To Frame or Not to Frame Artwork?
January 10, 2017
On the weekend, I was Downtown Medicine Hat to do some shopping and went into a local store. We chatted about my recent art-show at the Cypress Club (no mention that they liked the show ) and the conversation quickly headed towards whether or not artists should be framing artwork. The owners made some lively points about the benefits of framing artwork, but after I left, I thought of many points to disagree with their opinion of how local artists run their businesses in our community.
For one, it’s the art that matters. Not the frame. The owner stated that Medicine Hat artists need to “change their attitude about the art business because they’ve found that local artists are cheap when it comes to framing their artwork (I think they meant me). Just because many local artists, including myself, opt to NOT frame their artwork, it doesn’t mean we are cheap…it means that we care about where we place our dollars. It is a personal and a financial choice. At this point in my career, I only frame work when the art has been painted on gessoed paper. Artists like myself, struggle to build a brand, run a website, paint for shows, apply for funding and every dollar earned counts towards the next project. Framing artwork considerably carves into the bottom-line and change the way an artists prices his or her work. From an artists perspective, it is a gamble to invest heavy dollars into framing work, especially if the piece doesn’t sell. These precious dollars can be used elsewhere while building your early art career. On the other hand, If you’ve applied for a grant and have a show at a well known gallery, framing is a very viable option as the grant funds can cover some of this additional expense. In the near future, when I’m represented by a commercial gallery ( and have the sales to offset the frame costs ), maybe I’ll change my mind about investing in framing. But for now, I’ll keep my dollars in my pocket as opposed to having work framed.
The problem with framing is most of the clients like a particular type and color of frame and sometimes the choice is done with a mindful eye of their personalized interior space. So why would I frame art pieces that most collectors will swap out anyways? A high quality frame can be just as distracting as a low quality frame. Some viewers may like a gold frame while others may dislike black frames. It doesn’t matter how great the quality of the frame is at that point. If someone dislikes the frame and the way it is presented, it’s a lost sale. Finito!!! Yet professional framers continue to lecture artists on how we should fork over hundreds of dollars for a quality frame.
I am glad they brought this to my attention….sometimes, it’s just the way people state things and show you demeaning examples to make their point is what makes the conversation frustrating. I will bring this idea forward to my collectors in the future. In the past, collector’s whom have purchased my artwork have been more concerned of whether or not they can afford to have a larger piece of artwork in their home or office. My presentation of artwork has not been to show a frame, so maybe when the artwork is purchased, framing the work doesn’t cross the collectors minds’. I follow the minimalist look copied from what I’ve noticed in many commercial galleries in Europe and Western Canada and framing is not mandatory now as it has been in the past. But there are some cases when artwork is appropriate for a frame–for instance, original watercolor paintings. Most of my birch wood and cradled art-pieces stand on their own as they have a three inch cradle-board. My clients view these pieces as sculptural and a frame would hide my signature as I also sign the right side of my work instead of the front; my brand “TE” goes on the front and the side signature ends up being an integral part of the piece. In some cases, I complete the painting and use the sides of the cradleboard as part of the image, around all four sides of the frame. If I were to frame this piece of artwork, it defeats the purpose of the image wrapping the sides as it would be hidden from the viewer. Bobbie Burgers is a Canadian artist and is famous for doing this technique in her floral art-shows.
Secondly, I’m in the business of producing and selling art — not framing artwork. And, I don’t believe that my art-pieces are unfinished because they lack the extra framed edge around it. If a collector would like a piece framed, I’d gladly send them to a local framer and they can choose from the vast array of frames to fit their interior and their pocketbook. A point I will gladly mention to clients in the future as an option.
What Advice Would You Give?
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with framing? If you have any comments as a collector or are an artist in the Medicine Hat area, let me know your thoughts on framing art! It would be great to have some local opinions about whether to frame or not to frame.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
+ ArtWorks in RED Studio