About this class

Introduction to the selling specifics of framing, indicating the client and their demands. Sharing personal experiences about the first considerations in sales and customer service.

Video transcript

When customers bring items of significant value in for custom framing, special features may be recommended. This session is about preservation framing, which requires advanced framing knowledge and skills. Special techniques are involved in promoting and selling preservation framing, too. Our topics today include an overview of preservation framing principles, the differences between preservation and conservation, techniques to promote and sell preservation framing , and a preservation checklist.

Differences and specifics

In ordinary custom framing, the quality of presentation and workmanship may be most important.  These attributes are equally important in preservation framing, but other priorities also are involved.

The purpose of preservation framing is to maintain the present condition of the item and protect it against harm from outside of the frame, as well as from within.  A brief statement can promote a clear understanding of the need for preservation framing. For example: “Every valuable item keeps its best value while it is in pristine condition. Anything that happens to change its condition reduces its value.”

Every framing component either adds to or subtracts from the frame’s ability to protect the item within.  Ordinary framing methods and materials can cause permanent damage. Preservation framing involves the best materials and methods to protect against anticipated hazards and agents of change, such as light, temperature changes, chemical reactions, and mechanical damage. Also, the attachment provisions need to be minimally-invasive, mechanically secure, and reversible without the need of invasive chemicals or procedures.

Finally, preservation framing creates a safe micro-climate for the item, and the materials within the tightly-closed environment of preservation framing should be chemically inert, non-reactive, and long-term stable. 

The terms preservation and conservation are often used interchangeably, but their meanings are different. Preservation keeps an item in its present condition, as much as possible. When display in a frame is involved, that calls for preservation framing, which may be successfully achieved by specially-trained custom framers, who are familiar with the needs of various items, as well as the features and benefits of protective framing components.  

On the other hand, conservation refers to the work of improving an item’s condition, and it might have nothing to do with framing.  Conservation could involve complex treatments, potentially-harmful chemicals and mechanical alterations.  Usually, conservation work is done by highly trained and qualified conservators, such as chemists, biologists, or other scientists. When conservation treatment is appropriate, it should be done prior to the preservation framing, so preservation framers often develop business relationships with cooperative, qualified conservators.

Clients and their demands

Consumers may not understand that ordinary framing would not prevent deterioration and could involve harmful components. They probably would not understand how preservation framing could help to prevent harm and protect against many hazards, both internal and external. So, customers would be unlikely to request the better-quality materials and more-sophisticated methods involved in preservation framing. However, for an item of significant value – whether it’s monetary or personal value – preservation framers are prepared to inform them by recommending and explaining appropriate framing features.

The preservation framing design process can be divided into two distinct categories: presentation and preservation.  Presentation is about appearance, including choices of style, color, and decorative features. These are matters of personal preference, where customers rightfully have the higher authority.

Preservation involves the technical features, such as buffered cotton or alpha-cellulose matboards with colors from pigments instead of dyes; 97% or better UV-filtering glass or acrylic, minimally-invasive attachment techniques, and special provisions in fitting and finishing.  Customers cannot be expected to know anything about preservation, so in these technical matters, qualified preservation framers have the higher authority.

To sell preservation framing, focus attention on the need to preserve the item. Discuss its unique needs and explain the benefits of each preservation feature you recommend. Support your recommendations and bring credibility to your explanations by using published information, visual aids and examples.

Customers deserve to be informed about preservation framing for items of significant personal or monetary value. They might still choose to purchase ordinary framing, but at least a preservation framer can help them make informed decisions.

Things to consider when selling preservation framing

As you can see, preservation framing involves special knowledge and skills, not only in the technical aspects of the methods and materials, but also in the promotion, sales, and design of preservation framing.  So, framers who embrace the specialty of preservation framing need to study books and articles, and attend classes on the subject. Some preservation framers are fortunate to find advanced framers or perhaps cooperative conservators to mentor them. In any case, a custom framer who develops a credible reputation for professional preservation framing can build customer loyalty and rightfully earn extra profits.

The design process for preservation framing generally requires more conversation to explain the better features and benefits, and we should not expect customers to just take our word for it. At the end of the process, customers need to “own the design”.  That is, customers who understand the exceptional value of preservation framing not only are more likely to buy it, but also more likely to appreciate it for the long-term. As a result, buyer’s remorse is seldom a problem. On the contrary, appreciative customers come back for more of the same and refer their friends.

Documentation is important for all custom framing projects, such as a Work Order providing details of the framing. Preservation framing might also call for a detailed Condition Report to document the condition of items to be preservation framed, especially if conservation work is also appropriate.

Preservation checklist 

Earlier I mentioned anticipated hazards.  Here’s a checklist of the ones most often encountered and brief descriptions of the preservation plans to deal with them:

Light –All light is destructive, so the preservation plan is to limit or slow its harmful effects. There is no perfect protection from the harm of light, except keeping the frame in darkness.  The usual recommendations are to limit light exposure as much as possible, and use 97% or better ultraviolet filtering glass.

Temperature – Changes of temperature cause cycles of expansion and contraction, which are harmful to fibrous materials, such as paper, fabric, wood, and leather. The preservation plan is to limit and slow the rate of changes inside the frame by using insulating backing boards and closing the frame package tightly.

Humidity – Extremes of moisture are harmful to most things framed, especially hygroscopic materials, which absorb moisture. High humidity inside the frame could bring on mold, mildew, and insects. Again, the preservation plan is to slow the rate of change, which is helped by providing plenty of air space inside the frame, insulating the contents as much as possible and fitting tightly.

Mechanical damage – Mechanical stresses, such as abrasion, impact, vibration, and rough handling can cause permanent damage. The preservation plan is to prevent or limit the damage by using special attachment provisions, such as break-away and travel-limiting mounts for paper, and padded contact points for objects. All artworks benefit from the use of glazing and rigid backing, including canvas paintings. For canvas, glazing and rigid backing work together to prevent surface damage, such as abrasion, and also to dampen vibration and impact.

Dirt & insects – Soiling or infestation would be harmful, especially for cellulose or organic items.  The preservation plan is to close the frame completely and use an insect-resistant backing, such as plastic or glass.  Also, clients need to be informed about the special hazards of storage and transit.

Benefits of offering preservation framing

Why should retail custom framers promote and sell preservation framing? Here are some reasons:

Distinguishes advanced framers from ordinary framers – An ordinary framer might just take the order. But throughout the design process, preservation framers set themselves apart by bringing attention to the need for preserving the item, and offering protective features in the framing design.  

Helps customers keep treasured heirlooms and personal valuables – Customers appreciate a framer’s sincere concern for the preserving – and not harming – their items of significant value.

Strengthens customer relationships – Offering better framing builds customer loyalty and stronger business relationships. The framer becomes a consultant, which is more important than just building frames.

Increase revenue – Preservation framing often involves premium quality framing products and more-sophisticated procedures, which rightfully cost more, but the added price represents extra protection and greater value in the framing. 

Increases profit – Greater expertise and framing value set the preservation framer apart from the rest. Since there is less competition, pressure to cut the price is reduced, so profitability can be improved. 

If the specialty of preservation framing appeals to you, take advantage of every learning opportunity. Our series on framing techniques provides more information on this, and it would be a good start.

Other videos in this sales and customer service series will include more specifics about the framing design conversation, and more details about setting up the customer gallery and showroom.  Also, we’ll describe ways to sell strategically and suggest how to deal with objections and difficult customers.  Thank you for your interest in our educational videos.

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James Miller

James Miller is not only framer but educator on a global scale. Miller specialise in preservation framing, which means that both technique and materials are in huge importance. 
Also being an author of two successful books on professional framing, Miller is one of the most acknowledged framing specialist around the world. Now he has teamed up with GroGlass to provide an online course to invite framers aim for excellence. 

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