No. 2. Original Hand-Crafted Frames

Up to now, I’ve largely avoided “How to” posts in the nearly ten years I’ve been doing this blog.

As every artist knows, frames are a big expense. In my experience, most good commercially-available frames are easily damaged. I’ve been making my own frames from scratch for some time. I’m much happier with the results than the ones I’ve purchased.

A big part of my studio time is spent matting and framing both my own work and fabricating the frames Martha Ressler uses for her Art Quilts. This post is about how I make the frames for my larger photographs.

I manufacture frames with several different profiles. Though they are all pretty much variations on a theme, the profiles and materials depend on what they are used for. For my large photo frames, I use poplar wood stained ebony. I also use reclaimed barn wood for Martha’s frames and burned and brushed cedar for my small encaustics. In later posts, I will illustrate these variations as well as my finishing process.

I begin with 1 x 2 boards ripping them in a simple profile ideally suited for glazing and double-matted prints. I use a fine-cutting 80-tooth miter blade to cut the joints, resulting in a nearly perfect fit virtually every time. As you will see in the pictures below, I’ve devised a stop on my miter saw fashioned from a long pipe clamp that hardly gets used for its intended purpose. I decided to use that rather than purchasing a chop saw table with stops partly because for the expense and partly for space considerations. I’ve also developed a homemade clamping system fashioned from ratcheting hold-down straps, that works much better than commercially available clamping systems I’ve tried.

Jay M. Ressler

Jay Ressler Composite Photography and Encaustic Art He is an outstanding location photographer, with an eye that can capture the soul of a Havana back street as beautifully as the sip of a hungry hummingbird, often with compelling black and white images. But Jay Ressler is best known for artistic expression that lives in layers between opposites. “I like to explore boundaries,” he explains. “Boundaries between consciousness and the unconscious, between reality and imagination, between certainty and skepticism.” He does this by compositing his own photography in multiple layers to produce stunningly original, interleaved images. Using Photoshop, other image manipulation software and a variety of digital effects, he paints one photographic layer on top of another. He takes advantage of textures he's captured along with an array of processes for manipulating light, contrast, and color to tell the story. “Distorting and reinterpreting the literal 'machine moments' captured by the camera is as old as the art of photography,” he insists. Jay occasionally extends his multi-layered approach to encaustic mixed media creations. Based on ancient techniques, the process begins with cooking his own recipes of beeswax and damar resin and applying this medium between the layers of photographic images, along with various pigmented compounds and materials to add color, texture and expression. Either way, the results are riveting. The viewer is drawn into an unfolding, dreamlike scene that might be heart-warming, haunting, gritty, poignant or magical. Sometimes, within the various layers, all of the above. The award-winning photographer/artist has many dimensions himself. He studied advanced digital photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and advanced encaustic techniques with leading instructors in the field. He worked as an underground coal miner, steelworker, machinist, labor and civil rights activist, copywriter and commercial printer. He has a BS in Psychology from Albright College.

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