Saturday, 4 October 2014

Part 2: 1999-2005: Searching For Passe Partout

Finally restored in original passe partout tape, Great-Great Grandma's text.

So, there I was, with the glass to the passe partout frame encasing Great-Great Grandma's religious text broken, and passe partout picture framing tape no longer available in the shops.

I didn't really want to re-frame the text conventionally, I wanted it in the style Great-Great Grandma had had it, but what could I do?

I bought some book binding paper, in quite a similar style to the black stippled/pebbled leather-like effect of passe partout paper tape, cut some strips and used that with some modern glue. It looked fine, but the glue didn't stick as well as the old passe partout gum.

Still, beggars can't be choosers...

Meanwhile, now quite fascinated by the concept, I began some research into the history of passe partout paper picture framing tape.

It seems that passe partout tape picture framing was probably at its most popular from the early-to-mid 20th Century. It was the way to frame for those who didn't have much money, the tape was cheap as were the other materials, and it found its way on to the curriculum of many English schools. The tape could also be used to decorate and stengthen other objects - and even for interior decorating!

It wasn't just poorer folk that liked to passe partout. It was considered a charming and craftly pursuit for the better heeled, too.

It was really from the 1960s onwards, as cheap, mass produced picture frames began to take a hold, that passe partout started to lose its hold on the affections of the working class picture framing public, its main buyers.

I was told that when Wiggins Teape bought the Samuel Jones company around 1989, the machine used to produce the tape was in such a poor state of repair, and sales so low, that production ceased and the last rolls of Samuel Jones passe partout tape were sold in the early 1990s.

Other companies, like Dennisons, also made passe partout tape, but I believe that Samuel Jones (with its distinctive Camberwell Butterfly motif on the packaging), was probably the last manufacturer in England.

I was a late convert to computers. Tim Berners-Lee had, of course, invented the World Wide Web in 1989 and it was up and running in the early 1990s, but I held out. I didn't need computers! What possible use could a computer be to me?

After I purchased one in late 1999, I soon found out. I discovered a plentiful supply of vintage, sealed passe partout on internet auction sites.


And was finally able to restore Great-Great Grandma's text to the way it should be.

And it hangs in my living room to this day.

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