 100% green power from our electricity provider in order to encourage the development of alternative energy sources (see the Greenpower website for more details). We offset fuel by annually purchasing carbon credits from Greenfleet using their calculating tool; they plant trees across Australia in order to recapture an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere (see the Greenfleet website for more details).

Water

Reduce:

Water is used for diluting paints, washing brushes & hands, making tea & coffee, occasionally watering the plants and, of course,flushing the toilets

Re-use:

Not applicable

Recycle:

We have no set up for recycling water.

Offset:

Not applicable.

Other items

Reduce:

In the interests of both the environment and economy we purchase only what we need and keep wastage to a minimum.

Re-use:

Not applicable for most accessories (backing tape, d-rings, adhesives etc). Material such as foamcore can sometimes be re-used here, smaller off-cuts go to Reverse Garbage.

Recycle:

Accessories are generally small items which cannot be recycled. Foamcore is not a recyclable material due to its construction (expanded plastic foam sandwiched between two layers of paper).

Offset:

In an attempt to account for the quantity of miscellaneous materials and foamcore that are disposed of each week we purchase additional carbon credits from Greenfleet.

In following the procedures above glebepictureframes aims to achieve carbon neutrality. However, in order to discourage sceptics from supposing that this claim is merely a marketing tactic, we take further steps to demonstrate our green integrity, as listed below

  • In an additional effort to offset the GHGs resulting from our operation we have planted more than 300 native trees and shrubs on our block of land at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains National Park (for any botanists reading this, there may be a list below one day!).
  • A small part of our profits are donated to The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
  • Customers often bring artwork for reframing which is already in a serviceable frame. These usable but no longer wanted frames, often with glass, mats, backing, etc are put out at weekends and collected by locals, thus they are recycled!
  • We avoid purchasing from environmentally irresponsible suppliers and when we have a choice will always opt for the greenest alternative. We give preference to plantation-grown or sustainably managed timbers for our hand finished frames. Synthetic (plastic) picture frame mouldings are available on the Australian market as a cheap alternative to wood. We do not use these because a) their manufacture takes a much higher toll on the environment than wood does, and b) they look tacky!
  • We intend to trial a worm farm so our organic waste can be broken down naturally and used on the veggie patch at Katoomba!
  • We also support local community projects such the Glebe Art Show and Get Off Your Arts; fundraisers for local schools & kindys, Mission Australia and Opera Australia; and contribute to charities including World Vision, Save the Children, the ACF, the Australian Red Cross and the SES.

Notes

  • An assessment by the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System (NGERS) Calculator (an initative of the Australian Government Department of Climate Change) indicated that glebepictureframes falls below the thresholds for greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption required for NGERS registration.
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has published a guide to the laws relating to environmental claims titled "Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act". We at glebepictureframes have read this document (available at www.accc.gov.au) and believe that we are not in breach of any laws in making our above claims, which are made in good faith. However we'd be happy to change or remove a statement if it can be shown to us that we are in error in any way.
  • There are a number of organizations offering various forms of "green certification" to Australian businesses wishing to make public statements about their green credentials. The Good Environmental Choice Australia (www.geca.org.au) program is an example. Others can be found by websearching "green certification" or similar wording. Many of these are oriented towards products rather than businesses, and all involve expensive and time consuming assessment procedures that are impractical for businesses as small as glebepictureframes to undertake.
  • The majority of businesses in Australia are small or micro in size, operate in the service/retail area and lease the premises from which they operate; but it seems from my limited research that programs to assist businesses to become more environmentally friendly and give them accreditation for their achievements in this regard are directed at large companies or products, or both. I therefore have not sought certification from any of these organizations. Is there a place for local councils, perhaps, to offer some kind of simple assessment & certification scheme?

Below is a copy of a letter we recently sent to our suppliers, encouraging them to be more environmentally friendly:


Dear Supplier

As you are no doubt aware, issues such as climate change, sustainability, and carbon trading are currently prominent in the media. As a result, the public has become increasingly aware of the necessity for industry and business to lessen their impact on the environment.

With this in mind, at glebepictureframes we are planning to minimise our carbon footprint through a number of measures soon to be detailed on our website. One of these measures will be to give preference, whenever possible, to suppliers who are making similar efforts to be more environmentally responsible.

We'd be grateful if you'd let us know what (if any) policies you have in place to reduce your company's impact on the environment. Policies you may be implementing or considering might include:

  • following the maxim: "reduce, re-use, recycle" for all materials purchased
  • offsetting fuel and other energy used in the course of business
  • obtaining power from a clean energy source (solar, greenpower, etc
  • the use of reusable or at least recyclable packaging
  • staff education to ensure employees understand the importance of these measures
  • ensuring the mouldings manufactured and distributed by your company are sourced from plantations or sustainably managed forests, and not rainforests.

If you haven't yet considered these matters, may we urge you to do so. The time may soon come when legislation will require all businesses to be more environmentally responsible, and those of us who plan for this now will be in a stronger position when that time comes, gain a marketing advantage over our competitors and, of course, help combat global warming.

Looking forward to your reply...

glebepictureframes