We are working toward minimizing negative environmental impact, and we’re making progress, especially by focusing on local sourcing and in recycling and repurposing.
In our shops we use significant amounts of wood, metals, paper products and acrylic sheet. Finishes are used to coat both wood and metal frames. How we source these materials and deal with waste is described below.
We use domestic hardwoods, primarily Northeastern maple and poplar, to make most of our frames. But in order to use a resource that is closer to home, several years ago we purchased a band-saw mill and have begun harvesting trees from the forty acre woodlot of mixed hardwoods on the Bark family farm in New York State--see the slide show at the bottom of the page. Before purchasing our mill, we had several walnut trees felled, milled and dried at local facilities and trucked to our shop in Long Island City. Most of that wood has now been turned into frames.
Van Gogh’s "The Night Café", 1888. The Yale University Art Gallery. We framed Van Gogh’s "The Night Café" in walnut that was milled from trees on the Bark farm.
Soon we will be able to perform all these processes on the farm. In 2010 we contracted with Megan Offner of New York Heartwoods and Dave Washburn, a sustainable forester, to guide us in following principles of regenerative forest management, which entails taking out only mature trees that are at the end of their healthy lives and thinning small diameter tree populations to promote healthier growth. The goal of sustainable forestry is to continually improve the health of the forest. After twenty five years we will have harvested enough timber for our use and the land will support many times the original board footage of the stand. The forest may be sustained like this for hundreds of years.
Megan and Dave recently hosted a day-long timber harvesting training program on our site, which will be repeated for local woodcutters to learn the best practices for felling timber.
So far, we have milled a few thousand board feet of ash and walnut, which is now air drying, and have started construction of a solar wood drying kiln.
Four quarter ash stacked and stickered for air drying.
We intend to produce our own moulding from these species as well as from cherry and white oak. We plan to experiment with milling some species that are rarely used for mouldings, such as mulberry, black locust and Osage orange.
By selecting, felling and milling our own trees we discover woods of exotic character that we would never encounter in lumber from a commercial mill. And by going direct from the woodlot to our frame shop there is an enormous savings in energy expended and pollution generated.
The only imported wood we routinely use is South American mahogany. After we asked our moulding mill to pursue purchasing from a sustainable source, they found that they could buy mahogany entirely from Forest Stewardship Council certified importers. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) supports and sets standards for sustainable forestry worldwide, and using FSC certified wood products is probably the best way to support sustainable forestry management of exotic timber
All our brass and aluminum scrap is recycled. We store the chemicals that patinate our metal frames and then have the used residue picked up by a Hazardous Waste handler.
Matboard and other paper products
We donate matboard and other paper material scrap, as well as old frames, to Materials for the Arts several times a year. Materials for the Arts is a program of the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. MFTA provides thousands of NYC’s arts and cultural organizations, public schools, and community arts programs with the supplies they need for their programs. The paper and cardboard waste that can’t be re-purposed we segregate for recycling.
We use acrylic sheet for most of our frames, since UV blocking acrylic is the most cost effective way to protect framed works of art from UV radiation. Regrettably, this same material is probably the most noxious waste source in our business. Since acrylic scrap that is dumped in landfills or in the ocean will take at least hundreds, probably thousands of years, to degrade, recycling acrylic scrap has been one of our goals. Most re-cycling companies handle only very large quantities of acrylic waste. But we have found one company that will handle a waste stream as small as ours. The acrylic they salvage is melted down and re-cast as acrylic products. But we may have found an even better solution: we recently started cutting acrylic scrap to standard sizes and donating it to Materials for the Arts. If they can use all we produce then we will have very little that needs recycling.
The finishes for our wood frames are waterborne finishes, and because of this, we have virtually eliminated the emissions of volatile organic compounds.
All the materials for packing products sold in our on-line store have been chosen to be easily recycled.
Finding uses for wood waste is a high priority. At this point we have found no good means of dealing with our relatively small quantities. We will continue to pursue it.