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Thread: Framing for a gallery exhibit

  1. #1
    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Let's assume for the moment that I'm pretty much without clue (good assumption...), how would you mat and frame prints for a solo gallery show?

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Doug I have been asking the same questions of a few of my PJ friends. I have always used the products from Light Impressions and framed with simple matted archival products. Simple black metal frames with museum quality white mats . I compared these to whats used at the Leica Gallery in NYC and the one in Palm Beach at the Palm Beach Workshop gallery. This seems to be the standard...some differences.. Some prefer black wood frames and there are differences in glass or plastic coverings.

    The Light Impressions catalog is a good reference with plenty of examples and how to information.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    What Roger said.

    I have been framing for display for several years, and after several different iterations I have found the best combination to be white mats and thin black aluminum frames.

    Now, there is still a BUNCH of options here. Single versus Double mat. For myself, I prefer double-mats, but for a show, I generally keep it to a simple single mat. In single, do you want to us 4-ply or 8-ply? I like the look of single 8-ply, but it's a PITA to cut.

    Now you have one more hurdle -- there are a a variety of "white" mat colors. Do you want bright white, brilliant white, very white, glacier white, white, warm white or antique white? You do want to use archival rag mat, but then there is textured surface and smooth surface. Museum board comes in fewer whites, and is smooth surfaced and harder than conventional rag mat -- it in "very" white what I finally settled on. However, some of the options with slightly textured surfaces do look more "artistic" to my eye.

    Finally, I recommend you not skimp on mat borders and final frame sizes to save money -- it's a common newbie practice to try and get as many mats as possible out of a single sheet. The best museum board costs about $10 per 32x40 inch sheet if you buy in bulk. I would recommend a minimum of a 3" surround, and even 4 or 5 inches can look best depending on final print size.

    Backing: Museum board is excellent for backing, but thin, so I use an archival foamcore, and I prefer the thicker 3/8ths sizes. It is also about $10 per sheet in bulk.

    Mounting: I now almost exclusively hinge mount the prints with archival hinge tape, but for convenience I use either the adhesive-backed linen or paper hinge tape, not the fussy water-activated tapes. I do have a heat press for hot-mounting, and have to admit that the current Fiber-Based photo papers do look very nice hot-mounted. Here I use the low temp Bienfang archival tissue.

    Oh, frames. "Black" aluminum frames are available in a variety of profiles -- shallow or wide round edge or flat edge -- and different depths, then glossy, satin or frost finishes. To me, it doesn't make much difference, but I've settled on the deeper (as it accommodates the thick foam-core backing better), shallow round edge satin black as my standard.
    Jack
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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Jack

    Quite helpful information. What type of "glass" have you settled on? I know a few years ago you had clear glass(cheap): non reflective plexiglass(?) reasonable or non reflective glass(very expensive). I had seen that their was a new product that was getting good reviews at an affordable price(not cheap but not like non reflective glass).

    Roger

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    I have framed works a variety of ways including completely making wood frames myself, matting and framing as Jack describes above, and taking prints to a professional frame shop and have them do the work. I mostly do the latter now but of course it is the most expensive option.

    If you plan to do the work yourself (for example, as Jack outlines above) then it is essential that you have the proper tools and a good work area. Cutting 32 x 40 in. boards requires some space and the proper cutters/straight edges etc.

    If you plan to cut beveled window mats then I would suggest you get a cutter designed for this purpose - cutting them freehand is not easy without some experience.

    In addition to standard frames and mats, photos can be presented mounted directly on substrates such as masonite, sintra, plexi, and aluminum (one of the best for this purpose). Depending on the series of prints and the exhibition location you could consider this method as well.

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Cutting mats is difficult(impossible? ) without the right tools. In Atlanta I found a few places that would cut the mats to my dimensions ..not inexpensive but cheaper than having the entire framing done . Light Impressions will also custom cut any board to your dimensions.

    If you can live with a standard outside dimension the precut board seems pretty reasonable. Its the mat that frames the image that can require a custom cut.

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    Senior Member viablex1's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    I double matte and make my own frames, but recently I have used the perma chrome stable prints from laslight on aluminum that have their own hanger very handy

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Quote Originally Posted by glenerrolrd View Post
    Jack

    Quite helpful information. What type of "glass" have you settled on? I know a few years ago you had clear glass(cheap): non reflective plexiglass(?) reasonable or non reflective glass(very expensive). I had seen that their was a new product that was getting good reviews at an affordable price(not cheap but not like non reflective glass).

    Roger
    Hi Roger:

    I now exclusively use regular clear acrylic, usually 1/8th or 3/32, but for whatever reason the 1/8 is far less static-prone --- and static is THE issue using plexi. Non-reflective glass or plexi really do impair the viewing of the prints. Plain does reflect more, but it's usually not as big a problem as it sounds, and you then get to see the print very clearly. Glass is a PITA to cut, heavier and more easily broken, but not as scratch prone as plexi --- but again, I have not had significant scratch problems with plexi. I buy my plexi pre-cut to frame size from TAP plastics -- a 20x24 sheet of 1/8 costs about $15.

    Re tools, my mat cutter is a wall-mounted SpeedMat 4060 which locks down the mat and cuts all four sides without moving the mat. It also has built-in flip-stops for perfect double-mats, and has a built-in sliding cutter at the RH side for sizing the backing and mat materials. It is kind of expensive -- about $2500 -- but worth every penny IMO. I bought mine about 12 years ago and it paid for itself the first show of 24 prints. With it, I can start from scratch and size the materials, cut the mats and then mount and double-mat about 8-10 24" prints per hour. http://www.speed-mat.com/

    Cheers,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  9. #9
    DougDolde
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    If you dint want to cut mats a good source is framedestination.com

    if you don't want to use glass print on canvas

    visit my website for how I do it

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Doing it by hand is perhaps fun but I just make to order from my local framer, he has a computer guided cutter and makes me beautiful and perfectly cut double 8 ply Mattes for little more than the cost of the sheets themselves. Having a good relationship with a pro framer is well worth the time for any Fine Art shooter. At a certain point the convenience and professionalism of using experts in the field really do impress themselves as a superior option to 'DIY' in my opinion.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Ben, that's great if you have it, but for whatever reason, here in the states frame shops charge like matting and mounting materials are all made of precious metals. Seriously, a 16x24 mount and double-mat alone can cost you well over $100, even up around $200, and that's not counting any frame!
    Jack
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    There are some great hints here. Personally, if I were to do a solo show, NOTHING would get framed. I have never been a big fan of frames for photos. Instead, use thick (1/2" - 1") black gator foam, mount and trim flush with no border. It really is a striking look and there is nothing separating the viewer from the photo. If you are concerned about the photos being damaged, you can either laminate them or use a protective spray. If you want to take the floating look even farther, you can build a small 1" wood spacer on the back. Total cost is less than framing, it looks nicer, there is nothing to break and it weighs less.

    If framing is required, there are a couple options here. Jack mentioned buying in bulk, and that is the way to go. If possible, standardize on a frame size, maybe two, and order all your frames in that size -- stick with bulk glass/plexi though. Call around to your local frame shops and see who has a CNC mat cutter who will cut you a deal on the mats. If you want the cheap, easy way, go with about a 3" - 4" mat border (you already decided on a universal frame size) and then you don't need to worry about horizontal or vertical pictures since everything is the same size. If you want to be a little fancier and like the look, you can go with a bottom weighted mat where the top and sides are (for example) 3" and the bottom is 4". Of course, then you no longer have truly universal mats.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Ben, that's great if you have it, but for whatever reason, here in the states frame shops charge like matting and mounting materials are all made of precious metals. Seriously, a 16x24 mount and double-mat alone can cost you well over $100, even up around $200, and that's not counting any frame!
    That's one whole heck of a lot of money Jack! I'm paying 26 for a dry mount on foamcore and double 8 ply (Neilsen Conservation) mount including backing card and shipping bag for an 18X12" print. Even doubling that doesn't take you to $100. My guy really knows his stuff as well.

    I used to frame professionally myself. I ran a photo lab for a couple of years and we had a framing shop onsight that I was also the manager for. I learnt the trade, I could do it easily enough, it's just that it's more hassle and cost (in the UK) than it's worth for me to be honest.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    I'm paying 26 for a dry mount on foamcore and double 8 ply (Neilsen Conservation) mount including backing card and shipping bag for an 18X12" print.
    At those prices, I understand! In my case though, I already own the equipment, and it's all set up and ready to go. Plus I enjoy it -- there is something especially rewarding about seeing one of my images matted and framed. I have my framing station set up in my garage, so do most of this after normal business hours. I'll head home, pour a drink, and go to work -- I can usually knock half a dozen out before dinner. FWIW, an 18x24 print, mounted, double-matted and framed out to 26x32 costs me about 15 minutes and $65 in framing materials when all said and done.
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    For mat cutting I have a Logan Framer's Edge cutter. Not as convenient as Jack's fancy-shmancy cutter but a much lower investment (I think I paid about $380 for it a few years ago). I habe little or no experience with other cutters but from what I understand this is one of the better ones?
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    aprillove20
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Light Impressions catalog is a good reference.

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    While I am new to this forum, I have become somewhat experienced in building my frames (wood), cutting my own mats and glass and installing my prints. At first this was a tedious and almost scary process (fear of not being ready by a deadline due to my lack of experience), but I have finally begun to enjoy the process. I also use the Speedmat, and consider it invaluable. I buy glass, moulding, and mat board once a year (every 12-16 months) in wholesale quantities and then fill in with a few replenishment orders as needed. For me the framing process has now become enjoyable and an important part of the artistic process. It has taken me about two years to offset my equipment costs. I live in a rural area and the time cost of having my framing done by someone else (having to travel through rush hour traffic to Atlanta back and forth taking prints, signing prints or mats, and picking up finished framing) and worrying about whether someone else takes my deadline as serously I do has saved me time and stress in the long run. Once the framing became a part of my own creative process it has become almost as enjoyable as the photography itself. Fortunately, I already had a woodworking shop, and the framing process along with the photography has supplanted most of my interest in woodworking. This is not a small undertaking, but the potential for enhancing your photographs is quite substantial. As you all know the presentation itself has a crucial impact on the image. I will be glad to share my framing experiences, mistakes, and pleasures with anyone who wishes to do their own.

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    Subscriber Member mwalker's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    What about getting all those prints to and from the show and possibly shipped to a new location. Is there a place to buy a roll around box or do you need to get out a jig saw and plywood.
    Mike

    website under construction

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    I try to consider the location of a show and not get into a situation where I have to ship a lot of items. I am able to drive to most of the shows I have entered and often I consider the location of the show in terms of whether I would like to use that location as an opportunity to take more photographs while there. My wife is a landscape painter and with very little help from me, she designed a "break down cart from PVC and carpet padding. The frames (whether photographs or paintings) are stored upright (similar to a lateral filing) with cardboard in between which are then gently strapped into place with bungi cord. When we arrive at the destination (in an van) the cart is put together and 15 to 25 frames at a time are rolled into the destination. The system needs some refinement, but it is a good start. The same process could be used with a small enclosed trailer if a longer trip is required.

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    USE OF METAL FRAMES: I don't want to open up a subject that should remain closed, but I am interested in the pros & cons of using metal frames. Since I have not used metal frames comments would be appreciated. I am aware of some people who think wood is classic. I use wood, but have an open mind to advantages of more modern approaches. I presume the use of metal frames requires ordering custom cut frames where standard frame sizes are not used. I can see many advantages to metal frames, but am curious to learn what the controlling factors have been in the decisions to use metal vs. wood (or wood look alikes).

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Quote Originally Posted by mwalker View Post
    What about getting all those prints to and from the show and possibly shipped to a new location. Is there a place to buy a roll around box or do you need to get out a jig saw and plywood.
    Hi Mike,

    For shipment or longer transports I use sheets of foam styrene insulation I purchase at Home Depot in 4'x8' sheets to separate the framed images. The material comes in different thicknesses (1/2", 3/4",1"...), so one can modify depending on carton, etc. One can make "bombproof" layered sets for shipping.

    Also, if you're doing a lot of shipping of the same images, ULINE carries "art shippers". They're expensive, but if using multiple times it can average out. I have looked through their offerings and mostly just made my own using the styrene sheets as described. At ULine, search "art" for options or ideas. I package the framed work prior to encasing in the sheet material to avoid static electricity issues.

    And as you've mentioned, one can build crates out of plywood and hardboard, but shipping gets expensive due to weight.

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Quote Originally Posted by cs750 View Post
    USE OF METAL FRAMES: I don't want to open up a subject that should remain closed, but I am interested in the pros & cons of using metal frames. Since I have not used metal frames comments would be appreciated. I am aware of some people who think wood is classic. I use wood, but have an open mind to advantages of more modern approaches. I presume the use of metal frames requires ordering custom cut frames where standard frame sizes are not used. I can see many advantages to metal frames, but am curious to learn what the controlling factors have been in the decisions to use metal vs. wood (or wood look alikes).
    The metal Neilsen frames I've had made are very difficult to cut (my framer has a machine to do it), difficult to align, heavy, expensive and a pain in the neck to assemble. Ready made is a different story of course but the price is a serious consideration.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    I use Metal frames almost exclusively. The ones I order are pre-cut in pairs for each dimension and include the 4 corners and 8 retaining springs. I then glaze with plexi which I order cut to size from Tap plastics. Assembly is a piece of cake for me. I assemble three sides of the frame, and then attach the two remaining corner sections to the remaining frame edge. I then place the plexi on top of the mounted and matted print, slide that sandwich into the open end of the frame and slip the remaining edge onto the frame and tighten it down. Next I flip it over, insert the retaining springs, add wire hangers and wire and put silicone wall bumpers at the rear corners. Total elapsed time maybe 5 minutes per frame.

    PS: I have cut my own lengths of aluminum sides down to custom lengths using a regular power miter saw for wood moulding with a Carbide-tepped blade. Not always perfect, but close enough nobody knows it is not a factory cut when a custom size is needed.
    Jack
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Jack: Where do you buy your bright white 4-ply mat board & what brand? I did some research with Epson & on-line and several sources said unbuffered is best for inkjet prints, but that's harder to find.

    I've always used Light Impressions, but they seems to have changed owners and lost their sense of customer service (see my post below).

    Thanks,

    Lynn Noah

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Hi Lynn,

    First off, I prefer Plain White which is pretty white or sometimes Natural White (Warmer). I rarely use Bright White as I find it too bright for my images.

    My current preferred mat board is Bainbridge Alpha Rag in "Artcare" form which is their term for archival. (It used to be called "Museum Board" and differs from their Alpha Mat as it is one solid piece of pressed rag without a paper cover, while Alpha Mat has a paper cover.) It is available in Bright, Plain, Natural and Warm White. I buy mine online in 25-sheet case lots from United: http://www.unitedmfrscatalog.com/home/index.htm.

    A note about mail ordering mat board and foamcore mounting board. I have virtually never received an order from ANY source that didn't arrive with part of the case having damaged corners. For me, I plan on about a 20% loss factor when I order it. Obviously I could buy it locally and hand select perfect sheets, but then the price per sheet is about 2.5x what I pay over online case order. My only point here is plan on some corner or center damage to the outer pieces in the case if you have case lots shipped to you.
    Jack
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    i have made a few successful purchases from these guys: mats, backing boards, hinges, etc.

    http://www.framedestination.com/

    jm

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    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    An update - my frames are all done & the photos are ready to hang. Here's what I ended up with:

    For mat board I used Crescent photorag from redimat.com. I bought blank 32"x40" sheets and cut the mats myself with a home-made jig and hand cutter. Mats for larger photos are 3" wide, for smaller photos it's a 2" mat.

    The frames are made from a variety of hardwoods I salvaged from my father's workshop when he moved into a retirement home. I used his table saw and router to make the moulding & cut to length. The frames are a wide variety of sizes and dimensions to suit the individual photos so standard sizes wasn't practical.

    I bought conservation glass locally. This was the most expensive part of the process but the source was willing to accommodate my odd sizes at no extra cost and the fit (in my odd-sized frames) has been nothing short of perfect.

    Total cash outlay (a HUGE issue) was as much as $30 for each of the largest photos (14"x18" photo, 20"x24" frame) and about $10 each for the smallest (8"x10" photo, 12"x14" frame) and they look fabulous if I say so myself. The hand-made hardwood frames ($0.00) are a big plus. I was nervous about

    a) being able to do a quality job and
    b) completing the project on time

    but in the end it worked out well.
    Doug Herr http://www.wildlightphoto.com
    Likes 1 Member(s) liked this post

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    pics pics pics!
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

    Website: http://www.timelessjewishart.com

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    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    The date for the show is fast approaching and today I finished framing the 40th print so here's a quick update. The show is at Blue Wing Gallery in Woodland California and scheduled for the entire month of April, with an opening reception typically the first Friday of the month from 6-9 PM. The first Friday in April is the day after March 31 (no fooling!). Blue Wing Gallery's website is http://bluewinggallery.com/

    Here's one of the framed prints:

  30. #30
    Ronan
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Nice! I'm about to print + frame some personal stuff for myself and family members.

    This thread = great help!

    Thanks and good luck on your expo

    If you don't mind me asking, around how much did it cost you in material?

  31. #31
    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Quote Originally Posted by Ronan View Post
    If you don't mind me asking, around how much did it cost you in material?
    I don't mind at all. Beyond the wood salvaged from my father's garage, wood for an 18" x 24" frame (California black walnut) was $10.65, the conservation glass was $25 (Aaron Brothers) and the mat board was ~$10 (redimat.com). For a 16" x 20" frame the wood was $9.13 (same walnut stock), glass also $25, mat board ~$5. I'm putting a lot of labor into the frames too, which I haven't quantified yet.

    The walnut wood stock was from thewalnutplace.com in Woodland CA. Robert Beauchamp along with his business partner cuts, dries and mills the wood and he was very helpful getting me the right pieces at very reasonable cost... he also milled the wood to the rough dimensions I needed. An outstanding resource IMHO.

    There were a few other expenses too; corner clamps, glue, lots of sandpaper, finishing nails, compound mitre saw (http://www.greenbackrentals.com), and the Watco teak oil finish. Spread over the 40 frames the cost of this stuff was ~$2/frame.

  32. #32
    Senior Member doug's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    On Saturday I delivered 48 framed prints to the gallery for hanging. Friday night I felt like I was at mile 20 of a marathon, where runners usually hit "the wall". For those who have yet to run a marathon, "the wall" is where your energy reserves are totally depleted, all hope is gone, the dementors are moving in for the kill and you still have 6.2 miles left to run. IIRC it's where I swore I'd never run again as long as I lived.

    The nagging questions I had were:

    ) are my homemade frames good enough?
    ) do I have enough to fill the gallery space?
    ) did I print everything too small?
    ) is the gallery owner going to tell me I f***ed it all up and now he has nothing for the month of April?

    Saturday morning driving to the gallery was like mile 26: legs are cramping, knees are wobbly, energy reserves and brain activity are beyond gone but THE FINISH LINE IS ONLY 2 TENTHS OF A MILE AWAY!

    As I brought the prints into the gallery the crowds began cheering! The gallery owner loves the prints, the gallery's framer was delighted with my frames, mats, everything, and there's plenty to fill the space. The owner summed it up: "This is going to be a great show".

    BTW I didn't quit running.

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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    good for you! that last bit of cheer makes up for a lot of worry and hard work. good luck with the show

  34. #34
    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Looking good Doug -- good luck with the show!!!
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  35. #35
    Jamgypsy
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    Re: Framing for a gallery exhibit

    Hi all. I'm a new member, trying to post in an old thread, so if this doesn't work, I'll try elsewhere. My question is similar to Doug's original one which started this discussion, and I've read all the previous postings with interest (and actually understood some of them!). I'm putting together about 40 prints, average size 11X14, for a show of my pictures from China. It's my first solo show and I'm definitely an amateur (boy, that took me three tries to spell right!) especially where it comes to framing. I want a frameless presentation and I don't have unlimited funds, so I'm trying to find a way that doesn't cost too much but looks nice. Foamcore was recommended and is locally available but I've been reading criticisms of it and Bill Green in #12 above recommends the black gatorfoam, which I've been reading about. When I asked the local frame shop I'm working with if they had that material, however, they did not (nor sintra, nor mightycore) and suggested drymounting the photos onto 8-ply matboard, working up a pretty good price estimate. Does anyone have feedback on using 8-ply as the substrate for photos, no frame? The largest piece is 24X30. Any suggestions for a nervous newbie would be very much appreciated!
    Jamgypsy http://adventureinchina.shutterfly.com

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