North Somerset Arts Week Article 2011 – Advice for Artists

This has been published on the NSAW website under resources for Artists & will be mentioned in the Newsletter … some of it you may have already read elsewhere on here, but thought I’d have it up on the blog anyway.

Advice and suggestions for framing artwork for arts trails and exhibitions

With another successful NSAW in the bag, time soon turns to the next one!

So, you’ve decided on taking part in an arts week for the first time or you have already taken part before and are unsure about whether or not to bother getting any of your work framed.  It’s not worth it, right?  Well, that’s for you to decide.  In this article, I aim to give you a few options to at least think about.  Hopefully these points will be helpful for future exhibitions or arts trails.

I would like to make clear from the outset though, that if you are taking part as a school or just as an amateur for the experience, then framing is a nice to have, but not an essential.  Let’s not get hung up on it (no pun intended!).  Most people viewing will understand the difference between people who are doing something as a hobby or semi-serious/ starting out and those that would like to make some sort of living out of it.

But first, I’m going to get my little moan out of the way!  If you are already a reader of my framing fairy blogs, you will have noticed that this subject can get me a bit hot under the collar.  But I’m not moaning for moaning sake, hopefully what I’m trying to do, is to help you sell more work!

When wondering around galleries and exhibitions, I naturally can’t help looking at the framing, it becomes a bit of an annoying habit of mine!

Unfortunately, I constantly get disappointed when I 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 and leaves me cold.  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!  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 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 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 valuable input.
  • But you must work together to communicate ideas.  Earlier this year, we had a classic example of this.  An Artist, who loved the framing of their work, loved the imagination and creative input but kept bringing back one or two to change the way some were mounted.  It was getting quite frustrating, as these pieces looked stunning in our eyes and we just couldn’t understand what the problem was.  Finally, the Framer came out with it.  It turns out that there was a particular section on some of the pictures that they just didn’t like but hadn’t explained this to us.  As soon as we were shown, we could see it from their point of view immediately! Problem solved!  Harmony restored.
  • Ask for different budget options.  For example, if you are confident that you can do a professional job of the finishing yourself 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 part of the 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” could also be a good option.  These are great options 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?
  • Or what about just getting pieces mounted?  This way, you show that your work is worth something.  It’s neat and tidy, well presented and the buyer can then take it to be framed themselves at a later date.  This could be a very cost effective option.
  • Or you could always get one or two done to show how it could look framed.  This could show off your work and you could offer a price with it framed or unframed.
  • 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 you can’t cater for everyone.

On another point, quite often we have found that the framing or re-framing of an existing piece that just hasn’t sold previously, could make it more likely to sell.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that any of these options will make your work sell.  There may also 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.

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2 responses to “North Somerset Arts Week Article 2011 – Advice for Artists

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