Congratulations! You are the proud owner of new, original artwork. You’ve made excellent choices, and these pieces are totally going to look spectacular in your home. But before you rip the bubblewrap off these suckers, I want to make sure that you are totally prepared to care for them. Artwork is delicate and should be treated kind of like your children (with love and care).
Have you ever watched National Treasure? Do you remember how Nicholas Cage set up a plastic-walled, dust-free environment in which he intended to examine the Declaration of Independence? Well that is kind of how I expect you to treat your new artwork. While I don’t expect you to set up a germ-free space in your home, the gloves will definitely come in handy. Otherwise, your new artwork might start to look a lot like the declaration a lot sooner than in 241 years.
Here is how you can care for your new artwork to keep their colours vibrant, their surfaces clean, and free from scratches, dents, and tears:
Canvases and Gallery Wraps
Store your canvases front to front and back to back. The staples and wires on the back can rip the image side of your artwork.
Don’t get them wet! The inks from your photo will peel right off the canvas! (Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.) If you absolutely have to clean your canvas use a soft cloth, and if you MUST use water be sure the cloth is just damp (nearly dry). Do not under any circumstances use any store-bought cleaning solutions, lemon, or vinegar.
Your canvas wraps will likely be delivered in plastic and/or bubblewrap. Leave them in the plastic until you are ready to hang them to keep dust from collecting and to reduce the chances of damage. Pick up your gallery wraps by the edges so that you do not poke holes in them or warp the inks or fabric.
Loose & Framed Prints
Never touch your prints with your fingers. Have you ever seen the finger prints you leave behind on a glossy print? The oils your fingers leave behind cannot be cleaned off and will damage your print. Pick up prints by the edges, wear gloves when handling them, and if you must clear off dust use a dry, soft cloth.
Store your prints flat and in a solid box to protect them from curling and folding. Large format photographic printers print on rolls of paper, and given the chance your prints will curl again. This is one reason why I recommend that you mount your photographs for framing. And of course, never fold your prints! (Why would you?)
Where possible, keep your photos out of direct sunlight, even when displaying them on the wall. This will protect them from turning that vintage yellow colour you see in your grandparents’ wedding album.
Avoid manually changing the photos in your frames too often. I’m an advocate for updating the artwork on your walls, but if you intend to regularly change the images in a frame be sure you have chosen a high quality frame, that your photographs are professionally mounted, and you should probably take them to a framer to be changed. Fiddling too much with your frames can loosen the backing and allow for your photos to curl and warp.
Albums & Books
Store your albums and books in a cool, dry place. Keeping them in their box will go a long way to keeping them clean and dust free. Do not stack your albums under other heavy objects as that can cause even hard covers and thick pages to bend.
Avoid touching your album pages directly with your fingers. The oils from your fingers will transfer to the page and will damage them (just like a loose print). Turn the pages by the edge of each page.
You should enjoy your album regularly. The only caveat to this is that albums are delicate and the more use they get the closer they get to ripping along the spine. Sh*t happens! Be careful flipping through the pages, don’t fling the book open too hastily, and don’t slam it shut or throw it on your coffee table (or at another human being for any reason). You should also chat with your photographer about her replacement policy. Some (not all) will replace damaged albums within a reasonable amount of time. Be sure to thoroughly inspect your album closely on delivery as well.
If I got you a little worked up with my National Treasure reference, I apologize. As you can see it’s actually reasonably easy to care for your new artwork. And there are just a few instances in which you will absolutely want to work with a professional. For those times, speak with your photographer. I, for example, work with professional printers and framers whom I can recommend to repair, clean, and update your artwork.
Otherwise, enjoy your new artwork! You’re now pretty well equipped to keep it looking fabulous for years.