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Floating Art in a Custom Frame.

One of the most popular requests we get at our Englewood frame shop is for float mounting art inside of a frame.  What is a float mount? Float mounting in custom framing is when the art is mounted on top of a mat rather than behind a window cut into the mat board.  The results allow for the entirety of the art to be visible.  There is then the option of a direct float on the mat or a raised/pedestal float mount.  The raised float treats the art more like a 3 dimensional object and creates a drop shadow on the mat.

Collectors and artists like the look of floating art for a variety of reasons. A float mount has a contemporary look and can reveal more of the art than a traditional mat cut.  Occasionally, a signature or the art itself extends to the edge of the paper and floating is the only way to prevent it from being covered. As more printers and artists use watercolor paper with a deckled edge, it’s a great option to be able to see the edges. 

Float mounts can be tricky and if not done correctly they can fail and the art will fall inside the frame and possibly be damaged. Or, the art can be damaged by harsh adhesives or tapes and can be difficult to remove. 

There are numerous ways to go about float mounting a piece of art.  Zach had the pleasure of taking a mounting class from Hugh Phibbs, the former Coordinator of Preservation Services at the National Gallery of Art, and has used his techniques since.  

In the past, wheat and rice paste have been the choice for preservation float mounts.  The draw back for both is that they can  be metabolized by pests and mold, causing  damage to the art. Traditional pastes are also water soluble, which can cause buckling to show on the face of the art where a hinge is placed, if not done correctly.  We prefer to use a product called “Klucel G”. It has become our preferred mounting substance because it is a non-ionic adhesive, it dissolves in alcohol or water and is a thermoplastic.  To put it plainly, it is stronger, more flexible and makes the hinges nearly invisible. Yay Science!

The size of the art determines how many hinges are required to float mount a piece of art.  For these larger pieces, we used three at the top and one on each side toward the bottom in order to stabilize the art and prevent it from swinging and tearing the top hinges.

The client requested a direct float for this art.  We use a “pass through” method for direct floats.  In the photo you can see the slits in the mat for the hinges to pass through.  We prefer this method because it allows the the art to remain as flush to the matting as possible and reduces stress on the hinges.

The hinges are made of Mulberry paper attached to the back of the art with the Klucel G.  We slide the hinges through the cut openings in the matting and adjust the art until it is centered on the mat, then we adhere the hinges to the back of the mat using the Klucel G. The finished result is a clean and contemporary look with the entire artwork visible and flush to the matting.