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How healthy is your art?

Dirt, dust and animal remains in the back of a canvas

Dirt, dust and animal remains in the back of a canvas

 A lot of people think that once your piece of work is framed, especially to full conservation standards, there is no need to re-asses and see how it is travelling.  As with anything, prevention is better than cure. Conservation of your collection is an ongoing process and it is always wise to regularly check and undertake any maintenance as required. 

So much of the damage of artwork can be prevented. Take the damage caused to a canvas by not having a proper backing. For years it was thought that a canvas needed to “breathe”. Now it is understood that a backing actually regulates shifts in humidity and temperature and also protect a canvas from far worse nasties like dirt, insects and puncture.

This is why we are introducing our 6 Point Art Health Check.
Whether a work on paper,  oil on canvas, family photographs or prints, if the piece holds value to you bring it in and our highly skilled conservation trade qualified framers will carefully de-frame the piece, review the condition and provide you with a detailed report on the condition of the piece and can recommend the best course of action.

We will also provide a plan for a five year and ten year maintenance schedule so that you can keep appreciating your art for years to come.

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Just this quick and inexpensive check up may be the difference between life and death for your treasured memory.

Contact us today to book your art check up.



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Mosaic Crazy! An interview with Mosaic Artist - Alyson McGrath

Mosaics have been around since at least 800BC and are to be found all over the world. Originally made with pebbles, in Roman times, they came to be made from small chips of coloured marble, a natural, easy to cut stone, which was readily available in an array of beautiful colours. Mosaics were first only used as flooring, then as murals and eventually as monumental sculpture and picturesque wall pieces, such as the gorgeous example we framed for Brisbane Mosiac Artist, Alyson McGrath, recently

(check out the link to the video we made of her work, which went viral on social media)

Alyson kindly agreed to be interviewed for out blog. Learn more about her work and what inspires her.

Peacock Mosaic by Alyson McGrath, Framed by ARTIS PURA

Peacock Mosaic by Alyson McGrath, Framed by ARTIS PURA

Hi Alyson, Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your practice as a mosaic artist.

Can you tell me something about more about Mosaic as an art form?

 "It's  a great question as some would classify it more of a craft than an art. Mosaic draws inspiration from various arts - in particular painting with the reproduction of the visual form. As you've said Mosaic art has been around for centuries and mosaic is enjoying somewhat of a resurgence in the 21st century. Modern mosaic artists are exploring the textures and range of materials with many engaging in 3D design. I love the diversity of the art as it can range from the very formal, picturesque pieces to the total abstract incorporating so many different objects. "

Are there any mosaic artists who particularly influence you?

 "I wouldn't say influence but I do love the works of Martin Cheek, Solange Pfeiffer and our own Marian Shapiro. Martin Cheek uses a lot of glass fusion in his work and I love the way Solange Pfeiffer can render such amazing expressive pieces through her unique approach to cutting and placement. "

Can you tell me a little about why you were initially drawn to this medium?

"I have always been creative and artistic. The funny thing was I was drawn to this medium as a type of therapy. My sister and brother in law bought me a mosaic kit in my mid 30's and I loved smashing the tiles and creating a new art form. The combination of the physicality of the art and the seemingly limitless applications makes it a really attractive artform. It has become my 'go to Therapy' when I'm feeling stressed in other parts of life." 

How did you learn?

"I taught myself from purchasing a range of books and reading and researching the various techniques, tesserae (including glass, tile, ceramic tile, pebbles, smalti for example) and generally finding inspiration in the world around me.  I've joined several online blogs and facebook pages and I find people are really willing to share their experiences. It is an artform that continues to develop and mosaic artists are always willing to learn from each other. I can draw and love the sense of movement one can achieve in mosaics so this adds to its wonder. "

From where do you draw your inspiration?

"I am inspired by structure - I love incorporating 3 dimensional components into my work. I can also be inspired by an object which may have been tossed aside (eg. an old hat) and how I might use it as a basis for a mosaic piece. I'm also inspired by different mosaic techniques - I have not yet completed a full pebble piece and this appeals to me - both in terms of the medium and how the tessarae would be laid.  Colour is also a great inspiration - I find myself looking at nature and sometimes reflecting on how a particular element might be translated into mosaic. "

Alyson McGrath

Alyson McGrath

What do you like most about it?

"I find it really soothing - I can lose myself for hours planning a piece or drawing and creating the mosaic. I also love sharing my passion with others."

Do you have a favourite piece you have made?

"I would have to say that "My Burb" continues to be my favourite piece - it was a real challenge and I feel I captured the feel of some of the older homes in my suburb. I also enjoyed using a range of textures in the piece - the final 'touch being the installation of a street light (which does turn on and off)."  

"My Burb" by Alyson McGrath

"My Burb" by Alyson McGrath

Do you have an ‘ultimate mosaic’ dream? Something you are dying to make, someday?

"I do - I have a goal to travel to Ravenna (in Italy) and learn from one of the Master Mosaic artists there. "

Do you see framing mosaics as important? Have you always framed your work?

 "I haven't always framed my work but I do think that framing adds that finishing touch to my work . The mosaic may not be very tidy around the edges and framing it gives it that polished complete look. I'm so happy I've decided to frame my latest pieces. I'm really looking forward to framing my Geisha as Erin has already had some great ideas."  

What do you think is important to consider when framing mosaics?

 "I think it's really important that the frame complements the piece - it has to be of similar style and not detract from the piece. Ideally you want the frame to complete the work not compete with the mosaic if that makes sense.  I have found that Erin works so well with the piece that it is just seamless."

Artist and husband - Framing by ARTIS PURA

Artist and husband - Framing by ARTIS PURA

Can you tell me about the classes you run?

"I have run classes over the past few years - usually on demand when someone expresses an interest in learning. I generally hold 2 beginners workshops which introduce students to the basic technique of cutting and gives an overview of the types of substrates, tools and adhesives. I also have an informal group which meet and share ideas and thoughts while working on our mosaics in my back yard.  It's so relaxing and time just slips by." 

Do you enjoy teaching?

"I am a formally trained teacher so yes I do love sharing knowledge - especially when others are as passionate about the subject."  

How many students do you have at one time?

"I find 6 - 8 is the best size - any larger and you aren't able to devote enough time to each students." 

How many lessons do they take and how much do they cost?

"Lessons are 2 X 2 hours and cost $160 (which includes the materials you use to create your own mosaic)."

Do you have a website or a link you can share?

"My website is mosaicrazy - - if people are interested in getting a group together, just contact me via my website.

You can also follow Alyson on Facebook

Many thanks for your time and for sharing your story with us.



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Get it off Death Row! Bad framing – what NOT to do!

You wouldn’t believe some of the things we see here at ARTIS PURA, Behind the scenes and behind the glass….I mean, would you appreciate someone using your favourite painting as a toilet? No, probably not, but this is inevitable if you don’t invest in backing for your stretched canvases. Without these seemingly small details and finishes then someone or rather some thing might just take advantage of the quiet, dark, private space behind your precious painting. Don't believe me, here is an example of a recently rescued painting, BEFORE we cleaned the cockroach poo away.

An example of cockroach excrement in the back recess of a stretched painting on canvas. 

An example of cockroach excrement in the back recess of a stretched painting on canvas. 

Backing for canvases are very affordable and often overlooked.  Something as simple as matte board, foam core or even paper will protect your paintings from poop, dust, insects or anything else taking up residence.

The other nightmare we see often when re framing and opening up framing packages done elsewhere is incorrect mounting techniques and materials. This is one of the most important parts of a framing package. It is what will either protect or perish an item. We see horrors such as sticky tape, masking tape, packing tape, gaffa tape, glue…double sided tape (we’ve seen it all!) That is just the mounting. Then there is the acidic materials like, MDF and everyday cardboard. It is so important to use products that are designed specifically for framing works on paper. 

The way works are mounted behind the matting matters. Mat boards and backings are there for support and to protect the artwork, keeping it away from the glass in front and protecting it from behind. Works on paper should not ever be directly adhered or stuck down permanently to these supports. Pressure mounted tape can be removed but can leave a slight ‘furriness’ to the paper or a residue. Japanese hinging is the highest standard, using pure wheat starch paste and Japanese mulberry papers and rice papers. (see last months interview with a conservator for more on these techniques) Wheat starch is a binder used in the making of paper itself and doesn’t change its PH over time. Our wheat starch paste is sourced through a paper conservator for its purity and high quality conservation standards.

Applying wheat starch to a Japanese paper hinge. 

Applying wheat starch to a Japanese paper hinge. 

In these images below you can see the damage done to works on paper by incorrectly mounted and hinged work using substandard materials and incorrect techniques. To repair this damage can be very costly and sometimes the damage is irreparable.

The other fatal error we often see is UGLY framing. Something we try desperately to avoid. Fashions and tastes do change over time, however, and what was once considered the cutting edge of design can come to look tired and dated. A new frame can give an artwork an instant makeover and a new lease on life. Here are a few before and after pictures.


Got something that is  looking tired, dated or just plain ugly on your wall? Bring it in for an obligation free design consultation and see if we can ‘pimp your art’ 2017 style.




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Hasn't the weather been strange!

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Hasn’t the weather been strange!

Hot and dry one moment and humid and raining for days the next. It’s been hard to know what’s coming next!
“What has that got to do with framing?” you ask.

Extreme changes in weather, especially humidity levels, can have a dramatic effect on art and other framed items. Over the last month or so we have had quite a few clients come to us with concerns about changes they have noticed in their artworks, even some that have hung for 20 year with no issues. This is an ongoing issue in towns further north but we are seeing an increase in these issues here in Brisbane as the weather becomes more erratic.

Paper and canvas are highly susceptible to changes in humidity and the environment can easily win out against the highest levels of conservation framing in a normal home environment. It is generally not feasible to create a climate controlled space like they can in museums so addressing these issues quickly is key in the ongoing process of conservation.

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This painting was placed outside on display in 85% humidity. The humidity warped the canvas to the point of snapping the rebate of the inner frame.


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Humidity (moisture) build up on the inside of the frame has caused an abundance of mould growth.


Notice that both the matting and the print have rippled due to excessive humidity and ( in my and the paper conservator I work with belief) actual moisture into the frame.

We suggest it is always good practice to get up close and personal with your artwork (and other framed treasures) to be on top of any changes.

Signs to look for include
-Condensation on the inside of the glass
-Rippling of paper
-Movement in the matting
-Staining or brown spots on the matting or artwork
-Tape lifting
-Discolouration of any kind

Did you know that approximately 90% of the restoration work that comes to us is a direct result of poor framing techniques and materials? The above tips may also indicate that the framing is doing more harm than good. Combine that with frequent fluctuations in weather and rapid deterioration is inevitable.

ARTIS PURA are committed to helping you conserve your treasured pieces and are offering, for the months of APRIL AND MAY, a free conservation consultation of any works that are of concern to you. So get up close and personal with you art today and if you have any concerns make an appointment to pop in and see us.

Do you know someone who values art and conservation of treasured memories. Forward this email to them today. Our offer is open to all!

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