Something that’s often overlooked with photography is the mounting and framing process, so we turned to our favorite expert for insight into the process and what it takes to get it right. Michelle is the founder and owner of Hope & Feathers Framing in Amherst, MA and our go-to framer in the Pioneer Valley!
How did you get into framing? When I was fifteen I apprenticed at a small shop. I worked after school and weekends for a woman who knew a great deal about framing. In my opinion, working for someone as an apprentice is the best way to learn this trade.
What’s the hardest part of framing? It can be challenging sometimes to help customers navigate the balance between what is best long term for a piece of artwork and what may be most affordable or most desirable in terms of aesthetic. We consider conservation and preservation of what we frame the first goal, but that does not always align with the customers intentions with the work. Luckily we have a line of high quality in stock frames that are affordable and we have crafted many economical ways to provide conservation level framing at the most affordable prices.
How do you select your materials? After 25 years in the framing industry I have worked with the majority of suppliers and distributors . I’ve developed a no tolerance policy for materials that fall short of our pretty high quality expectations. We also attend annual trade shows that educate us on new materials and best practices. Right now we are looking for a source to start milling and mitering reclaimed wood. Currently we have vendors that supply this but not from local projects. Ideally we would like to provide the history and origin of the wood and have that be a local story. I would love to pair a fantastic landscape photo with a weathered grey barn board from a local barn.
Do you have a general rule or guideline for what framing materials work well with different types of art? There are many many guidelines for how to frame everything from works on paper to fabric and sculpture. That is why it is best to work with an experienced framer. It takes years to develop the knowledge and familiarity with many different types of artwork and the specific needs of each.
When does it make sense to spring for non-reflective glass? There are a few different types of glass that would be considered non-reflective. The older etched non-reflective glass can negatively affect the overall appearance and clarity of the image it is in front of. Generally we only recommend this glass for large bold images that have a dark background, for example a movie poster. Museum glass and acrylic are the superior versions of non reflective glass. It offers U.V. light filtering as well as anti glare properties that do not dull the image. However, it’s not cheap. For the general customer, it makes sense to invest in the longevity and clarity museum glass can provide. For a photographer or artist hoping to frame a series of work for sale, it is hard to re coup the cost of museum glass. In that situation, I recommend that one or two pieces be framed with museum glass as an example of what is ideal and the rest of the images have standard conservation grade glass or acrylic.
You guys hang a lot of pieces – what do you recommend to people hanging framed art that has regular glass to avoid glare issues? There is no way to avoid glare if there are windows directly across from glazed art work. Some images, those with dark backgrounds will cause more glare. Try to plan for that when laying out a show or deciding where work might hang in your home.
What do you feel is the number one thing people miss or don’t think about when having something framed? If we do our jobs correctly we cover all the bases. It is silly but often folks come in with rolled up posters of canvas and then when they pick it up they are surprised with how large the work has become with a frame on it. We have had to deliver many many pieces that did not fit in the customers vehicle once it was framed up. In terms of working with photographers and artists, I really encourage them to consider working in a few consistent sizes. This will allow you to switch work in and out of frames. Keep it as simple as possible. Its rare that an artist sells out a whole body of framed work. If framing costs are an issue, it can really help to recycle frames from one show to the next.
What’s your favorite part of framing? Hands down, my favorite part of framing is working with customers. Its always a challenge to select a frame that works for a piece of art and inspires the customer to truly appreciate how the frame can enhance and preserve their work.
What’s your favorite/most memorable/most unusual thing you’ve been asked to frame? The Pioneer Valley is filled with unique and eccentric artists and collectors who provide us with a pretty diverse list of things to frame. I really love working with people on shadowbox projects. Generally, there is a beautiful story to be told and the English major in me loves being able to help bring that story to life in a frame.
If you’re in Amherst, you can visit Michelle and her team at 319 Main Street across from the Emily Dickinson Museum! They do a great job with local shows at the gallery, so even if you don’t have framing needs it’s worth peeking in to check out what they’ve got up on the walls.