One of our friends sent us this great New Yorker article about something we use every day in our framing studio: compo! Compo is the doughy moldable material we use to produce some of the intricate raised designs and patterns on our carved frames. Its soft and pliable when first mixed but becomes super hard when left to dry. Like the American Wood Column Corp. mentioned in the article, we can select from thousands of molds in APF Munn’s inventory to create the intricate designs of flowers, leaves, shells, beads and rope needed to create a certain design which, after being gilded, have the same rigid qualities as the wood they mimic.
Compo (short for composition ornament) has been used in picture framing since the Baroque period but was initially developed as a substitute for carved interior ornaments in the 18thcentury. It’s usually made from a recipe of sawdust, whiting and glue, which is the adhesive used to mount the final molded piece to a surface. Once in the mold, the mixture is “cooked” in a small oven to remove most of its moisture. Small ornaments for frame corners are sometimes even called “cookies” because of their toasted color and freshly baked appearance but they are strictly not for eating! While the compo is still warm it is curved or depressed around frame corners or panel where it adheres and hardened to the frame surface that can then be sanded and gessoed to match the rest of its wooden parts.
So happy to see some of our traditional and time tested materials get some press!