This keepsake, a family portrait, had previously been restored poorly. Originally there was damage due to a hard hit, as well as an unrelated hole near the center of the painting. The previous restorer cut the painting and wax-relined the picture, but due to humidity and other environmental factors the wax re-line delaminated and produced a number of large bubbles. We carefully removed the painting from the stretcher bar, and then from the reverse we gently used heat to loosen the wax re-line that we were eventually able to get in full by gently scraping as well as targeted chemical baths. Once it was gone we were then able to flatten the bubbled areas. The front surface was then cleaned and the portrait relined onto new linen, and then re-stretched using the original stretcher bar. After some in-painting and two coats of conservation varnish the portrait was placed in one of our custom whistler frames done in white gold.
The American Step frame is one of the more versatile framing options. It’s secret is a simple design that allows it to compliment a wide range of subjects. The first painting is of Aurel, France, a commune in southern France known for being a perched village architecturally highlighted by a 12th Century church and a 13th Century chateau. Olendorf (1924-1996), the artist, has captured the commune at a distance, above and beyond a bevy of violet flowers, and it’s the American Step frame that subtly guides the viewer’s eye “into” the work. You could say the frame “invites” the viewer into the complex flower brushwork and the distant buildings simultaneously that the eye is not quite sure of which to focus on first. But with the American Step frame guiding the eye into the work, both in time will receive the attention they are due. On the other end of the spectrum, the second painting, also by Olendorf, is of the more modern Chicago Mercantile Exchange. In it you’ll find buildings that are taller than the perspective in the painting, and this vertically is strengthened by the straight-standing trees. This painting gives off the feeling of “up and up,” the opportunity and optimism that cities are known for. What you don’t want is for the frame to block this sense of growth and expansion. The American Step frame is also capable of helping the artwork expand, or “have a life” beyond its dimensions. It does this with a soft, quiet border that allows the eye to easily pass beyond it. These are two great examples of how artwork and frames can work together.
An icon came in to the studio. We believe it be 200-300 years old, which is hinted at by its condition and the materials used, but so far it’s providing more questions than answers. What’s it’s origin? Who’s the figure? What’s written on the front, in the two flat hexagon shapes, and what language is it? The signature on the back, what exactly does it say? Is it authentic? The scratched letters on the back, what do you mean, and are they authentic? The overall style, much simpler than most icons, what can we learn from that?
Stay tuned as we research our way through this.
Special thanks to Kallie Walker Photography // kalliewalker.com
Born in China, but now a resident of the Netherlands, it’s no surprise the image of the flower has become the focus of Hong Yi Zhuang (1962-). His well known “flower beds” are made from delicately painted pieces of rice paper. Unfortunately, it was another type of paper, paperwork, that had an influence.
After sitting in customs for an extended period, in hot and humid conditions, the Styrofoam used in packing the work formed an imprint along the sides. Also, tiny balls of Styrofoam had made their way into the flowers.
Large oil on canvas, 52 1/4″ x 52,” by Chen was at great risk due to delamination. It was necessary to consolidate from the front and the back, using gentle heat and weights: a process that took several months. Contaminants from the paint surface were cleaned, and egg tempera was used to in-paint the areas of loss.
A cedar stretcher bar with cross braces was made, and the painting re-stretched.
Potawatomi rattle made of deer hide, beads, cotton, and pumpkin seeds, from the 1890s, came in with tears in a few places, as well as loose stitching. Besides mending the tears and redoing the stitching, we reconditioned the leather; and to display the rattle, made a custom stand.
The stand is made from mahogany with the display panel wrapped in suede. A custom decorative band was fitted along the arm, to compliment the style and craftsmanship of the rattle, with the woodwork. The beads to make the band were acquired at a Potawatomi pow-wow, and obtained in the authentic custom, by trading for them. When tribal elders were told of the purpose for the beads, they gave their consent and blessing.
18th Century Dutch Kast suffered from extensive warping, which caused a number of problems: cracked pieces, ill-fit doors, and broken veneer made with exotic wood. Due to the scale of the warping, the restoration had to be done piecemeal, and then carefully reassembled without compromising the function of the kast, especially its moving parts. With woodworking, this is often a tricky aspect.
American landscape painter, Christine Sullivan, is one of our favorite painters. For these seascapes we made modern interpretation of classic styles, ranging from Louis XVI’s to Dutch, to 17th Century, and an original Shamberg. All frames are white gold over yellow and black or purple clays.
We love working with living artists, and see it as an opportunity to both understand what the painter’s grappling with and what’s the best manner to formalize the presence of the work in the world. The frame helps define the space that the artist is attempting to create.