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Art Handling-Avoiding damage to your framed pastels

Framing is one of the largest business expense for most professional artists. When you invest in good quality framing, you also need to invest protecting your frames in group shows, storing your framed works properly, and shipping framed work with glass correctly. Here's my experience both as an artist, and as a gallery director and exhibit organizer.

Frame choices-when framing pastels, make sure you are using a very high quality moulding and not a composite or plastic moulding you get from a hobby store or discount framer. These frames do not take the weight of glass, artwork and more. They will come apart at the corners and gaps will form. I use 3" thick wood moulding with a deep rabbet for the glass and spacers. I get my frames from which for me is a local framer.

Please read my previous blog on framing for frame tips, I wont go into detail here, but I don't use mats anymore. I've had to replace mats many times in the past because particulates of pastel fall off the surface and collect on the mat. Instead, I frame with museum glass directly on top of the painted Ampersand Pastelbord and sealed in place in a passe partout method you can read about here in Richard McKinely's blog:

If I'm not using museum glass, I will use spacers to keep the glass off the pastel surface. With museum glass, it is coated on one side and will diffuse the reflections as well as the painting if it isn't right up against it.

  • Museum glass is way more expensive than regular glass, but it's worth it. I learned this the hard way when one of my collectors had a painting reframed because of it. After that, I spring for museum glass for all my work.

When handling museum glass, I wear gloves, and don't touch the surface. I never clean museum glass, and carefully buff off any fingerprints or spots with a dry soft cloth. I never tape anything to the surface of the glass, and always make sure the shiny side of the glass is to the artwork, textured side is to the viewer.

  • Hangers on pastels should always be VERY sturdy and oversized. I use D-rings that are heavy duty, 35 lb single -screw rings for paintings under 8x10 and 100lb double-screw rings for anything bigger than 11x14. I also use braided picture-hanging wire and double it over for pieces larger than 18x24.

I had a large painting on display in a birthing center in NY many years ago in a space where pregnant women did yoga. The wire broke, and the painting crashed to the floor, scaring all the women-you don't want to scare a group of pregnant women! Lesson learned; always use heavy-duty wire and d rings, never use a saw-tooth or anything that may pull apart the frame.

I store unframed pastels wrapped in clear bags inside a bin with a lid on it.

Storing Framed Pastels requires a little forethought. I've lost entire bodies of work to basement floods and attic mold. It's important to think ahead about where you will be keeping your inventory of framed works. I keep very little inventory in my studio, and prefer to store the works unframed, wrapped and in a watertight bin. Right now, since I have a solo show next month, I have the works in inventory, so I keep all the frames in my studio space in storage bins neatly wrapped and stacked upright.

  • As soon as I finish framing a pastel, I wrap the corners in bubble wrap and stretch plastic wrap between the corners to protect the frame. Most of my frames come this way from Florida Frames. That way, if another frame is stacked on top of it, the moulding doesn't get scratched by the hanger.

  • I often go one step further and wrap the framed painting in a Clear Bag. That way if any moisture gets on it, it won't soak into the frame or art. Humid Florida weather can wreak havoc on works on paper.

This piece has bubblewrap and a clear bag

  • I carefully stack works upright in plastic storage bins, then cover them with a drape or put them in an enclosed space. This avoids kitty climbing into the box, or small lizards hitching a ride. The works should not be jostled, or in a place with great temperature changes. They should not touch the floor without something underneath to protect the frame.

These pieces are all being stored in a box safely in a climate controlled storage closet

  • If you don't have space to store framed pastels, hang them in your house. I hang all I can, even with the bubblewrap on them.

hanging on a wall in my house

Handling Framed Pastels in group shows or transport. The most heartbreaking thing for an artist is to get a work back from a group show with a scratch in the frame. This happens most often because works are handled by lots of people, most who are volunteers, and may not have been trained in how to handle framed works.

bag for transporting framed pastels
  • When transporting a framed pastel, I put the bubble-wrapped piece inside a cloth bag with handles to protect the frame. You can easily make or buy a bag like this.

  • I set the framed piece face up in the car and flat. Pastels should ALWAYS be transported face up, movement will dislodge particles of pastel that may fall on the glass or matting otherwise.

  • Never tape anything to the frame or the glass! When you turn in a painting, make sure your paperwork is taped to the back of the painting. If you notice volunteers are taking the paperwork and taping it elsewhere, mention to them that you use museum glass and it will be damaged by tape-or that gold leaf on framing will lift up with tape.

  • If you are hanging the show, lean the painting against a wall face up and set the paperwork next to it.

waiting to be hung on the wall

  • Try not to stack paintings. If they must be stacked, put large sheets of cardboard between each piece to protect the frames.

  • Leave the packaging in place until the painting is actually hung. Handle the painting by touching the packaging-bubble wrap, etc. Try to avoid touching the frame and NEVER touch the glass on a framed painting. Fingerprints happen immediately, and are hard to remove. If you do put your fingerprints on the glass, buff them off gently with a kleenex, don't use glass cleaner or paper towels as they can damage museum glass.

  • When you pick up your work, don't expect that it will have the wrapping back on it. Show organizers are too busy to save packaging and usually there is no storage. Bring your cloth bag, and any materials you need to safely transport your work home.

Airfloat box with framed painting inside

Shipping your work can be very expensive and may be easier to just drive the piece in person. I offer delivery and installation to my collectors because I travel quite a bit for workshops and am willing to drive a painting to a collector rather than take a chance on it being damaged by a commercial shipper. When I have to ship, this is what I do...

  • Have an Airfloat or ULine box made for the painting. This is a reusable shipping box that has protective foam on both sides, puncture proof sides, and foam edging around the artwork. They are expensive (I pay about $200/box for the large size paintings I ship like above) but they are reusable and will protect better than other shippers.

  • You can have UPS pack your work for you, and ship it insured. If you are ok with getting insurance money instead of the work, this is fine. If the work is being included in a show, you really need to invest in a dedicated shipping box above.

  • Airfloat also sells Glasskin which is a paper-based glass protector that wont damage museum glass, but will keep the glass in one piece if it breaks inside the shipping container. Most damage happens to pastels from shards of broken glass inside the box. Usually, you can salvage a painting by replacing the glass. But if the painting is ripped or gouged, it's a total loss.

  • Always, ALWAYS insure the painting for the cost of the artwork plus the shipping if possible. My paintings often max out the allowable insurance ($2k for UPS, $1K for FedEx) so be careful and conscious of this.

  • I did some research on shipping and asked several pastelists what shipping service they used. Much depend on your state. I've used UPS, FedEx and USPS, and all three have lost and damaged paintings. Since I insure the work and keep records, I usually file a claim. FedEx is very good with claims, UPS will give you static unless they packed the box themselves. USPS is good for small pieces but won't take the larger framed works I often need to send.

  • Send the work the quickest way you can afford. Recently I had to pay for a large piece to be shipped to IAPS 40th exhibit in Santa Fe, NM. This required paying for shipping there and back again. Next Day Air would be over $800, Three Day Air would be over $600 and Ground is $400. The size of the package is key here. If I had the money I would use Next Day Air as the package would be handled less, and in transit for less time so there would be less opportunity for disaster. Unfortunately, putting this painting in this show cost me more than flying to the show myself (I checked and the airline wouldn't let me bring that large of a painting into the cabin!) so I chose ground and insured it. I have my fingers and toes crossed. I am also preparing to replace the glass when I get there just in case.

I hope these tips are helpful for you, and will keep your paintings looking their best to show your work in it's best light. If you'd like to see my work, please visit my solo show next month. Consider this your personal invitation!

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1 Comment

Thanks so much for the invite…wish I could be there 👋🏻😍

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