Picture Framing: Art versus budget

Nice to see a new local Artist in the shop today.  Also great to see the level of thought to how the framing can enhance her Watercolours.

It got me thinking, I go to many exhibitions and as ever, the way some pieces are displayed is of much interest to me and my Partner.  We constantly get disappointed when we see dirty mounts with overcuts or shoddy frames with digs and chips in them.  Sometimes the framing is so uninspiring it just sucks the life out of the piece.  On some, there’s an alien life form going on in there, bits of dust from Mars or debris from the last war … OK I exaggerate, but it’s our job to look closely!

Sometimes the frame just doesn’t suit the picture at all and believe it or not lacks artistic input!  (Just as a quick point, experience has shown me that sometimes the Artist hasn’t a clue what frame compliments their work, hard to believe, I know, but surprisingly true on so many occasions!).  Perhaps they’ve opted for safe “gallery” type frames.  These can be just like the generic ready framed prints you might get in any big chain store or high street chain gallery.  A lack of imagination could put some buyers off.

Sometimes, it becomes obvious to anyone that either the frames have been shunted around from exhibition to exhibition and are looking a bit tired or the artist has brought cheap ready frames to house their amazing work or recycled old frames whether they look good or not.

All too often, I see pieces of art with a high price tag, only to be let down by the surround.  Don’t under estimate your potential buyers, they can be put off by the obvious lack of investment (and I’m not just talking momentary here, I’m talking time and thought).  How can you expect someone to love your work and ultimately pay money for it, if you obviously don’t.  The thought of having to spend out on a re-frame might put them off too.

Now, don’t get me wrong, before you all start shouting at me! It’s an expensive business, framing, especially if you exhibit regularly or you have lots of work to get framed.  Your work might be on sale or return at a gallery.  Or maybe you’re an amateur Artist who doesn’t think their work has any value?  All of which are perfectly understandable!  These are real issues and as framers we should understand the problems our customers face.

There is no doubt that if you bulk purchase a set of chain store ready frames, they may look fantastic at the first exhibition and possibly one or two after that if they are kept well.  But what is it doing to your artwork and how about the longevity of the frame when the customer takes it home?  These days it’s not just all about the artwork, people want value for money too.

More often than not, if you’ve invested time and thought into your framing, it helps sell your work.  Just like when you dress a property to sell it, it can help a buyer visualise it in their home and they are more likely to buy it.

You are selling your vision to them.  Wouldn’t you be annoyed if you’d sold a print to someone, and then later found out they’ve chosen a frame that just kills your precious work?  All that time, emotion and inspiration that you put into the piece, how could they!

So, what to do then?  Well, there isn’t a one size fits all, and not everyone will like the suggestions, but you could consider the following:

  • Talk to your Framer!  Establish a good relationship with them.  A good Framer (in my opinion), will spend time with you talking about framing options and will take your comments and input on board.  Not just about colour and style but about protecting your work (if applicable).  It helps if they are in tune with you.  If one isn’t, try another.  They see lots of different kinds of work and should be able to add some creative input.
  • Ask for different budget options.  For example, if you are confident that you can do a professional job of the finishing and you have the time (chasing those little bits of dust, making sure the glass is spotless – which isn’t as easy as you think if you are extremely vigilant!).  Then you may be able to reduce the price by getting good quality frames, made to measure, that go with your work.  The cost is reduced by you doing the hard work.  But be careful of this, it has to be a professional finish & this option can sometimes be a false economy!  Some of the cost of framing is of course attributed to the labour for good reason!
  • Perhaps choose a frame that you can “tart up” for example a natural wood frame can be sanded down, re-stained or varnished (again being careful to get a good finish) or a black painted frame, that you can “touch up”.  This is a great option if you have pieces of work that are similar to each other in colour and style as the frame could possibly go with those too.  I can’t stress enough how this needs to be finished properly and it will take you time and effort!  (Bear in mind that your time should also be included in the cost of your finished piece, weigh this up against the cost of getting a framer to do the work for you).
  • If you have no option but to go the cheap ready frame route.  Perhaps, you could get part of your work done professionally?  How about, buying a frame that is bigger than you need and getting a Framer to cut a mount to suit/fit the work and/or do the fitting and finishing of the frame?
  • If you choose to get the whole thing done professionally (the best option – not that I’m biased at all!) you can make sure that you cover your costs by incorporating it into the overall selling price.  Yes, there is always a risk that someone won’t like the frame but make it clear (in the nicest possible way) that a re-frame would cost money or they can go and get it re-framed themselves.

On another point, quite often we have found that the framing or re-framing of an existing piece that just hasn’t sold, makes it more likely to sell.  (Later in this blog I intend to write up case studies, one of which will be related to this, oh dear what have I got myself into!).

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that any of these options will make your work sell.  There may be other answers to these problems, but I think that’s enough to be going on with!

My best advice would be to communicate with your potential buyers at exhibitions and shows (and of course online!), but also to talk to other artists, galleries and picture framers to get an all round view.


2 responses to “Picture Framing: Art versus budget

  • Robyn

    All very worthwhile pointers George. I have a beautiful photograph that I keep meaning to frame. It was given to us by an experienced working photographer friend from SA and I want a proper job of a frame. I had worried about getting it done as I am very very fussy ie. finger prints, levelling of picture in frame etc so your comments are reassuring rather than me feeling like a ‘freak of nature’ when it comes to perfection.

    • Framing Fairy

      Hey Robyn … well, Andy’s your man really, he’s the perfectionist! I, on the other hand am not, so I stick to the thoughts and pretty things! Tee hee Pop in and have a chat with Andy when you’ve got some time. He’ll make you a coffee & take you through options/suggestions. Photography is notoriously easy to damage and of course these days what they are printed on (and which inks) vary hugely. But sounds like you don’t need to worry if it was from a professional photographer! Best to get it done so that it’s kept protected. At some point, I’ll do some blogs on framing Photography … just getting into the swing!

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