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Project Commentaries: Ashton Young creates a custom, Empire-style frame for Elspeth's oil painting of Charity Pratt
By Ashton R. Young
Corner detail of Empire-style frame Ashton created for an original oil painting of Charity Pratt by Elspeth Young The floral corner ornament, the beaded ornamentation surrounding the outer face of the frame, the cove and bevel, and the three levels of liners were all designed and created by hand for this particular frame. A stylized violet was chosen for the corner, since a small bouquet of violets sits beside Charity in the painting.
Most custom frames begin with a concept sketch, such as this drawing for the frame eventually created specifically for this painting. Note that the sketch includes a tentative concept for the profile (side view) of the moulding as well as a top view.
Ashton next created a clay sketch to further test the design and evaluate the structural feasibility of the overall concept. The 3-D sketch could be held up against the painting to judge whether the frame was too wide or narrow.
Final sculpting of frame elements was executed by creating positives of the ornamentation, creating silicone molds from the positives, and then using the molds to fabricate enough of each design element to make the entire frame. Some elements were executed in plaster; others in compo, an 18th-century thermoplastic.
In the foreground of this photograph, molds are ready to be poured for large leaves that are part of the corner ornament.
Ornamental components were produced in quantity before they were assembled and affixed to the frame.
Assembly of the frame addresses structural soundness and durability as well as the aesthetic quality of the whole. Once the ornamentation was installed, everything was painted with white primer. The frame was then gilded, antiqued, and sealed.