Why custom framing is so expensive…

With four weekend events in six weeks, it has been necessary to put my carving and printing on hold to concentrate on framing completed work. Until I started creating works on paper, I was just like the rest of the world — aghast at the cost of custom framing. Once I started framing my own work, I quickly learned where all the expense comes from.

Cantata Framed
Cantata for Eventide, framed and ready for the wall.

First consider what you are framing.  If it is an inexpensive poster handed out at a ballgame, a craft store frame might be all you need. If you are framing original artwork or a limited edition, you need to protect your paper by using acid-free materials. I use Crescent Ragmat, which is 100% cotton core and backing papers.

onyx 90

With non-acid free materials, your artwork will eventually fall victim to “foxing” — those reddish brown spots that appear on your grandmother’s framed watercolors. But this protection comes with a hefty price tag… I rely on my trusty Onyx 90 mat/glass/acrylic wall cutter to help me make fewer mistakes.

cutting the window

Did I mention mistakes? Most of my mistakes come when I am cutting the beveled “window” of the matboard. This requires a steady hand and a very sharp blade in the mat cutter. I use a new blade for every window. And I still sometimes make expensive mistakes.

cutting glass
I ruined several large sheets of glass before buying this tool.

For original works on paper, you should also use some sort of UV glass or acrylic. UV filters the light that is in your house, but not sunlight. Nothing protects artwork from sunlight. I find glass much easier to work with, albeit much heavier. I use acrylic for my largest works, but it is prone to scratching and static electricity — problematic when your cats think your framing table is the best chipmunk-watching perch.

gingersnap on the framing table
Gingersnap ignored the “no cats” signs.

glazing points

have learned over time to check three times for pieces of lint (or cat fur!) before using my framer’s points to secure the work into the frame.

cutting the brown paper

Finally, the frame is sealed with a paper backing to discourage those funny beetles from crawling into your artwork and then proceeding to die.

There are so many steps, and so many opportunities to make mistakes, that I now have compassion for the poor framer. My only suggestion is to purchase original artwork that you love, and invest in its proper care. Or learn to frame things yourself.

Not for the faint of heart, believe me.