Designing a frame for Edward Steichen's 'The Victor'

Going to work at DDG Frameshop feels like to getting to go behind the scenes at a world class museum everyday. The day Edward Steichen's The Victor came in was no exception.  While our aesthetics at DGG often highlights the artwork by the frame's simplicity, sometimes a piece requires extra embellishment. Through an engagement with art history and a focus on the forms and tones within a piece, DDG Frameshop strives to design frames that uniquely compliment the artwork. 

Edward Steichen's Victor, courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery

Edward Steichen's Victor, courtesy of the Howard Greenberg Gallery

We have quite a library of books collected over the years, which together layout a timeline of framing's history. These references become great resources for us when heading to the drawing board.  When designing a frame, its often a fine line navigating between historical accuracy and re-contextualizing the piece within today's contemporary styles and interiors.

A design will go through several renditions before heading to the wood shop where we mill, join, and glue up the new profile.  Several factors come into consideration: What is the relationship between the scale of the frame with the elements in the artwork? How can the gesture of a piece be transformed into wood? Is there a time period we're trying to reference?

Once the profile shape has been determined, mat board colors and finishes are chosen. Given the date of the print, we chose to continue the Art Nouveau feel in the tones of our framing.  We color matched the photograph with our sumi ink finish and chose to showcase the deckled edge of the paper with a darker museum board background.

Once the design stage is complete, its off to the wood shop. The inside curve of the profile is milled on our router table.

Next, the milled length is laminated to our "Swan" profile. After glue is dry, the moulding is cut on our chopper. Using the dovetail tool, grooves are cut in the corners.

Ready for the glue up!

The dovetails are hammered into place and the frame is joined together.

After several grades of paper and several rounds of sanding, the frame is ready for stain. Our sumi ink finish is just what it says it is - sumi ink and water!

Stain is applied, sanded, and covered with a clear satin top coat. The last step in the wood shop is one final fine grit sanding and pumice stone. Now off to hinging and fitting!

The artwork is carefully measured into place and weighted to eliminate any shifting. The best method to hinge pieces of such value is using rice paper and wheat paste as the adhesive. Wheat paste is mixed in small batches with distilled water.

Using a paint brush and mylar "L's", the paste is precisely applied to the rice paper hinge. It is very important that the artwork is never glued down directly to the board.  Using rice paper in between the board and the piece allows for movement to occur safely as the paper naturally expands and contracts through different seasons.

Glazing (in this case Optium plexi) is cut and spacers are made.  Here you can see the spacers being secured into place. This allows for space in between the artwork and the glazing.

Next, the artwork is carefully cleaned using a static free brush. Dust is the enemy in this step! Once clear, the artwork is fit into place and the strainer is secured. Last step, hardware and wire make the artwork ready to hang.

And voilà!