Laura Kesselring: Juried Show Venue
back to table of Contents

The Juried Show Venue: Framing Your Work YOURSELF
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2000 16:20:33 -0800 (PST)
From: "Laura A. Kesselring" <>

Part 9 in an approximately 12-Part Series

Congratulations, you've been accepted! Now you have to prepare your masterpiece for exhibition. Unless it's a sculpture (in which case, you can usually send it as is) or the prospectus specifically states that they do not require framing, you will almost always need to put a frame on your piece. How you frame and the frame you choose are both very important decisions. In this column, I will go over framing your art yourself, and in the next column I will cover having your art framed professionally.

Framing your work yourself can be more economical and more personal, but also more time-consuming and more frustrating, depending on your skill level. You will need equipment, such as electric or hand saws, drills, and sanders; varnish or paint; hardware like nails, screws, wood glue, and braces. You will also need the raw materials, such as wood or metal, plexiglass, a mat if necessary, mounting materials, and a backboard. But most important, you will need time to complete the project (so that it can be shipped on time), as well as the knowledge to do it effectively.

When I was first accepted into exhibitions with work that needed framing, I chose to make my own frames. I made basic wood frames using basic tools: a small table saw, a drill, nails, screws, braces, and some varnish. These frames looked pretty slapped together because I didn't really know what I was doing. However, making your own frames (called "artist-made frames") even when you are not very good at it can still work to your advantage. Artist-made frames are considered as much a part of the work as the piece inside them, so if they are not very professional-looking, you can still get away with it. You also have total control (and sometimes, blame) over the end product. You can make anything from a plain wood frame to a frame using found objects or processed cheese singles. Go crazy!

To make the most basic frame, you will need some wood (I cut down some 2x4s) for the frame and some molding for the top. You will also need plexiglass to fit (you will probably have to cut this down yourself). You can get all of this at any hardware store. If you don't use a mat, you will need to construct the frame is some way so that the plexiglass will not be touching the surface of your piece.

Sometimes you will want a mat. Whether you make your own frame or have a professional do it, the key word is "archival." Always use museum-quality materials, at least for the parts directly touching your piece, like the mat board and backboard. I always have the mat and backboard cut at a frame store, and I always get them archival (this is usually museum-quality 100% cotton ragboard, acid-free). I usually have my piece archivally mounted (using paper or linen tape) in the mat at the same time. This cost is nominal (about $30) and they can usually do it in a day.

When you put the final piece together in the frame, make sure everything is stable, secure, and clean (check carefully that there is no lint caught between the mat and the plexiglass-this looks very unprofessional). You will need to attach hanging hardware to the back-use screw eyes and wire (most places will not accept sawtooth hangers, etc.). Then step back and admire your handiworkÖor at least give yourself an "A" for effort!

Up Next: "Framing Your Work PROFESSIONALLY"
Coming Soon: "Going to See Your Art, You Famous Person!"
Juried Show Venue: Table of Contents
Become an artiwu columnist!

welcome | discussions | profiles | history | links | bookstore | contact | news | jobs

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License 1998-2002.
Connecting Illinois Wesleyan University art students and art alumni.

Any questions, comments, inquiries, corrections, and additional information can be sent to grand papa webmasta: