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  • Writer's pictureShawn Dell Joyce artist

Biting the Bullet-why quality framing is important!

My painting in a Florida collector's home

This week, I got a phone call from a gallery requesting that I pick up some small framed pieces that they felt were not "up to my usual high standards of quality work." I was surprised, and remembered that the small pieces were ones I had dropped off a while back, and were 5x7's framed in small "thrift store" style frames. The gallery was absolutely right!

I've had to learn the hard way to bite the bullet when it comes to spending money on frames. A good frame will sell a mediocre painting, a bad frame will condemn it! Framing costs are the greatest expense in creating a work of art. Most art materials will not cost near the amount of a good professional frame, nor will most artist's time in making the work.

I used to buy frames second-hand at thrift stores, or from hobby stores. These frames were mostly mass produced and not good quality. They made a statement about my work that says "I'm not worth investing in," and "move to the next piece in the group show now."

I had a friend who was a custom framer, and he convinced me that the frame will sell the painting. Since then, I factor in the cost of a good frame to each painting, and have pushed the quality standard of my work much higher than it was before.

I worked out a deal with him that brought the prices of my frames lower, and made them more competitive with mass-produced frames. My framer sells me higher quantities of frames at lower prices, so if I'm willing to buy 5-10 frames at a time, they cost a bit less than the individual price. I don't mind paying a bit more for locally-made and better quality frames.

Once I got a bee in my bonnet that I should order frames from a framing wholesaler who had pretty cheap prices on good, solid wood frames. I loved the frames, beautifully-made, high quality, but the price was lower than my framer. I asked the factory how they could afford to do that, and they told me that particular frame was made in Mexico at a factory. A little more digging, and I discovered that the factory is staffed mainly by children, and is a "sweat shop" style factory. I don't want my money supporting this! I'd rather pay more, and know the person who's hands made my frames.

For the record; I currently work with Greg at Florida Frames which is near me in Clearwater, FL.

Now Greg makes my frames, and cuts my glass, but I do the actual framing. This is how I save a little money on my smaller pieces (under 24x36) that are usually plein air studies in pastel, under glass. Anything larger, or a studio painting that will be a "masterpiece" needs to be professionally framed by a framer. Which I would do right after I had it scanned for high rez photos by a giclee printer. The one I use is My Favorite Art Place in Clearwater,

Choosing the right moulding for your frames is VERY important. I consulted with an interior decorator to find the perfect moulding for Florida decor. You have to consider your collectors, who is buying your work? For me, mostly people with coastal or beach decor. For this audience, I use a light-colored weathered-wood moulding which is about 3 inches wide, (pictured above) since I don't use mats. It has a deep rabbet (the lip inside the frame) so it can take a piece of glass, a spacer, and an Ampersand Pastelbord. These paintings are fairly heavy, so they need strong screws, D-rings, and picture hanging wire on the back.

Your work may be different, so your choices will reflect that. I also use different mouldings for different audiences. When I compete in plein air events, I use gold leaf frames as they are most versatile and go with any decor. When I exhibit paintings in NY or up North, I use darker mouldings; usually black to bring out the luminous light in my work, and accentuate the antiques and old hardwoods of Northern decor.

If you don't have a friend who's an interior decorator in your area, talk to people who purchase your work. I ask collectors to send me photos of my paintings in their homes. I like to see where they hang the work, and what the decor of the house looks like. Many collectors are happy to tell me what their framing preferences are.

a Virginia home featuring my work.

I often offer paintings unframed to people who love the work, but may live in other places where shipping glass is prohibitive. That way, they can choose the quality of frame they want to hang in their home.

I've reached a point in my career where nothing should leave my studio in less than the best possible presentation. In order for me to sell my work in the galleries that represent me for the prices they are selling for, the work needs to be of the utmost quality. This sends a statement to viewers that the art is special, worth collecting, valuable and a good investment.

People with money usually see a good investment, and are willing to pay a little more for a quality painting that will raise in price over the years and be worth several times the price tag in a few years.

Five years ago, my paintings sized 18x24 were sold for $350-$400 in a gallery in NY. Today, the same size sells for $1000 (Check out a breakdown of the investment value of my work under the "Galleries" page on my website). The reason for this dramatic price increase? The quality of my work has made a huge leap; my skill has improved greatly, and my career has changed from "emerging" to "established" professional in that time. Even though I have been a working professional artist for more than 30 years, I am just now coming into my own. Every painting that leaves my studio now has to be worth every cent of that price tag and then some!

If you want to grow as an artist, your work needs to be professionally presented at all times. I hope that my galleries will continue to hold me to high standards, and am grateful for the ones who encourage me reach higher.

Here are a few resources for you:

Frames: (must set up an account and have a resale number) framing supplies like d-rings, wire, tools, and spacers local frame maker (not framer) local giclee printer, & framer

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