22 October 2013

Working with Flea Market Frames

Framing for an exhibition of works on paper, as all my works are, is a time consuming and expensive proposition. My upcoming exhibit, Welcome to Nonotuck, includes 16 separate woodblock prints of varying and inconsistent sizes ranging from 4 x 7 inches to 21 x 29. To have them professionally framed would cost well upwards of $2000.

For obvious reasons, I decided to do my own framing. Because the prints I'll be showing are about early American history and because they're being presented at a history museum, I decided to use vintage/antique flea market frames as much as possible. I thought that doing so would evoke a sense of these prints having been collected over time and donated by different people, just as so many of the objects in the museum have been donated. I made a list of all my print sizes, grabbed a tape measure, and started scouring local flea markets and antique stores.

I didn't take photos of the process, but here's a list I generated of the pros and cons of using flea market frames:

  1. It's definitely cheaper than hiring a professional framer. I ended up spending a little over $600 instead of the $2000+ I would have paid a pro.
  2. The variety and patina of the vintage frames works well for certain kinds of artwork.
  3. It's fun going to flea markets.
  1. No custom sizes, so you have to take what you can find. I had to order custom frames for four prints that are very long and narrow. 
  2. Sometimes you find the perfect frame but it has a picture in it that a seller feels is valuable so they've priced it higher than you want to pay just for a frame.
  3. It takes a long time to collect all the frames.
  4. Every found frame has its own set of issues and problems to solve: some need repairs, some have no glass, some are not deep enough to accommodate glass plus mat plus foam core backing.
  5. All flea market frames need a good cleaning.
Then there's just the whole ordeal of framing 17 pieces. I'm not crazy about framing, nor do I have good equipment. I use a simple pull-style mat cutter with a straight edge (a real workout at large sizes) and I cut mat board and foam core with an X-Acto knife. I almost always ruin a mat or two, although amazingly I didn't ruin a single piece this time.

Do I have cuts on my hands from handling glass? Yes. Did I curse a lot as I discovered the quirks of each frame? Yes. Did I spill some wood stain? Yes. But I saved over a thousand dollars! So yes, I would do it again.


Amanda said...

The frame you have pictured is lovely. I'm sure these old frames add another layer to your images. I'd love to see some photos of the works in the frames some time. I am so impressed that you have been able to make them work for you, Annie. Well done!

elettranews said...

I'm having the same problem (framing a number of works on paper) right now, so thank you for sharing your way to deal with it rationally and for giving an inspirational suggestion! :)

Celia Hart said...

I'd love to see all your finished framed work in the vintage frames!
I've luckily found a local frame maker who makes batches of frames to my spec, then I do the mounts (mats) and finishing. Even though it's a big outlay of money and a lot of work to supply 6 to 12 framed prints to 6 or more galleries in the run up to Christmas.

Annie B said...

Celia, I'll post photos when the show is up. Good luck with your Christmas sales!