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Author Topic: What type of frame material do you use primarily?  (Read 6149 times)
Justan
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« on: February 23, 2009, 03:08:32 PM »
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I was looking at a few photographer’s exhibits recently. It seems that virtually all of the established ones use wood frames. I'm wondering if this is true for you?

So, what do you use?

Matted only

Wood

Metal

I don't need no stinking frames  


TIA

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dkeyes
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« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2009, 03:58:45 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
I was looking at a few photographer’s exhibits recently. It seems that virtually all of the established ones use wood frames. I'm wondering if this is true for you?

So, what do you use?

Matted only

Wood

Metal

I don't need no stinking frames  


TIA
Occasionally I use metal but mostly custom painted wood frames, no mats. I found that for larger work, wood looks more "professional" but that's what works for me. I get really nice (but somewhat expensive) frames from metroframe.com  They make them and I put them together.
- Doug
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2009, 06:05:05 PM »
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Second guessing the framing tastes of your clients is hopeless.  OTOH, it is easier to sell a framed piece than a print or matted print if the customer feels he is getting a good deal...ie, he has ever had a print professionally framed and knows what that can cost (to do well).

I have seen metal framed pieces sell well in wild and woolly Santa Fe galleries, and rustic wood frames sell in far more urbane galleries.  There's no accounting.  There is a sort of cyclic character to framing, 20 years ago it was shiny gold, now the fickle finger of taste has swung in favor or wood veneers (where I live) and nobody except little old lady oil painters working in miniature would be caught dead with a shiny gold frame.

There is a sort of tradition in photography that you should supply your work in sort of generic black aluminum minimalist frames.  Hogwash, do that only if you like hurting yourself.

To wit, here's my best selling framing-look-du-jour...

33x46 inches total.  3 inch frame, 3 inch linen liner.  No glass of plastic cover, coated canvas in the breeze.  That's a linen covered liner, not a matte.  With a bevel about 1/4" deep it looks really posh, many times thicker than a 8 ply matte.  Don't tell anyone, but that frame is polystyrene.  The difference between it and your average wood frame is that the poly frame looks better than any wood frame under 10 times the cost.  Price point is getting very critical in these times, you need to engineer your cost to appeal ratio carefully.


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Justan
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« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2009, 06:44:37 PM »
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Quote from: dkeyes
Occasionally I use metal but mostly custom painted wood frames, no mats. I found that for larger work, wood looks more "professional" but that's what works for me. I get really nice (but somewhat expensive) frames from metroframe.com  They make them and I put them together.
- Doug

Thanks! That's along the lines of where I was after the exhibit. I looked briefly at metroframe.com  and they make some highly engineered stuff! What kinds of tools do you use in assembling the frames? Do you use an underpinner or similar?


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Justan
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« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2009, 07:02:52 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
Second guessing the framing tastes of your clients is hopeless.  OTOH, it is easier to sell a framed piece than a print or matted print if the customer feels he is getting a good deal...ie, he has ever had a print professionally framed and knows what that can cost (to do well).

I have seen metal framed pieces sell well in wild and woolly Santa Fe galleries, and rustic wood frames sell in far more urbane galleries.  There's no accounting.  There is a sort of cyclic character to framing, 20 years ago it was shiny gold, now the fickle finger of taste has swung in favor or wood veneers (where I live) and nobody except little old lady oil painters working in miniature would be caught dead with a shiny gold frame.

There is a sort of tradition in photography that you should supply your work in sort of generic black aluminum minimalist frames.  Hogwash, do that only if you like hurting yourself.

To wit, here's my best selling framing-look-du-jour...

33x46 inches total.  3 inch frame, 3 inch linen liner.  No glass of plastic cover, coated canvas in the breeze.  That's a linen covered liner, not a matte.  With a bevel about 1/4" deep it looks really posh, many times thicker than a 8 ply matte.  Don't tell anyone, but that frame is polystyrene.  The difference between it and your average wood frame is that the poly frame looks better than any wood frame under 10 times the cost.  Price point is getting very critical in these times, you need to engineer your cost to appeal ratio carefully.


Bill, I really enjoy reading your commentaries. I'm am mostly trying to learn from the experiences of others to help evolve my ideas. You do a great job of illustrating your points.

One of my evolving ideas is on the kinds of presentation that people like and of the role a frame plays in that presentation. I’ll be honest, 6 months ago I never paid attention to a frame. But up until recently I was never trying to make a pleasing presentation to a critical customer’s eye. The role of the frame is actually huge. The event I went to was an eye-opener because it showed what well established photographers did to present their most popular works.

> ...that frame is polystyrene.  The difference between it and your average wood frame is that the poly frame looks better than any wood frame under 10 times the cost.  

Where do you get polystyrene frames and what goes into assembly??

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bill t.
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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2009, 01:42:08 AM »
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The bottom line about poly mouldings is that 98% of them look like refugees from a K-Mart closeout sale.  Shiny, overtly, proudly plastic.  The perfectly smooth texture is what kills most poly mouldings.

However, recently a curious crossover is occurring in the framing world.  As the quality of affordable wood moulding goes down, so does the quality of polystyrene improve.   On a personal note, two wonderful, affordable, genuine wood finish mouldings I have relied on for some time were recently "redesigned" to what amounts to a plastic tube with a printed texture wrapped around a piece of wood.  Yes, still a wood moulding by some measure, but the beautiful wood grain has been replaced by a miserable looking printed texture on plastic.  This is happening a lot at the low and medium level of mouldings.  I won't talk about the ever increasing percentage of unusable twisted and warped pieces of moulding included in every wood box.  The best poly's now look better than plastic wraps on wood, by a lot.  And the consistency and yield of poly is impressive.

So enter polystyrene mouldings.  Mostly ugly.  But recently a few types have emerged with surface textures and reflectivity qualities that look awfully good, even next to very expensive wood mouldings.  I'm thinking of things like Universal Framing Product's Montalcino moulding in its "Valucore" line.  Definitely a cut above.

But should you use poly mouldings?  Probably not extensively.  Most galleries will still turn up their noses.  I've been trying it out at art fairs and such where perceived value trumps materials snobbery, and have been well received.  The fabrication costs for poly over wood are pretty dramatic, and pricing reflects this.

What's not to love about poly...
--Not as rigid as wood.  A 4" x 72" piece will sag enough due to gravity that frames that size need to have door skins or extensive wire bracing on the back.
--The Devil was involved in the design of the nasty, gets-everywhere so-called sawdust that is generated when cutting this stuff.
--Chop saws literally melt the stuff if you try to make a normal cut with a normal blade.  You have do this really scary karate-chop cut that would probably maim you if you tried it with real wood.  It helps a whole lot if you have a special "poly blade".  But then you should have a special $130+  blade for cutting any kind of moulding, forget the blades down at Lowe's.
--The tiniest drop of glue on the cosmetic surface will create a melt mark which pretty much trashes the whole frame.  You need to use the absolute minimum amount of glue while not creating a weak joint.  Takes practice.
--Did I say most of it looks like c**p?
--Most serious galleries will show you the door.

What's to love...
--Relatively cheap, even very cheap.
--For the bigger sizes you wind up with a frame that doesn't take two strong guys to lift, and which does not kill anybody should it fall off the wall.
--A small percentage of the current selections looks pretty sweet indeed.
--Lightweight compared to wood, if you have to pay for shipping you will notice the difference.
--When you get your technique figured out assembling poly frames goes pretty fast.
--The yield is much better than wood.  Almost 100% of poly moulding is usable out of the box, versus maybe 80% to 85% for wood.
--Your budget customers will love you.

It is theoretically possible to make nice poly frames with only a better-quality miter chopsaw from Home Depot, a sharp blade, and a tube of Super Glue Gel.  A definite added plus would be an underpinner, hum that's a whole other story.  But even minus an underpinner you can still rigidify the miter joints on the backs with mending plates and screws.  But you have to rigidify those joints if you want your frame to survive twisting and torquing, no question about it.

So, really on my own behalf I only use poly for big art fair pieces where price point is king.  There is an interesting parallel here between aluminum versus wood mouldings when aluminum first came on the scene.  The same script will likely play out with poly versus wood versus metal, just give it time accelerated by a financial meltdown.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2009, 01:50:35 AM by bill t. » Logged
Justan
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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2009, 03:44:08 PM »
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Another great illustration!

So okay, you got me thinking about polly and I appreciate you presenting the strengths and weaknesses. It sounds very delicate to work with.

> I'm thinking of things like Universal Framing Product's Montalcino moulding in its "Valucore" line. Definitely a cut above.

Thanks for the reference! I looked at their offerings and called them to get more info.

> So, really on my own behalf I only use poly for big art fair pieces where price point is king. There is an interesting parallel here between aluminum versus wood moldings when aluminum first came on the scene. The same script will likely play out with poly versus wood versus metal, just give it time…

Understood. I hope to participate in at least a couple of art fairs this summer. Poly sounds like a great option.

> A definite added plus would be an underpinner, hum that's a whole other story

Just a couple of days ago I first came into contact with the word “underpinner” and had the opportunity to look at one. It appears to be the key tool used for high quality and reliable assembly. The one I saw was powered by compressed air and looked very well made. It is a Cassesse CS810. I've since looked at images of others made by them, Fletcher and & Inmes. It’s all kind of a blur. What are the key features of these? What does one gain by spending $6K compared to $2K? I imagine they are significant differences, but don’t know what I'm looking at. I’ve learned over the years the great value of using good tools.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2009, 03:53:56 PM by Justan » Logged

Thomas Krüger
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« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2009, 05:42:45 AM »
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The Cassesse underpinners are working great and you can start with a manual machine at reasonable costs. http://www.cassese.com/

Doing a lot of panorama formats I often use non standard measures for the frames. I ended up ordering small aluminium mouldings  from the spanish supplier www.luznegra.net. The assembly works like the system from Nielsen. I order long uncutted profiles (2,90 m) and cut them manually with a Nobex Proman 110 mitre saw from the swedish company Plano. That works fine for low volume framing. The next step would be a electric mitre saw from Makita.

Nobex mitre saws from www.Plano.se :
http://www.plano.se/GB/engelska.html
« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 05:49:15 AM by ThomasK » Logged
Victor Glass
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« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2009, 08:21:48 AM »
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I'm in the middle of my very first show for which I matted and framed 45 works - I'd like to share my experience. But first, my point of view. I do my own printing, matting and framing. My interest is photographic art and portraiture. I think that presentation is very important. I am not yet rich. At the show my matted and framed prints sell in the $240 - $550 range. The venue of my first show is a large, gallery-like room in a library; the room is used for numerous events during the month such as yoga, concerts, and meetings of a variety of organizations and clubs. Therefore I understand that the type of visitor is different from that of an established gallery.

I used metal framing, mostly Nielsen profile 11, and Nielsen profile 97 for the larger works; both in matte black. All window mats are 4-ply, same color. These moldings offer a clean, handsome, and minimal - I wanted the print to stand out. They are also relatively inexpensive - a big factor here because of the price point. I'd guess that they are a third the cost of good wooden frames.

If I exhibit in a good art gallery I think I would excellent quality wooden frames. I believe it makes a big difference. Maple has a nice look. But the works would have to go for a lot more (oh, I forgot to mention that the library takes no commission - so in a gallery the commission + framing would add significantly to the overhead).

I've got a question or three. When a gallery takes on an artist and charges a substancial commission what services does the gallery typically provide? do they take on the cost and responsibility of framing? If not, do you folks who exhibit in galleries frame the prints yourself or do you have someone do it, and if the latter how expensive is it?
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bill t.
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« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2009, 03:26:13 PM »
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In regards to underpinning wood frames there are two schools.

School #1. Put some glue on the cut faces, push them together in the underpinner, and with whatever clamping offered by your underpinner shoot the V-nails in.  Very fast, most professional framers work this way.  The V-nails themselves provide the clamping action while the glue dries.  For this you want an underpinner with little toothed clamps that push the vertical part of the rabbet back towards the 90 degree blocks that are registering the outside of the frame, don't leave home without these.

School #2. Dry assemble the frames in from 1 to 4 classic framers miter clamps.  If you have four clamps, you can check to see if your corners fit exactly and make adjustments as needed, before committing to the glue.  I say that so easily, don't think four perfectly matching corners is an easy accomplishment for a newby.  Glue each corner one at a time, push the pieces together in the clamp, carefully "work the corners" for a perfect fit.  Let dry 30 minutes minimum, 1 hour is better.  Put the corners 1 at a time in whatever crummy underrpinner you have and drive the nails.  My dirtball Inmes IM-2 underpinner works great for this purpose, but couldn't adequately join a wet corner to save its life.  (Except for the inability to join wet corners well, my foot-operated IM-2 has shot something like 30,000 V-nails into glued & dried corners without a hitch, for that I love it).

I am of school number 2, because unlike a framer I do not have to make 10+ frames a day.  School number 2 is good for about 3 or 4 frames a day if you have only one work table, or more if you have additional tables.  Unless you have a very accurate way of cutting frames you should be in school #2 with 4 miter clamps since this prevents the unhappy event with wet-nailing where the first 3 corners look great, but corner #4 is awful because it inherits all the inaccuracies of the first three corners (which are now glued and nailed...gotcha!).

OK, time to start the next print.
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Justan
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« Reply #10 on: March 26, 2009, 02:28:09 PM »
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Quote from: ThomasK
The Cassesse underpinners are working great and you can start with a manual machine at reasonable costs. http://www.cassese.com/

Doing a lot of panorama formats I often use non standard measures for the frames. I ended up ordering small aluminium mouldings  from the spanish supplier www.luznegra.net. The assembly works like the system from Nielsen. I order long uncutted profiles (2,90 m) and cut them manually with a Nobex Proman 110 mitre saw from the swedish company Plano. That works fine for low volume framing. The next step would be a electric mitre saw from Makita.

Nobex mitre saws from www.Plano.se :
http://www.plano.se/GB/engelska.html

Thanks for the comments! I've been busy with other projects and have fallen behind on correspondence.

I have a pretty good compound miter saw but would get a much finer blade when I start doing this kind of work. For the moment I contacted a vendor to see if I could buy their box length for wood frames but have them put the chops to specified sizes for me. They said that is an unusual request.

I much prefer the pneumatic underpinners to the manual ones. I'm looking for a used but in good shape example and the cost is about 25% of new. There are about a dozen prospects I've found. I guess the Cassese brand is the most preferred but the F-T brand has a good following as well. F-T does fabulous products in their mat and media cutters
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Justan
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« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2009, 02:35:58 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
In regards to underpinning wood frames there are two schools.

School #1. Put some glue on the cut faces, push them together in the underpinner, and with whatever clamping offered by your underpinner shoot the V-nails in.  Very fast, most professional framers work this way.  The V-nails themselves provide the clamping action while the glue dries.  For this you want an underpinner with little toothed clamps that push the vertical part of the rabbet back towards the 90 degree blocks that are registering the outside of the frame, don't leave home without these.

School #2. Dry assemble the frames in from 1 to 4 classic framers miter clamps.  If you have four clamps, you can check to see if your corners fit exactly and make adjustments as needed, before committing to the glue.  I say that so easily, don't think four perfectly matching corners is an easy accomplishment for a newby.  Glue each corner one at a time, push the pieces together in the clamp, carefully "work the corners" for a perfect fit.  Let dry 30 minutes minimum, 1 hour is better.  Put the corners 1 at a time in whatever crummy underrpinner you have and drive the nails.  My dirtball Inmes IM-2 underpinner works great for this purpose, but couldn't adequately join a wet corner to save its life.  (Except for the inability to join wet corners well, my foot-operated IM-2 has shot something like 30,000 V-nails into glued & dried corners without a hitch, for that I love it).

I am of school number 2, because unlike a framer I do not have to make 10+ frames a day.  School number 2 is good for about 3 or 4 frames a day if you have only one work table, or more if you have additional tables.  Unless you have a very accurate way of cutting frames you should be in school #2 with 4 miter clamps since this prevents the unhappy event with wet-nailing where the first 3 corners look great, but corner #4 is awful because it inherits all the inaccuracies of the first three corners (which are now glued and nailed...gotcha!).

OK, time to start the next print.


Thanks Bill. I’ll remember this as I start to assemble the frames.

I have another question: Last week I went to a place in Seattle where they have many art galleries. I went to a total of about 12 galleries. While there were only a few photos, the vast majority of the work was put in simple metal frames. Most of the wood frames I saw were also very simple and inexpensive. A few places, which sold their own frames, had more elaborate frames.

I don’t have a big enough sample to be conclusive. I'm trying to reconcile the finding above with a recent visit to our local “Home Show” At the home show, there were 2 photographers. One did large panos and the other did nature shots. The panos all had about a 2” frame and the nature photographer used nice wood frames and triple matting.

I guess it could be the case that the venue makes all the difference, but I would have thought that galleries which ask up to thousands of dollars per work would show the works in nicer frames.

Do most buyers select their own frame?
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luong
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« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2009, 06:48:44 PM »
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Quote from: Victor Glass
I've got a question or three. When a gallery takes on an artist and charges a substancial commission what services does the gallery typically provide? do they take on the cost and responsibility of framing? If not, do you folks who exhibit in galleries frame the prints yourself or do you have someone do it, and if the latter how expensive is it?

Besides the obvious (hanging, providing a staffed venue, and fulfiling orders), as well as arranging the artist's reception, most of the work is behind the scenes. The gallery will advertise the exhibit in local and/or specialized media (a full-page ad in "Photograph" is several thousand dollars), write and send out press releases to relevant contacts, design and print invitation cards,  send them to their own mailing list of collectors/curators/critics, sometimes contact them personally. That's a lot of work, and the gallery deserves any penny of its commission.

As for framing, it depends, but typically for photographs the gallery will require you to provide matted prints and then take care of the framing itself.  If you visit many art galleries, you will see that there is no relationship between the price of the pieces and the quality of the frame. They are all over the place. Unlike in "decorative art", that's really the photograph that matters, as long as the frame is decent.


To answer the OP's question. I use only wood frames, although for large pieces (30x45 and up), I prefer just to mount to the edge on Gatorboard.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2009, 06:53:13 PM by luong » Logged

Justan
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« Reply #13 on: March 28, 2009, 11:58:45 AM »
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> I'm in the middle of my very first show for which I matted and framed 45 works - I'd like to share my experience. But first, my point of view. I do my own printing, matting and framing. My interest is photographic art and portraiture. I think that presentation is very important. I am not yet rich. At the show my matted and framed prints sell in the $240 - $550 range. The venue of my first show is a large, gallery-like room in a library; the room is used for numerous events during the month such as yoga, concerts, and meetings of a variety of organizations and clubs. Therefore I understand that the type of visitor is different from that of an established gallery.

Thank you for sharing this!  I am just starting the process of assembling a portfolio and am targeting about the same number as you did. I too think that presentation is highly important. How did you go about setting the sale prices?

> I used metal framing, mostly Nielsen profile 11, and Nielsen profile 97 for the larger works; both in matte black. All window mats are 4-ply, same color. These moldings offer a clean, handsome, and minimal… They are also relatively inexpensive … I'd guess that they are a third the cost of good wooden frames.

How large are these? Just a couple of days ago I started to get quotes for frames. I agree that metal frames are much less expensive than wood frames. Also there are fewer tools needed for assembly.

> If I exhibit in a good art gallery I think I would [use] excellent quality wooden frames. I believe it makes a big difference. Maple has a nice look. But the works would have to go for a lot more (oh, I forgot to mention that the library takes no commission - so in a gallery the commission + framing would add significantly to the overhead).

I was looking at pecan and walnut in color and about 2.5" lightly distressed wood. It balances the woodsy imagery I photograph. The thing is that it doesn’t cost that much. The quotes I got were in the $40 to $60 range for wood molding for roughly 24x36 size. So the question is are more buyers attracted by a nicer frame or would they think they are over-paying due to the frame?
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Justan
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2009, 12:01:43 PM »
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Quote from: luong
As for framing, it depends, but typically for photographs the gallery will require you to provide matted prints and then take care of the framing itself.  If you visit many art galleries, you will see that there is no relationship between the price of the pieces and the quality of the frame. They are all over the place. Unlike in "decorative art", that's really the photograph that matters, as long as the frame is decent.

Thanks. That agrees with what i saw recently.


Quote
To answer the OP's question. I use only wood frames, although for large pieces (30x45 and up), I prefer just to mount to the edge on Gatorboard.

Can you provide an example of the frame material you use?


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bill t.
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« Reply #15 on: March 31, 2009, 09:34:35 PM »
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Here in NM it would be rare to find a gallery that would frame on-spec for other than a famous, top$ artist.  The possible exception is a gallery-with-frameshop.  In any case you would want to work only in standard sizes, and curiously frames to fit 13x19 are not too common.  The closest standard fit to that size is 22x28, just a little off the beaten path.  You'd be best off working for 16x20, 11x14, 24x36, etc.

The safest generic wood frame is a deep, light colored Maple frame.  While it will not please everybody, it will offend very few people except for possibly me, but then just about any frame will offend someone.  Here's an example of what they look like, couple it with an enormous prissy white 8 ply matte.  At least it's not as plug-ugly as a matte black frame or metal frame.  A lot of museums have a fleet of these for presenting otherwise unframed flat art.  This company only sells in 1000's of feet but most suppliers have similar offerings in shorter length quantities and these are also pretty common as finished frames (in standard sizes).
http://swmouldinginc.com/Maples-Page1.html


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Justan
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« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2009, 09:37:14 AM »
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> in NM it would be rare to find a gallery that would frame on-spec for other than a famous, top$ artist

Could be the case for some of what I saw. The works were definitely uber pricy, and it appeared that most galleries had a favorite frame type. Same frame used for several or all works.

> Here's an example of what they look like, couple it with an enormous prissy white 8 ply matte.

Funny and on the target of what many seem to do.


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bill t.
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« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2009, 03:22:01 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
Same frame used for several or all works.
Being able to provide a consistent show in terms of framing and overall theme is a very desirable thing.  The ability to provide such will enhance your chance of finding gallery space.
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Justan
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« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2009, 10:26:04 AM »
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^^No doubt about that. My goal has been to find out what is usual or expected and then produce a competitive product without being over the top. What I've found out, and you’ve pointed this out as well, is that that “usual” or “expected” changes from venue to venue.
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