Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Getting framed

A couple of weeks back it crossed my mind that a smart artist on a limited budget (that's me) would get crafty and learn how to frame their own work. Given my past experience framing some Flatstock posters by Chicago's Jay Ryan of The Bird Machine, I learned the hard way that framing is not cheap. Don't get me wrong- framing is not the easiest thing in the world and using good materials like attractive moulding, ph-neutral matting, and museum glass will never be inexpensive. But- there's definitely another way.

Scouring the interwebs for tutorials, I came across the Portland Free School- one of many community-run organizations dedicated to offering instruction on a variety of subjects, taught locally by people in the know. I don't specifically say, "experts" because pretty much anyone is welcome to "teach" a course through the Free School. Have you mastered the art of macrame plant hangers? You could teach a class. You get the picture. So the downside is that your "teacher" may be the guy from the coffee shop. The upside is that you can meet people and learn new skills that you might otherwise be unable to afford to learn in a traditional setting. I'm a fan thus far.

It was through the Free School that I came across a class being offered at a place called Artery (disclaimer: there's not much on the site yet). This gallery and frame shop aims to offer a more creative solution to framing than your average U-Frame It, and a more affordable alternative to folks in the price-range of say, Museum Quality Framing. Their plan to accomplish this goal is to offer the space and materials for artists (and Joe Public) to choose the bones of their project (frame, mat, & glass), and then guide them along a path to customizing their frame.

For me, this meant that I chose a 5" x 7" unfinished wood frame for $12 and was given free reign to use the brushes, paints, dryer, masking tape, and finishing sprays to create a decorative finish. I began with something resembling an upscale Ikea frame, and finished with this:
It may not look like much but I started with a basic red acrylic, and used a flat brush with a combo of gold and bronze paint to create a vaguely fan-shaped, all-over pattern over the base. Finally I created a black border around the edge of the frame closest to the wall to add interest.

Honestly- I was really pleased. And I get the impression that the possibilities are virtually limitless and entirely dependent on just how much time and money you want to spend. Of course- had I wanted to frame an actual photo or piece of art- the price would have increased with the mat (about $7), the glass (about $7) and the fitting (up to $25). All prices are based on the size of your frame and there's a decent selection of pre-made frames as well as custom materials.

Since the workshop, I've finished another frame at home using my cordless dremel, some black and white acrylic paint, and a satin varnish spray. (I repeated the graduated pattern shown on the opposite side of the frame as well.) At this point, I'm thinking the techniques I learned could prove very valuable in elevating the frames I use for my collage work and that the friendly and knowledgeable staff at Artery are at the ready should I need some additional support in the construction arena.

On December 5th, Artery will host another frame clinic geared toward holiday shoppers looking for creative, affordable gifts. The word is, for $10, you can decorate and frame a photo or other work in a 3" x 3" ornament-style frame with help from Debo Kerr and Artery staff. Space is limited but I've already reserved my spot. If you're interested, follow the link. Cheap is definitely the new black this Christmas/Non-denominational December holiday.

4114 N. Vancouver Ave.
Portland, OR, 97217

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