by Brooks Ann
Recently, I got a call from one of our local retailers. She had a customer who needed a very special frame for a very special piece of art. Naturally, her first choice was to work with Frames by Edward Wright to create a completely custom frame.
The piece was a colorful Art Nouveau German Opera Poster from 1898 by Adolph Hohenstien which was approximately 9 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The customer liked our sample 5353 (with a tarnished sliver finish and our latium blue clay undercoat), but wanted a completely custom carve to complement the piece.
I was called in for a consultation to discuss the details of this unique order. When I arrived at our customer's shop, the huge piece took up almost their entire workroom! Due to the height restrictions of the room that the art will ultimately hang, the molding chosen could only be two and a half inches wide and the inside rabbet had to be cut deeper. We discussed the creation of a large asymmetrical Nouveau- inspired corner carve that would drape down the sides of the frame. After taking some photos, I truly became inspired by the beautiful piece and was excited to get started on the order.
I started researching Art Nouveau decorations, graphics and ornaments that had the same spirit as the piece itself as a starting point for the custom carve. I then cut the raw wood molding to size and began penciling, erasing, drawing, redrawing, and staring at the designs until I was satisfied with how it looked on the frame before carving. I usually carve frames by clamping it into a vice, but because this frame was so big, I clamped it to some tables and began to hand carve the custom design. After hours of hand chiseling, gouging and sanding, I finally had the frame carved enough to join the corners.
I joined the raw wood and added a buildup using the customer's custom dimensions. I created some custom braces to hold the frame in shape until the artwork and glass could be installed at our customer's shop. I carefully rounded each corner using a palm sander and finished the final details of the carve before the first coat of gesso was applied. I then continued our frame making process of gessoing, sanding, undercoating, water gilding the silver leaf, burnishing, tarnishing, antiquing, waxing and dusting this unique oversize frame.
The end result was stunning and a true collaboration between the customers and the artisan. For me, this was a 'dream order' that truly allowed me to create a 'work of art' to complement and house a work of art! The end-customer loved his custom frame and has since become a loyal customer of our retailer, customizing our frames for other works of art in his collection.