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Irving Harper: Paper Sculpture

What an incredible piece this is! At Foursided we can't always acquire the background, history and artist information for the art we frame. This time there is a wealth of resources available. Our astute clients acquired this intricate paper sculpture at a Wright Auction for Irving Harper's sculptures in Chicago in January 2016 where it stood out amongst many stunning works.

Harper was a designer and artist who created some of the most iconic forms of American mid-century design. He is best known for the 1949 Atomic Ball Clock, the Herman Miller logo, and the 1956 Marshmallow Sofa in addition to these now classic paper sculptures. Harper never sold the sculptures himself, but displayed them in his home and made them solely for his own pleasure. This particular piece is made entirely with construction paper, Elmers glue and colorful tape. The sculpture was housed in a worn acrylic case when it came to Foursided for framing.

Relocating the delicate structure to a custom frame helps to increase its longevity especially as acid free materials were not used in its construction. We choose a charcoal gray shadowbox frame and this time made the walls to match the frame itself instead of the paper backing on the piece. This creates a more dramatic, set-back shadowbox environment with a contemporary vibe. You can see the full original auction catalog here or check out more of these incredible paper sculptures in Michael Maharam's book: Irving Harper: Works in Paper.

*First interior image from pufikhomes.com

Ready or Not?

Word on the street is that those outside of the custom framing secret society aren’t always sure of the benefits of custom over readymade frames. Ready made frames off the shelf are very different than custom, hence the difference in value! Today's blog provides considerations to help you choose between a custom frame or a pre-manufactured ready made frame. 

Quality of Materials: This is the big whammy when it comes to ready-made frames. The body of a standard readymade frame from a big box store is typically made from plastic, a wood composite (a mixture of wood fiber, plastic, and some type of binding agent), or thin aluminum. The “glass” on these pieces is usually a less than sturdy thin piece of acrylic or basic glass. Frames vary from store to store, but these frames are not made to preserve artwork for the long-term. It’s similar to the difference between buying a wedding dress off the rack versus having one made to fit you. 

Frame Longevity and Environmental Impact: Because of the difference in the quality of materials, the lifespan of a ready-made frame is much shorter than a custom made frame. A ready made frame nicks, scratches, and dents more easily and make their way to the trash more quickly, nor do they break down into the environment quickly. Readymade frames can start to warp and bow more quickly under the weight of glass on the wall. The small plastic parts that hold the frame together aren’t made for repeated uses. Also the acrylic “glass” scratches very easily with cleaning and will quickly show wear. Custom frames are made for the specific piece and fitted in a more finished method, not intended to be changed out or opened up without the assistance of a trained professional.

Art Preservation: These first two points culminate in the most important: preserving your artwork! Standard readymade frames are not sealed the way custom pieces are so they are not protected from built-up moisture which can damage the piece over time. Also the materials are not acid free (a piece of cardboard behind your piece can slowly change the colors and give it a mat burn from contact with an acidic backing). Acid free means the piece can sit on the backing without that risk. There are additional optional elements to further protect the piece like glass with a UV protective coating, or spacers which keep the glass from sitting directly on top of a piece causing the image to eventually transfer. A custom frame made of actual wood or steel has the strength to hold the glass for an extended time without warping or becoming damaged. 

Design and Selection: Custom framing runs the gamut of possibilities when it comes to design. Suddenly it becomes possible to frame anything, no matter the size or material. Custom frame finishes can be ordered straight from Italy or even locally--the choices of color and finish are endless. Every color of mat or frame is available with fun finishes like linen, leather and suede. Readymade frames are limited by mass production to more generic finishes with more general appeal. Your piece can be designed from the ground up and completely tailored for the aesthetic needs of the artwork and your home setting. 

Check out previous posts on the Foursided blog for examples of awesome, unique framing we’ve put together. From beer cans to wedding dresses we’ve done and seen it all. Care to challenge us to something unique you need framed?  Don't hesitate to reach out to us with your framing questions! 

Mad About Framing

Here's another fun one! It's rare Foursided gets to highlight a piece with bold color choices! Black, white and gray frames are definitive fan favorites because of their flexibility decor-wise. This piece is the exception!

We went all out designing this piece. Our customer had a full, vintage MAD magazine that he wanted to frame whole (rather than razoring off the cover and mounting it flat). We used our tried and true museum mount methods to attach the magazine without permanent adhesion. 

A brilliant yellow mat pops behind the piece and a bright orange frame is the perfect color match! Naturally orange and blue look swell one-on-one.

This is the kind of options you have when going custom! Not only is the magazine now encased behind glass and protected from the elements and sun damage, it has the perfect frame to complement it. Score!