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Leave That String Alone

June 8, 2012

Hey, remember when I won two bass strings used by Geddy Lee, in autographed packaging? Remember when they arrived last October? I finally got around to framing them. I know, I know — it took me long enough. We actually framed them about two months ago, but I’d been procrastinating on posting the pictures. But if Rush can release a brand-new album this coming Tuesday, yeah, I can find the time to post them.

So: why it took so long. As it turns out, there are four types of frames:

  • Cheap, extremely crappy frames (one to two digits’ worth of money).
  • Expensive and still extremely crappy frames (two digits).
  • Expensive and nice frames (three digits).
  • Custom-made, archival quality stuff (three to four digits and up).

I bought one of the second kind on Amazon, knowing it was hardly preservation-quality material but being too broke to afford anything better. The frame had an off-white background. I didn’t love it, but for the price, I was willing to live with it. Then I unwrapped it and saw a bright pink stain across the background, right under the bag of included pins. So I sent it back and significantly expanded the budget for this project.

Fortunately, after saving up for a little while (and asking David to chip in), I found this nice company online. They sent a gorgeous frame, but it arrived with a small defect. No worries, though — David called them about it, they let us ship the old frame back for free, and they sent us a new one, all at no charge. In the days of scammy websites, it’s so nice to know there are still people out there who offer quality products with a great guarantee.

So, one night, David and I unwrapped everything and got to work.

The first thing I noticed was that the Rush Backstage Club had sent us not two strings, but four. A full set. Of Geddy Lee’s bass strings. OMG OMG OMG.

After I was done squealing with joy, we started pinning them to the frame’s velvety background. My initial plan had been for the pins to lay flat against the velvet, going in and coming back out again around the strings; but the strings were so thick that I’d have to bend the pins to do that. Plus, the strings were really heavy; I feared that winding the pins around them would just cause fabric sagging within a year or two. So I just stuck the pins through the velvet backing and embedded them into the backing material as far as they would go. The whole thing ended up looking kind of alien, like the strings had antennae.

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Framing Geddy Lee's bass strings. April 10, 2012. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

The framing fun begins.

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It was definitely a trial-and-error process. After I pinned the first two strings, I stood back and decided I didn’t like the direction of the pins. So I moved them, making them look like TV rabbit ears rather than bug antennae.

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Framing Geddy Lee's bass strings. April 10, 2012. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

David takes over the string-pinning duties for a moment.

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Framing Geddy Lee's bass strings. April 10, 2012. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Extreme string-pinning close-up! Whoooaa!

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I wanted to use pins with black heads so they didn’t show up that much against the background, but we didn’t have enough for everything, so I switched to white with the paper materials: the autographed packaging, the note from the Rush Backstage Club that said “Congratulations on winning!”, and a paper nameplate I made that read, “Geddy Lee’s bass strings / Time Machine 2011 Tour”. By that point, I probably could’ve woven the pins through the velvet and out again; but I was getting tired and paranoid about tearing the papers.

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Framing Geddy Lee's bass strings. April 10, 2012. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Framed. Finally.

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Of course, a day later, I decided that the white-headed pins looked terrible, so I took the frame off the wall and repinned the papers with the remaining black pins. That meant the paper nameplate only got one pin instead of two, but no big loss. As long as no one looks too closely (or knocks it off the wall), it’ll be fine.

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Geddy Lee's bass strings, framed and on display. April 29, 2012. Copyright Sarah Rodriguez Pratt.

Much better.

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At first, I worried that every time I walked down the stairs and came face-to-face with the frame, I’d regret not having a professional put it all together. But after staring at it for two months, I still don’t mind. It may look a little shabby compared to custom framers’ work, but that doesn’t take away from the awesomeness of the content — or the fact that David and I got to personally handle the bass strings used by one of our favorite musicians.

I also worry about the longevity of the materials. Admitting that I can’t afford something museum-quality for this project was really hard. I want to make sure everything valuable to me can last forever. (Yes, I know. I have issues.) But, as I learned in grad school, the only way to really preserve stuff is to keep it in an acid-free box in storage with a consistent, preferably cold temperature, away from sunlight. I had to choose between seeing this stuff and saving it. So I chose to see it. And even though the papers might fade a bit in the coming decades, they’ll make me awfully happy in the meantime.

Thanks again, Rush Backstage Club, for giving me the coolest present I’ve ever received — and the most bad-ass artwork in our house.

Copyright 2012, Sarah at ThatsAGirlsCar.com. All rights reserved.

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