Bargain Framing

I like to paint. That’s a given. Sometimes it comes out better – sometimes worse. However, when it comes out nice, usually someone in my family suggests a frame. I normally am not the one to suggest this, as the painter rarely thinks something is amazing enough to frame and that the piece either missed the mark or needs improvement.

Either way, I must oblige. I prefer not to spend an arm and a leg for professional framing of my my work, but I also would prefer something more than a dollar store frame or a trip to IKEA. Those are okay, it is just that most of my pieces are not a standard frame size, and I have grown accustomed to mounting my pieces to a mat. I think it produces a wonderful effect. Just look at some artwork that is matted vs un-matted, and I think you will agree with me.

So, the remaining options are to make my own frames and cut the glass, or to find some existing frames that fulfill my purposes. I will start right here by saying that I was too lazy to make some frames on this labor day weekend, and I lacked the appropriate wood to make it worth the effort. So, that will wait for another time.

Instead, there is a great little farmer’s market – slash- flea market held in a large parking lot about 20 minutes away from where I am staying for the weekend with my family. Not only did my mom fight people for the freshest and most gorgeous veggies, including surprising finds of the crispest Asian pears (that were unknown to most of the other shoppers, apparently) and enormous bunches of crunchy kale picked the day before, for a $1.50 no less, but I spent some time walking through the flea market section. Naturally, several Asian pears were harmed in the making of this post. 🙂

Then, I walked through the flea market. Anyone who knows flea markets knows that there isn’t a lot that you want/need there. I was on the hunt for some bargain picture frames with glass and some nice wood. I was especially interested in those that were larger or more oddly shaped. I prefer to simply buy some mat board and cut it to adapt the frame to the painting. For those frames that were not suitable for a painting, it is not unheard of to compose a painting to fit inside a frame. It doesn’t always have to be the other way around. An artist is allowed to be practical while following his or her muse, after all. Haha.

I paid attention to reversing the frames and examining the back, making sure the corners were well-mitered and there was no significant or marring damage to them. I don’t really like the very gaudy ones, so I left those and opted for some that were simpler. However, I did splurge on a really intricate one that should fit a half-sheet painting (when I get around to painting it) for $2. I got 5 frames for $11. I wasn’t planning on paying more than $2-3 each, but I did see a pair that were very large and originally custom-made and in pristine condition that I haggled down to $8 for both. They even had some nice lilac mats inside that I could repurpose later on. And because they are a pair and so large, I could start planning a panorama painting or a nice paired set. All-in-all, it was a very productive hunt.

flea market frame haul
All of these, including the main image for the article. Note that the smallest one fits an 8×10 and was thrown in for free. The others were custom made and significantly larger. A great deal for me!

Naturally, there were at least 30 frames at this market, but I really wanted quality over quantity. That is the best value for me and helps me achieve the effect I want. I also have some experience using spray paint to liven them up a bit after a quick sanding. Some glass cleaner, a mat, and careful manipulation of whatever mounting system is there and – voila! I have already hung one up. You can see it in the main picture for the article.

That’s why I try to take a peek at yard and garage sales to simplify my framing and spend more time improving my skills painting with watercolor as opposed to spray paint. However, it is all worth it in the end.

Some steps are easier than others, maybe even more enjoyable, but we all have to start at SquareOne.

Happy Labor Day everyone!



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