Part 3: Way Beyond Delirium

After all the mats are cut, and images placed, you need to sign each one.  This can be done with edition number on the left, title in the middle and name/year on the right, or with title on left and name/year on the right, or with just name on the right.  I hate it when I see the edition number in the middle.  It looks silly, and I don’t know any image in any major show or exhibit signed that way.  Pet peeve.

Anyways, when you are doing this you need to write it all in pencil–most ink will stain the mats yellow in a blob around the signature.  Even if you have archival ink, pencil is tradition.  You have to be consistant in size, and it is nice if people can actually read what you write.

  • Make sure your text isn’t too big on a small mat, or too small on a large one.  Once you’ve got it down, write away.  I also write this stuff in the extra border of my photo itself with archival ink, in case the image is removed from the frame.
I practice on one of my scrap boards first.
  • Your front mat is done. But you still have to deal with the back mat and the framing stuff.  So the next step would be to use archival hinges to press on your back mat.  The back mat is important because it keeps the photo itself from touching the back of the frame, which is usually particle board and has lots of acid in it that will destroy your photo over time. (this was not worth a photo)
  • Set aside your work very carefully.  Then get out your frame.  If its a local show, I just use the glass that comes with the frame.  If it’s out of town, you have to use plexiglass so it doesn’t break during shipping.  Since this is a local show, I unwrap the frame and look for damage.  A third of my frames had chipped glass, so those will go back to the store for replacements.  One more lovely trip!  After a mild hissy fit, bend back the staples and remove the particleboard backing, any cardboard and paper inserts.  Put the frame face down.  Take out the glass (carefully!  You don’t want blood on your work!)  Take proper hanging hooks and screw them into the sides of the frame–make sure each side is even, and make sure it’s a third down the frame on each side.  I start by pre-drilling small holes and then use a regular screwdriver to put everything in place–predrilling reduces the chance of a wood frame cracking.
After everything is done, this is what you should see. I angle mine up slightly (you’re seeing this on the table, not right-side-up)  because I use heavy weight mounts and each one is longer than the thickness of the frame. This way it fits and I can still get my work inside!
  • Once that’s done, put the glass back in and clean the inside of the glass.  Do NOT use paper towels–they will leave fuzz all over the glass, which will look like dust.  Which is your mortal enemy.
Before you do anything else, put scrap board under the frame–you will see chips and dust easier if it’s white underneath.
  • Also, don’t use windex.  It streaks, and you won’t see it until under gallery lights.  I swear, this tip is worth money.  (I take checks.)  Use regular white vinegar.  It’s the active cleaning ingredient in most commercial bottles, but without the stuff that makes glass streaky.  You can use a lenscloth to wipe with–no fuzz.
It’s stinky, but it does the job. It also adds moistness to chocolate cake, fyi.
  • After you clean the glass, then go a little o.c.d. and get off any extra dust (or pug hair) by using a speedball brayer.  Roll in one directions up the glass.  Each time you reach the top, roll the brayer on a sticky sheet to clear off the rubber.  I use a few strips of packing tape laid sticky side up.
This was an awesome tip I learned at my first real photo job. Thanks Kevin!
  • Now, very carefully, put your mat on the glass.  Make sure not to rub the sides of the frame, because paint can flake off and end up on your image or mat.  Grrr. Then put the backing on, replace the staples and take a look.  Notice one piece of dust in some annoying obvious place.  Take off staples, lift up mat and swipe it off with your finger.  Replace all parts, check again, find 3 more new black specks.  Repeat this process until you are actually cursing out loud, calling the inanimate glass dirty names.  Look up and realize it’s past three a.m and you still have 12 others to do.  Notice you are so distraught at the thought of this that you feel the flesh melting off your face.  Go to bed after washing the stinky vinegar off your fingers.
  • Finish the rest of your frames, then wrap each image with hanging wire.  (check bullet point 3 to see how it should be wrapped)  Make sure the wire does NOT touch the top of the frame, even when taut.  For small frames it should be around 2″ from the top, large frames around 5 or 7″.  After they are all done, your fingers will be scratched so wash them well with witchhazel.
I took a picture for posterity. Well, that and so I had proof that I was done. That way when I was wide awake the next night, I could look at it and try to argue with my traitorous body.

Make sure you stack your frames face to face, so the wire doesn’t scratch the glass of another frame.  I use the cardboard insert between each frame so it doesn’t scuff the paint.  To be safe, put copies of all the label info on the back of each frame with tape so they can be compared to what the gallery prints.  Decide to go to sleep, and stay up past 4 am again because your body has gotten used to that in the last two weeks.  While brushing your teeth for bed near sunrise, hope you don’t get sick from exhaustion.

  • Place a clean sheet or quilt in the car so you don’t get any dirt or dust on the frames. Stack the frames upright in the back seat with the cardboard barriers.  Use pillows to make sure frames don’t flop with your braking.  Get in the car.  Pray.
  • Assume you’ll be getting a ticket for that yellow light turning to red as you went through it because you didn’t want to get rear ended or slam on the breaks and ruin your work.  Hand off work to the gallery, getting some receipt/signature about the gallery insuring it during the show.  Decide you would like to sleep for a year, but go home and shower…because it’s monday morning and you’ve got school.

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