Welcome to our July/August Framer's Corner, where we explore 6 vintage firefighter illustrations, designed and framed by
Charlie Bolte.
Last December, one of our regular customers, Wendy Garner, brought in a set of six vintage firefighting illustrations, with intricate details on a weathered background. We all agreed that the images felt as if they had an industrial, almost science fiction element to them, but with a historical setting, making us all think that we should stick to a “steampunk” theme for our design strategy. 

Sometimes it happens like that. An art piece arrives at the design counter and everything clicks in your mind as a designer. You remember mats or frames that you know will be the perfect match to enhance the overall presentation of the artwork, which is our overall goal as designers. Take an image, and make it better, not distract from it. 

In this case, Charlie turned and grabbed a frame that fit the design theme perfectly. The wood is covered in a distressed faux metal material complete with rivets and a texture that is rough to the touch. The frame comes in multiple colors, but we knew the dark charcoal tone would match the dark lines of the image to a tee.
As a designer, Charlie is a fan of finding elements in the background of a simplistic illustrated drawing and extending those elements with the top mat of his frame design. In the case of these images, he was looking for a weathered and vintage look to match the prints’ almost water stained appearance. We carry a wide variety of specialty mats that have this exact look in many texture styles and colors. Bainbridge’s Equestrian Brown mat immediately jumped to Charlie’s mind. The texture is bolder than our other specialty mats but would correspond with the backdrop of the illustrations sublimely. 
For the bottom mat, Charlie decided to show a 1/8-inch reveal of the bottom black mat, an Ebony 4-ply solid core mat. The narrow line would mimic the thin black lines used in the illustrations. Charlie chose to use the bevel cut of the mat in his design element as well. Because the mat was a solid core mat (black all the way through) the regular 45 degree cut used for the bevel would add an element of depth and dimension to the mat layers.

Because of the business of this collection, our team eventually decided to do a triple mat design. This not only helps to pick up different, yet important colors found in the image, but can help a busy top mat become subdue. Amy, the owner of Frame of Mind, expertly suggested a warm green mat called Fango to place in between the two as a third mat. Not only did this soften the mat design in a good way, but it helped enhance the vintage feel of the prints. Fango is a warm green color we often rely on when designing vintage photographs. It helps to enhance the fading element that happens to older photographs over time, making the black inks of the photograph develop a subtle green tint, the exact color of our Fango mat.
Wendy asked for TruVue Museum glass—our highest quality and clarity glazing—for the set of prints. This offered unrivaled sharpness for the fine lines and handwriting in the illustrations. Not only does this glass help to protect the image with a 99.9% UV filter, but the glass is also dipped in a special glaze to help keep clarity as it deflects light.
As Charlie was fitting the pieces together in time for Christmas, he was amazed at how well the design worked with the illustrations. As each image was completed, the pieces as individuals played off each other to create one full work of art.

The series quickly became one of Charlie's all-time favorite designs, not just because it looked so good, but because of how quickly it came together on the design counter. As we grow as designers, learning the skill to pick up on certain elements of a print or work of art is essential. With each design we do, we teach ourselves another way of looking at art. We remember over time what mats will enhance certain effects in a piece of art, or what frames will make the ideal accent for a piece. We store these ideas in the back of our mind like a mental design vault. By remembering designs that work, we are able to know the exact items to use in a design to make a customer’s piece come to life.
Stay tuned for more Framer's Corners!
1706 Brooks Street
Missoula, MT 59801