by Mingyan Bao
Every person has something that they put into a picture frame: photos, art, mirrors, etc. We like to display our best moments, good memories, and pretty things. The act of framing something is so common and trivial that we don’t put much thought into it other than whether it will look good.
The fact is that most picture frames are made of plastic, wood, or aluminum. The discount frames are usually some form of plastic finished to look like wood. Metal frames were common and popular when commodity prices were low, but they are less fashionable than they once were, and metal frames sourced from certified recycled metal are not yet available. Most framers carry a line of aluminum frames, though. Wood frames from a custom framing shop are usually made from solid, full-grain wood of one type or another.
So what is the “green framer” to do? A major part of the answer is to use wood harvested from sustainable and controlled forests. Leading vendors of picture frame moldings are getting PEFC and FSC certifications. PEFC, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, is a global program that traces the chain of custody for lumber products from living forest to finished products. FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council, is a world wide effort to promote responsible management of the world’s forests.
Some molding makers have discontinued using exotic woods such as purple heart, zebra wood, and teak due to the lack of cost-effective and sustainable sources of these woods. Instead, renewable American hardwoods are finished to mimic the exotic look.
As you can see from the pictures above, there is a variety of styles to select from. You don’t have to compromise your aesthetics for the sake of your ethics.
They are better than paper mats on several fronts. Cotton mats last decades longer than paper mats. They also put a waste product from the textile making process – a by-product of cotton refining called linters – to productive use. Because paper mats are made from wood pulp, they contain acids and lignin that will eventually cause the mat to discolor and fade. Some will even damage the art underneath. This is why museums and galleries use cotton mats for conservation purposes.
So the next time you buy a picture frame, keep in mind which materials you are really buying. Ask your framer to show you which of their frames are from sustainable sources.
About the Author
Mingyan Bao is the owner of The Great Frame Up, a custom picture framing shop located at the Promenade Shops at Centerra in Loveland, CO. The Great Frame Up is a locally owned full service framing shop offering free consultations and in-home quotes. They specialize in conservation framing and shadowboxes.
You can also upcycle old windows into picture frames, so stay tuned for an upcoming post with step-by-step guidance from Mingyan on this approach to DIY framing.