By Carrie Reese Marketing and Communications Intern
Walking into the mount making shop feels like walking into a miniature construction zone. Philip Brutz, one of the museum’s three mount makers turned off the drills and saws for a few minutes to explain what his job entails.
Looking around your studio there’s everything from blocks of wood to tiny metal trinkets. So what is all of this? Our trade is called mount maker. We make mounts for objects. Mostly we work on older things that were never made to be in a museum or things that are pitched at some angle that wasn’t intended. Basically anything in the museum that needs some kind of support. We are kind of like jewelers, welders, fabricators, machinists, and blacksmiths – for artwork. How did you get started with mount making? Did it start with a particular skill? It was really a series of accidents. I met a mount maker and thought it was an interesting job. I first worked at the Western Reserve Historical Society, building exhibits, something similar to mount making. Then I worked at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History before coming here. Most people don’t know this trade even exists. I know mount makers around the country and there aren’t many of us. At our museum, there are three of us. We have other responsibilities also. We do anything that is in direct contact with artwork would be our job. What’s the most difficult piece of work for which you’ve had to create a mount? The trickiest mounts to create are ones going to seismic earthquake zones like Los Angeles or San Francisco. It’s a whole sub-specialty I’m studying up on right now. We have to figure out how to make artwork survive in an earthquake, especially if it’s when its two thousand years old and fragile. I have a couple of objects going out to Los Angeles next year so I was designing the mounts for those yesterday. We work for the design department but we also work in collaboration with conservators. They tell us where the object is strong, where it’s weak, the best angle to display it at, etc. There’s a lot of research that’s been done on the subject, but it’s definitely the hardest, without a doubt. You have all these different skills for mount making; do you have any special outside hobbies? When I realized one of the main skill sets for mount making is one of a jeweler, I started making jewelry. As far as hobbies go, I have this entire building project. I photograph my world behind the scenes. I am actually in the permanent collection; the museum bought sixteen of my photographs.