With Christmas fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about what to get and for whom. The idea of getting that picture someone loves so much seems like the easiest thing to sort out, so it's off to Ikea or Wilkinsons to grab a ready made frame right?
- Oooh so so wrong!
It certainly seems like the best idea at the time, beacuse they're cheap and readily accessible, but It's only going to bring hardship and heartache later down the line or even as soon as you try to put the picture in the frame.
Heres why a bespoke frame is definitely the way to go.
You might scoff at me when I say that the APPEARANCE, SIZE, CONSTRUCTION and VERSATILITY are really important in a frame. The comment "it's just a frame" is normally used in the same sentence as "it's not as if it's an expensive piece of artwork" but this is completely untrue...for one, the item you decided to have framed and give as a gift instantly became as important as a valuable work of art the moment you made that decision. so rather than spend £10-£20 on an off the shelf, spend a little more to do it right!!
And this is where the APPEARANCE of the frame is important.
Cheap off the shelf frames are going to look just that. Theres nothing unique about them (or they're so ridiculously over the top it's offensive) That nasty laminate finish which has been manhandled by countless other people is a big giveaway.
With a custom frame you have a much better selection of moulding choices so you have a much better chance of finding something that will suit the image or item you're displaying. You can also guarantee your image/item will fit. This is because of the custom...
SIZE. By size I do actually mean shape. At first glance the frame may be big enough for your image but is it the right shape? Off the shelf frames come in pre determined shapes, so you may get lucky and have an image that is a standard shape, but if you choose a frame the same size as the image then your're not leavng yourself any room for a mount.
Does having a mount matter? Absolutely! Not only does a mount improve the overall final look of your framed image, but it also protects it. The mount is what stops the glass from touching your art. Glass can stick to or damage what it is you're framing and it starts to look bad. Not only that, but a custom frame will allow for an even, uniform mount around your image. Ready made frames that come with a mount are either paper or normal cardboard, rather than 'proper' acid free mount board. These cheaper mounts are usually disproprtionate too - i.e. they have two different widths; the sides normally wider than the top, or vice versa. No one in their right mind would do this by choice. Next time you're shopping have a look!!
All of this so far is nothing if the Frame isn't made well.
CONSTRUCTION is key because it's the overall quality of the frame itself which is going to fail in the biggest and fastest way if not done properly. Off the shelf frames just aren't made as well as bespoke frames...this is a fact!
I've lost count of the times I've had a customer come to me with a store bought frame with broken glass because the frame has fallen from the wall or it's fallen in another way, and the frame itself is damaged. Mostly, this is because of the hanging system of off shelf frames.
They hardly ever take a wire or proper framing cord*, and instead use one of those little loops that seem to be riveted to the backing. A Wire or cord can be attached to the back of the frame, and not only make it more secure, but much easier to hang! (* Picture framing cord is a very low stretch, incredibly strong material designed specifically for this purpose. Normal type string isn't up to the job)
Custom frames, wether they be wood or metal, are joined differently at the corners.
I prefer to use real wood as opposed to MDF which a lot of the cheap off the shelf, shop bought frames are made from. This means the frames are of a stronger material. Real wood also takes framing staples much better. These staples, along with glue, are what's used to hold the mitre joints together. I have found from experience, that a lot of the cheaper frames are pinned with inadequate sized and or number of staples to hold the joints together, and almost never glued! As such, custom frames much sturdier. The nice thing about this is you can put a much wider variety of items in them. they're a lot more...
VERSATILE. If you ever have to frame something thats not just paper or a photograph, maybe something thicker or heavier or not made of paper at all, you're not going to have much luck with an off the shelf. Normally they're too shallow to hold anything more than the glass, a piece of paper and the awfully thin backing supplied, you'll never get anything else in there.
Another thing with off the shelf is that they're normally supplied with a closed back with clasps or those springs that slot in and hold the backing in place. This limits how much material you can fit inside the frame. Photos for example, most often (certainly with most professional photographers) are mounted onto a board. However thin this board may seem, fitting it into one of these frames is going to be a
The final thing to look for is a sealed back. Professionally made frames will, at the very least, have the back of the frame sealed with proper framing tape, NOT masking tape, or parcel tape or gaffa tape as I have seen more times than I care to admit.
Tapping finishes off of the back of the frame nicely, and adds another level of strength along with the correct pins used to fix the backing board in place. The tape also helps to stop those nasty little picture bugs getting in and behind the glass.
So there you have it, an insight into why an off the shelf frame is the last thing you should put your art in. There are a lot of other elements to framing that a professional framer will have expertise in, such as conservation level framing for delicate, high value items, but I'll save that for another blog.
If you're giving as a gift, keep this in mind and use custom frames. You'll impress every one of your recipients! And if you're framing for yourself, you'll be able to pat yourself on the back every time you look at it hanging on your wall, because you made the right choice in getting it professionally framed.
BUY ONCE, BUY RIGHT!