Friday, March 15, 2013

Making It Work {Framing Art}

When you're on the hunt for unique and interesting art at places like estate sales, consignment shops, even thrift stores, most of us know that you shouldn't let an unfortunate looking frame deter you if the art truly speaks to you.  After all, you can always change out the frame.  The downside of course is that having a custom frame made tends to be rather pricey.  Adding matting--sometimes even double matting--adds to the price tag too.

It's for this reason that in addition to looking for pretty art,  I like to keep my eyes out for nice looking frames, even if I don't have a particular piece in mind for framing.  A custom cut solid wood frame can easily cost you $40-50 for a small piece of art and up to a couple hundred for a larger piece.  I've found that it ends up being much cheaper to have a mat cut to fit a frame you already have on hand.  

A while ago I came across these pretty original watercolors at a thrift store near our old house in Richmond, VA.  They weren't framed, but they only wanted $10 for the three paintings, so I was sold.  I wouldn't be surprised if they were done by a former student of VCU's art school.  One of them is signed with a date from the 70's.   I was drawn to them in particular because they reminded me of the landscape in Virginia.

When it came to deciding how to frame them, I remembered two frames I'd picked up that seemed like the dimensions might be right.

This is the only picture I have of the frame, it's the large one in the back.

In this case, I took the frame and my art to a local frame store and had them cut a mat they had in stock (to save money) to fit.  I think it cost me about $30--if I had chosen to get a custom frame made it would have been over $100.

For the second painting, I decided to use one of a pair of frames I also found at a {different} thrift store for $5 each.  (yes, I think I do other things besides go to thrift stores...}.

Lucky for me, the painting was done on a standard size paper and this frame was also a standard size.  Do you know what that meant?  I was able to just use a standard mat available pre-cut at a place like Michaels to the tune of about $5!  

I liked the white mat fine...
and then I got inspired when I had it turned upside down...there was something about the contrast of the gray and the gold frame that spoke to me.
I ended up doing something my creative friend Jennifer taught me (Hi Jennifer if you're reading :) by painting the mat! I just used some leftover latex paint with a small foam brush.  The hardest part was keeping the little bevelled insert around the inner edge white.
The top painting reminds me of some of the beautiful scenery along 29N, the road I would travel from my parent's to college.  The bottom one reminds me of fall on the Grounds of the University of Virginia.

I had one other painting that needed a little facelift.

 I found this original watercolor at a thrift store in St. Louis for $12.  Loved the painting (and the fact that it included a mat), did not love the cheapy gold frame.

This time, I didn't have a frame on hand, but I was fortunate to come across another frame for literally 50 cents that was the right dimensions.  Again, when artists paint on standard canvases it really helps my cause! :)

The only problem here was that the frame was a little dingy and dull looking.
I used some rub 'n buff in silver leaf and voila, this little frame became quite the stunner :)

Does anybody else have any tips for getting a custom framed look without the price tag?

Linking up at Emily A. Clark 


  1. I recently was given a piece of artwork from Curt's grandmother (she claims it is an original Salvador Dali...questionable coming from her, but it actually might be quite possible) any rate, it's a really cool black ink sketch but it came in what I thought was an ugly bright silver frame. I read a blog from Jenny from Little Green Notebook on improving frames and decided to purchase a gold leaf pen and gold leafed it and it totally transformed the look to a very classy aged gold frame. Having just done this dyi project a few months ago your blog resonated with me. :)

  2. What beautiful pieces! Love this tip. I'm keeping my eyes out for frames now :)