Fine Arts Seminar (Houghton College)

thinking critically and building community around art and design

Jenny Ritchie ~ Kathryn Stairs

Jenny Ritchie, wife of Charles Ritchie a phenomenal water-colorist, is a master in her profession of framing and conserving works of art. I attended both her lecture in the seminar class and her matting and framing workshop and am deeply appreciative of the knowledge and skills that she left with us.

She showed us how to size the mat board for a piece of art and how to attach the art to the board using archival materials. In my previous experience with finishing and presenting works of art, I had no idea what I was doing. I just tried to make sure that it didn’t look bad and that it would stay together for the entirety of the exhibition time. In light of what she demonstrated for us, I know that any future works I present will be safer and cleaner.

I’m glad she came up to Houghton and took the time to answer all of our questions and demonstrate what would otherwise be a very confusing process.

Willie Osterman

My initial reaction to Willie Osterman was that he is very reminiscent of Ansel Adams. So it didn’t fully surprise me when he said he had worked under Adams for some time.

I appreciate Osterman’s ode to the classic and antiquated style of photography. There’s something so beautiful and peaceful about his black and white photographs. He works in simplicity and acknowledges the beauty around him, constantly making it the subject of his work without having to do much manipulation to get the perfect composition.

My favorite part of his talk however would have to be the stories he told that corresponded with the portraits he took. Because of photography he was and is able to interact with so many interesting people from diverse backgrounds. His ability to make his subjects feel comfortable enough for him to take their picture speaks to Osterman’s disposition. What’s even more admirable is that even if he knew the person for twenty minutes, he seems to capture their heart and soul into the photograph making me feel like the subject is no stranger at all.

-Hattie Burgher


Jenny Ritchie

There were a lot of things that I learned from Jenny Ritchie.  First and foremost she is accomplished in framing and matting art work. Her step-by-step power point followed by a hands on demonstration were both incredibly informational and eye opening. I had no idea so much work went into the framing process. But more impressive than her framing abilities, was her attitude about the art work she considered herself privileged to work with. Whether it was a world-acclaimed piece of art or a piece made my a locally known artist, Jenny treated every piece when worked with exactly the same, using her craft to honor the pieces that the artists had trusted her with. Her job is essential to the presentation of the art work, but she consistently indicates that it is not her job to make the art look good. The art should bring attention to itself.  In her job of framing, she is very careful to understand that she is to present the art work without overwhelming it, a careful balance that takes careful attention and discernment. Jenny is accomplished in all of these areas which is what makes her so good at her job and so inspirational to the people she talks to.


Anna Maria Tricarico


Jenny Ritchie

This last weeks visiting artist was Jenny Ritchie who works for Washington’s National Gallery of Art. I loved getting to see her work and what she does despite the fact she’s not the traditional artist, in the sense that she doesn’t make art pieces like pervious visiting artists. She is a framer, or someone who makes frames and mat’s works that visit the gallery. A lot of these are very valuable and often priceless works, and in all honesty I’d be very nervous handling these works if I was her. She had a workshop earlier in the day to teach us some of her techniques but I was taking a test at that time and was unable to make it to the workshop which made me a little sad. I would have loved to have personally learned for such a skilled person especially someone who is trusted with such big and important paintings.

I have no experience in framing but her talk really helped to show the importance of framing and how it can finalize and complete a project that you’ve made. I still have to make frames for my senior seminars projects and just getting to talk to her has helped me to make moves to completing my works. Jenny was very patient with our questions and with explaining things to us and I enjoyed having her come into class. I hope we get to have more people come into our classes in upcoming years.

Jenny Ritchie

Last week’s visiting artist was Jenny Ritchie, who works in the National Gallery of Art.  There, she handles countless priceless works of art and is responsible to mat and frame them in such a way as to protect and display them as appealingly as possible.  She provided a demonstration for us both in class on Thursday and in a special workshop on Friday, both of which I attended and found extremely helpful.

As art majors, we spend most of our time learning how to make art, but displaying it properly is almost as important to our careers as the art itself.   Most of us previous to this class had had very little education in displaying our work, and learning how to use a mat cutter and how to attach our work to the mat and frame in such a way as to avoid damaging it proved more complicated than I would have expected.  The type and thickness of the adhesive plays an important role, as does the kind of glass in the frame, the style of the frame, the color and size of the mat board, and many other considerations.  Jenny was extremely patient with us and our questions, and I now feel far more confident in my ability to display my work.

Jenny Ritchie

For all that Jenny Ritchie doesn’t make art in the more traditional sense, the way she puts together the mats and protection for artwork is beautiful in its own right. I found it amazing that she could put everything together so quickly and with such simple tools. I found it very helpful that she did a demo on how to use a mat cutter on Friday so that we could see the full process of how a mat was put together. I had learned the basics of how a mat cutter worked in high school but had actually forgotten all about it after entering college, since matting was never talked about in the community college I was at before Houghton. I was surprised to find out that matting was a professional practice when it comes to presenting art but very glad to see that I still remembered the basics.

In the long run I think that what Jenny Ritchie discussed in class will be helpful to everyone, even if a number of us do not end up matting our art. For me one of the strongest impressions the discussion left behind was that other things happen to our art after we make it. Once the artwork is finished we can present it as we like, but once it is (hopefully) sold or given into the care of someone else they will be the ones who care for and preserve it. At that point it’s good to remember that there are other people who care about the works that artists make and do everything possible to make sure that the art is preserved for years to come.

-Marta Gowett

Framing for Museums: Jenny Ritchie

Last week in Fine Arts Seminar class we had the pleasure of hearing from Jenny Ritchie. Jenny works for the National Gallery of Art in Washington framing artwork so that each piece is safe and secure, but at the same time shown off in the best way possible.

During her talk, Jenny explained to us the correct way for framing pieces of artwork in museums. It’s a complicated process. Explaining this was not an easy task, especially since some people, like myself, have no experience what-so-ever with framing artwork. This is why I was so happy at the end of class when she physically went step by step in showing the processing of securing a piece of artwork in a frame right in front of us. Everything from the talk before hand made more sense when I was able to see the process right in front of me.

Before this talk I never thought of how important framing artwork in a museum really is. It’s not just as simple as buying a frame and sticking a picture inside it. There are so many factors to take into consideration like the thickness of the paste used to secure the hinges of the frame, making sure you don’t use to much paste, figuring out how much float space there should be, and so many more. Even though there is a lot to take in consideration and though it may be stressful, it is worth it when it all comes together  and the frame creates the perfect passage way from the world we are in to world that the piece of artwork has created. It is a difficult job that, to me, doesn’t get enough recognition and I tip my hat to Jenny and the great work she is doing at the National Gallery of Art.

-Katelyn Sylor




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