習字; calligraphy

How to Display Japanese or Chinese Calligraphy for the Home, Office, or Dojo

... where the surface and nuance of paper and ink scintillates light

Perhaps through a gift, purchase, or inheritance, one is entrusted with a calligraphy, and in some cases it is already mounted. However, for the majority of calligraphies presented, purchased, or inherited, these may be in the original paper, rolled, or stored flat. The purpose of this article is to review a few mounting options for calligraphies for the purpose of presentation and exhibition according to experience working in and with dojos, businesses, and homes.

High value calligraphies may need special environmental controls and framing for humidity and atmospheric exchange; please consult an expert before continuing for such pieces.

Raw

Ai Ki Ken Shugyo I – Roy Æ Hodges (牙王); raw mounted and hung between a bamboo valence and bamboo weight by spring paper binder clips.

Raw mounting is gorgeous, in the right settings where the surface and nuance of paper and ink scintillates light. Calligraphy is displayed with minimal impact to its medium. The advantage is low cost in terms of presentation, preservation. yet will be exposed to touch, dust, and humidity. We recommend raw mounting for either short term exhibitions, rotating displays, and for maintaining natural atmospheres.

Framed

Earth Kami – Roy Æ Hodges (牙王); hot-press mounted and fixed to archival backing within a black velvet matte and a solid zebrawood finished frame. (Frame Central, Pike Street, Seattle, WA)

Framed mounting can be simple to the dramatic, and is found in homes, dojo, businesses, and museums. Framing helps to protect papers* and inks from touch, dust, and humidity**. We recommend framed mounting for many calligraphies for the preservation and artistic quality that frames and mats provide. These are the best options for higher traffic areas and provide looks that blend with any environment.

Traditional

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Traditional mounting is elegant, minimal or complex, and follows historical mounting on fabrics with silks for accents. This kind of mounting, preserves papers with special glues and fabrics, if applied properly with expert care and attention to detail. While materials are low cost, higher labor costs and time in mounting are to be expected. The papers and silks are also exposed, yet can be encased in glass.


Raw Mounting Instruction

Raw mounting is used with workshop productions here as our display rotates often as it preserves the materials and allows us to stack calligraphies for flat preservation.

Materials

To raw mount, we chose four paper binder clips, relatively straight thin diameter black bamboo sticks to serve as a valance (top) and weight (bottom), four small screws, two eye hooks, and thin wire or decorative thread.

Assembling the Binders

Four small pilot are planned for the bamboo valance and weight at equal and parallel distances from the center of the bamboo, from the edges of the calligraphy are marked. Pilot holes are drilled into the bamboo on the marks with a small diameter bit; take care to drill through one wall of the bamboo. this prevents cracking when driving screws.

Binder attachment to Raw Mount Bamboo Weight.

Prepare to vice the binder clips for the next part. Holes are drilled into the backs of the viced binder clips centered between the opening/closing handles and edges; be careful, the drill or binder may slip if not viced or held firm, take it slow. Mount the binder clips with screws onto the bamboo until firm, yet not too tight to cause cracking.

Assembling the Hanger

Two small pilot holes are planned for the hanger at equal and parallel distances from the center of the valance, about 6 to 12 inches apart. Mount the eye hooks into the pilot holes. Loosely leave a decent length of wire or thread for hanging at a preferred distance, and twist or tie the wire or thread onto the eye hooks.

Attaching the Calligraphy

Prepare to hang the calligraphy by rotating the binder clips parallel to the bamboo on both the valance and weight assembled. Hang the calligraphy carefully by opening the binding clips and inserting the paper; assistance is helpful yet not required with careful hands. Center the bamboo valance and the bamboo weight. The calligraphy is now ready for hanging; the binder clips will also float the calligraphy off the wall for less touch, light reflectance to back scatter light penetrating the papers and inks, and frame the calligraphy with a floating effect.

Experiment

Try various fabrics behind the calligraphy or a second valence and weight. Some fabrics experimented with are denims, prints, and even different materials. For an industrial look, try pipe, or industrial materials. Even a wall of moss can be attractive.


Framing Recommendations

When framing, several options are available from framers at a wide variety of price points, designs, and mounting options. Consult local frame shops to match budget, design, and preservation. Overall we prefer hot press mounted framed calligraphies in a variety of environments to preserve and accentuate the calligraphy with a variety of design aesthetics.

Light Anvil – Roy Æ Hodges (牙王); preparing for a hot press mount, black velvet matte
with a theme coordinated 14k gold plated hand carved frame. (Frame Central, Pike Street, Seattle, WA)

Hot Press Mounting

We prefer hot-press mounting fixed to a backing material, within a matted frame. We have tested solidly with specific Shu (Ripe) Xuan rice papers as we prefer the texture and iridescence of this paper under high CRI lighting. This needs to be experimented before application by a framer familiar with either bamboo or rice papers so as to preserve the texture of the paper while simultaneously preventing creases.

Static Mounting

This comes via Richard Webb of Bond Street Dojo, who mentioned some museums use “static mounting” whereby “static charge from UV Resistant OP3 Plexiglass… is preferred over glass if the calligraphy is ancient or valuable,” says Richard. Please consult a professional in such matters.

Magnetic Mounting

Another option mentioned by Richard Webb of Bond Street Dojo, is magnetic mounting, utilizing magnets to provide tension. This option has been seen in use at professional frame stores in the past, and it can work well. Please consider any reactance with mediums, and again, consult the framer for recommendations.

Ichi Go Ichi Eh – Roy Æ Hodges (牙王); floating mount in bamboo gold gilded frame in home’s tokanoma.
Ivan Menjivar & Janet W. Smith’s residence, Pennsylvania.

Floating Mounting

Float mounting is an option where the paper is floated with a lightweight backing and minimal fixative. This kind of presentation is good for exhibition while preserving the raw textures and inks for display. Papers can stretch or shrink with temperature and humidity, please consult the framer for recommendations.

Tape or Pressure Mounting

Plain mounting is used in a variety of scenarios where the calligraphy is mounted with tape or pressure clips to preserve the medium within the frame and a backing. Note that calligraphy papers stretch and shrink with humidity, and should be discussed with the framer.

Humidity Considerations

As stated with mounting options, consider humidity in the environment of display, and discuss this with a professional framer. Some frames, if unable to vent moisture or protect from it, in the local environment may mildew, mold, and damage the calligraphy.

Museum Glass or Plexi-Glass

Museum glass is UV filtering, and cuts down on glare. While expensive, it is highly recommended; it helps preserve calligraphy from degradation, increases contrast, and minimizes reflections for an impressive display that lasts for generations.

What’s Next?

We hope this provides some guidance on mounting, and will help on future projects. Calligraphies provide for authenticity, warmth, balance, and as signposts for life and death. Each and every calligraphy is unique, along with the calligrapher, and context the calligraphy was created, no two are ever the same.

If you need some assistance, drop a line, or, if you are looking to acquire something special, please consider commissioning or selecting from a variety of original contemporary calligraphies for acquisition by the artist on this very site.

Bardo III; Instructions – Roy Æ Hodges (牙王); Commissioned Series. Limited Availability.

Updates

February 15, 2021 – Added a mounting option from Richard Webb of Bond Street Dojo, NY.

1 comment on “How to Display Japanese or Chinese Calligraphy for the Home, Office, or Dojo

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