I can walk past waist-high messes without batting an eye, but a crooked picture makes me anxious for a chance to straighten it. I do it when nobody’s looking because I don’t want anyone to feel bad about their crooked pictures, or maybe I don’t want anybody to know I’m like “Rain Man” about such things. In a disordered world, I look for symmetry and consistency when I feel stressed. I guess that’s why I make patterns as a meditation.
It also makes me good at framing, which I did recently for a friend. I was glad to do it because her husband died a while back, and he was a tremendous photographer. It makes my heart happy to see his life’s work hanging on walls instead of hiding in boxes. It made me even happier when my friend had a party and more people got to see Geof’s work.
I usually think of framing as a necessary evil of creating. It’s just something you do, like painting walls. I’m conscientious about it; I just don’t expect anybody to notice, and it never occurs to me that someone else might find it hard to do. As a result, I thought I’d give some tips…
Standard-sized frames are cheaper than custom-made frames. Save money by making your art or photos adapt to the frame. Garage sales and thrift stores are cheaper yet. I like these because I can study odd frames for inspirations about what to put in them and make the art to match.
Cutting your own mats saves money too. With a little initial investment, a compact mat cutter will pay for itself. Mats keep the glass from touching the image and give your eyes a rest before the frame, plus, the color of the mat can complement the image. Buy acid-free mat board. Think about the color of the room and the color of the image when choosing your mat board. If you’re really unsure what works, white, black, gray, or beige are always safe.
Visualize how much space you need around the image before the edge of the frame. 11” x 14” frames usually get about 2” around the image. 18” x 24” frames usually get about 3”. I lay the mat board on the table, put the frame over it, then the art/photo over that to get an idea of how it will look when it’s all put together.
If you buy a mat cutter, I’m pretty sure it will give instructions on how to use it. In addition, I find it helpful to put a piece of scrap mat board under the mat I’m cutting. This makes for a cleaner cut and prevents tearing. I test my measurements in pencil before cutting, and I change my blade often. Yucky cuts are hard to fix, though I have used an X-acto knife and/or sandpaper for minor repairs.
Wash both sides of the glass and check for cat/dog hair before finishing up. You can use glazing points or small nails from the hardware store to hold everything together on garage sale frames. Be consistent when putting on the hardware for hanging on the frames, especially if you’re framing a series that will be hung together.
It makes me crazy that people will spend as much, or more, on framing than they will for art. If you save money by doing it yourself, you’ll end up with more money for creating – and if you’re not an artist, it gives you more money to support the arts!