Object Framing: Display and Protect Your 3D Keepsakes and Art Objects

When people think of “framing” for art pieces, they usually think of two-dimensional media like photographs, oil paintings, and watercolors. But framing isn’t limited to two dimensions. There are also ways to display three dimensional pieces while keeping them protected from dust, moisture, and other damage.

Framing — which can consist of either shadow boxes, or cubical acrylic cases like you’d see around a sculpture or artifact in a museum — is especially beneficial for objects that are delicate due to age or the materials they’re made from. But it’s a good idea for newer or more robust objects as well. You’d be surprised how susceptible objects can be to general environmental factors like humidity, or even abrasion from dust buildup.

What Kind of Objects Do People Frame?

We’ve had clients request custom acrylic boxes or shadowboxes for all kinds of things, including antiques, objets d’art, and personal memorabilia. Some of the most common examples include:

  • Three dimensional sculptures
  • Medals
  • Trophies
  • Seashells and other found objects
  • Sports shirts
  • Autographed baseballs and similar objects
  • Children’s crafts
  • Preserved wedding bouquets
  • Newborn memorabilia like hospital wristbands, swaddling, and booties

You can get pretty creative with three-dimensional object framing. For the most part, there are two main options: shadowboxes and acrylic cases. The right fit for a particular piece can depend on its dimensions and shape.

Shadowboxes: 2D meets 3D for Wall Art

A shadowbox is similar to a picture frame. It’s relatively flattish in most cases, but does have a third dimension. Shadowboxes are a great choice for three-dimensional objects that are relatively flat overall.

They’re commonly used to showcase and protect sports shirts, medals, and similar memorabilia.

Some examples of objects that are a great fit for shadowbox framing include:

  • Flags
  • Military memorabilia, such as medals and other awards
  • Children’s arts and crafts projects that are relatively flat, but not entirely. (Think of projects where kids glue objects to a piece of paper, like macaroni art.)
  • Antique or ornamental maps
  • Chinese and Japanese fans
  • Kimonos and other antique or exotic garments displayed as art pieces
  • Collections of preserved insect specimens, like butterflies or interesting beetles
  • Antique weaponry, like firearms and swords
  • Sports balls
  • Event tickets from concerts or sports events, kept as memorabilia

The depth of a shadowbox can allow for aesthetically striking visual effects and arrangements, as well as layering combinations of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects together. Shadowboxes are surprisingly versatile, and there’s no definite limit to their sizing. They can be quite small, or large enough to fill the better part of a wall. That’s where custom shadowbox framing comes in.

Shadowbox Construction

Shadowboxes are put together similarly to a standard two-dimensional picture frame. The big difference is in their depth. Unlike a photo or painting frame, a shadowbox juts out from the wall on which it’s mounted. This depth could be anywhere from a few inches, to a couple of feet, depending on the size and dimensions of the shadowbox and its contents.

The frame itself is usually made from wood, although other materials like acrylic are occasionally used as well. They can be created in just about any color or finish you can think of, to complement the objects themselves or the decor of the room in which they’re displayed.

One of the biggest considerations with shadowbox framing is minimizing glare from the clear acrylic across the front of the box. Framers generally use “conservation grade” glazing, which is engineered to reflect less than one percent of the light that hits it. Two popular brands are UltraVue and Museum. These clear acrylics are essentially invisible, ensuring that the items inside are always visible and never obscured by glare.

Clear Acrylic Display Cases

Along with wall mounted shadowbox displays, another popular display and preservation method for three dimensional art is the clear display case. These are similar to what you see in many art museums.

Statues and sculptures come in many shapes and sizes, and in many cases, display cases for them are custom made to order. The cases may in some cases be mounted on top of a pedestal. The pedestal component needs to be visually appealing, yet understated enough that it does not compete for attention with the sculpture itself. The pedestals must also be tailored to the weight of the object, as well as its size.

For example, Rodin’s famous sculpture, The Thinker, is suprisingly compact at just 15.5” tall. However, it’s made from solid bronze, and as a result, it’s heavier than it might appear at first glance. So its display pedestal was built to support that weight.

When custom built, pedestals with acrylic cases atop them can be visually designed to appear delicate, even if they’re engineered to hold up the considerable weight of a solid stone or metal art piece. There’s a lot of leeway and room for creativity.

The acrylic cases themselves, usually cubical or in the shape of a rectangular prism, are made from the same museum grade low-glare clear acrylic as the front pieces of shadowbox displays.

Object Framing and Acrylic Display Cases

At Frame Set & Match, we work with clients to create beautiful, durable object framing solutions for even the most unusual three dimensional pieces. Contact us any time to find out more, or to get a consultation and quote.