So when this timely advice dropped into our mail box from Cranbrook Art Show supporter Bev Saunders of Edge Bespoke Picture Framers in Hythe, we decided to share it with you:
This guide will help to give you the best opportunity for sales success during exhibition. It’s simple common sense “do’s and don’ts” about framing and exhibiting your artwork. Framing can easily be the most expensive part of mounting your show, and whilst costs can be reduced by using very inexpensive frames, remember they will look inexpensive and they will reduce the value of your work. Unless you're considering an alternative kind of presentation, budget to spend a reasonable sum on mounting and framing your work, it will pay you back in sales.
A good picture framer draws from a host of specialist skills to present your work and impress your clients. It is likely they will be asking themselves all kinds of questions such as “What do I get for my money? How good does it look? Will I get good value for money?” But often they are after something that will enhance their life, boast their achievements or add that little something to their interior, so we need to enhance your artwork to give it the best possible chance of selling. Well designed and executed picture framing will excite, inspire and reassure your client that they have chosen well, the easier you make this process the more confident your client will be in making their purchase.
Well-presented artwork is the result of experience and understanding fundamental design principles such as balance, proportion, visual weight, colour, contrast, value, shape and form; not to mention an understanding of cultural influences and trends in a number of disciplines such as, architecture, interior and even fabric design. Artwork and framing are inextricably linked to constantly changing trends and framers have to be aware of past and current inspirations, products and disciplines that are closely related to picture framing. It’s this experience that provides the confidence that result in your clients walking away having made a purchase.
After all it’s your work we’re promoting, not the frame. Matisse described the frame as "the most important part of a picture", as a tool for presenting the work, which is why I tend to disagree with one of my favourite Architects Mackay Hugh Baille Scott, who suggests that “It must be our aim to make the picture merge into the wall surface and appear a part of it…….On a wall panelled in dark oak, for instance, dark oak becomes the best material for the picture frame in most cases.” However, he clearly recognised that the frame is a connecting link between the work, its surroundings and the viewer. Sure there is a relationship between picture frames and internal architecture and this can be exploited by a picture framer in a way that isn’t possible using “off the peg” and second-hand frames. Similarly you have the opportunity to experiment with seemingly incongruous juxtapositions of styles and materials to stunning effect.
- Always present your work as professionally as possible. Think like a professional and you will be professional, treating your artwork with respect says much about the value you place on it, and this message will be relayed to the viewer, your client.
- Always use the best quality materials you can afford when creating your artwork, likewise when presenting and framing. In time, paper based art becomes acidic, using PH neutral materials to create and present your work will keep it looking fabulous and help preserve it for future generations to enjoy.
- The finished presentation should be new, well designed and crafted, avoid second-hand frames bearing the knocks and nicks of a past life. They are unlikely to be the right size for the work and will send the wrong message to prospective clients. Think of the presentation and frame as packaging, would you really expect to carry home a quality product in a supermarket carrier bag? I doubt it; imagine how it would make you feel about that product, the cheap disposable qualities of the carrier would transfer and influence a disposable attitude and devalue the contents. The quality of the work will be judged by the quality of its presentation, it’s a well-known fact that good presentation can make a mediocre artwork look great whereas poor presentation can make a great piece of art look bad. Is it really worth the risk?
- Picture frame moulding varies greatly in style, quality and price. Your framer should consider and select moulding that gives your work presence. There are a number of “safe” mouldings which remain for ever popular, and will ensure visual cohesion across a collection, but they are not necessarily aesthetically suitable for all pieces of work, and a collection can be rendered static as a result. Highlight the individuality of your work by selecting mount and moulding that does the best possible job of presenting your work. Carefully chosen colours enhance the image, or highlight elements within it. The mount not only separates the art from the glazing, it enhances the work for the viewer and catches their attention. Ensure the size of the mount and moulding is appropriate for the artwork, another reason why second-hand frames can do a disservice to your work. Yes a wide mount expands the work and makes it appear larger, and in some circumstances gives a small piece of work more importance, narrow mounts look mean and squash the work giving it no room to breathe. But don’t use disproportionately wide mounts just to make a piece fit into a standard sized frame.
- Make it as easy as possible for the viewer to see your work, ensure glazing is clean, scratch free and fits the frame correctly. Reflections in glazing can be problematic particularly on dark work, so consider one of the low reflection glazing products. This reduces distractions for the viewer allowing them to see the work before seeing the glass, otherwise they might just move on to the next exhibitor’s work.
- A stretched canvas requires no glazing because the canvas needs to breathe. The frame may be backed with a dust cover and/or moisture barrier, but this should be perforated to allow air to circulate.
- Large oils or acrylics on heavy-duty stretchers with a gallery wrap don’t need to be framed, but ensure the edge of the work is painted, and the canvas is stapled on the back for a neat professional finish.
The design of the display should enhance your body of work. Fill your space taking care not to overcrowd it, the old cliché “less is more” has endured for a reason. We give breathing space to work when it’s framed, allow each piece to occupy its own exhibition space so it can be individually considered. Identify and place the signature piece then counter balance with the remainder of your collection to maintain overall unity. Consider how colour influences which pieces sit together, how each piece relates to the next, balance colour across the collection for a cohesive display.
Discreetly and professionally, display material such as business cards, promotional material, and print runs etc. ensuring written information is well produced, accurate and correctly spelt. Don’t ruin the overall look of your presentation with last minute “add-ons”; consider neat Perspex dispensers which can be easily secured to your display panels, and think about placement during the planning of your space.
So now you feel you are ready to go? You have one last opportunity to ask a fresh pair of eyes to preview your display before opening, and don’t be afraid to remove the weakest piece of work if it doesn’t sit well and is having an adverse effect on the collection, your display will only be as strong as your weakest piece.
Deep breath, shoulders back, big smile, open the doors, and good luck!