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There are many artists out there who are much smarter than I am. They take their completed artwork to something called a "Professional Framer," and pick it up framed and ready to sell. I've heard of these creatures, these framers, working in frame shops, framing artwork for a living. I know they exist. I've even dreamed of hiring one. Trouble is, I've never thought that I could afford to have my artwork framed this way, so I have always done it myself.
I've changed the way I do it over time. I've learned to buy custom frames at wholesale, and graduated from cutting my own mats to ordering them pre-cut (once I figured out that it wasn't that much more money, after I've screwed up a few mats). I had my glass cut by the frame wholesaler, too. I had dialed in a pretty efficient, cost-effective system for myself. Then, I had the brilliant idea that I should upgrade my framing.
I found a new frame style that is similar to my previous mahogany stained wood, but wider and more substantial. It costs more but it is elegant and sturdy and worth it. But the biggest change by far has been---glass. After a particularly glare-y show at Sun Valley last year, one where I appeared to be selling a boothful of mirrors rather than pastels, I bit the bullet and switched to Anti-Reflective Glass. Anti-Reflective Glass is amazing, it makes the work look as if it is not behind glass at all. But while its cost alone seems to warrant the capitalization, it is so much more than expensive! It is also ever so delicate. And hard to clean. So much so that my wholesalers aren't supposed to cut it, but instead sell it by the box. Which brings me to why I am questioning my sanity and dreaming of Professional Framers.
Since I have to buy the glass uncut by the box, I have by necessity taken on the job of cutting it myself. Given my personal history, this should really be no big deal. I spent my early formative years (we're talking, two, maybe three years old) in a glass shop cutting scraps of glass with a hand-held cutter for entertainment while my glazier dad ran his business. My mom was climbing around on glass trucks basically until I popped out of her and she had to run to the hospital to finish the delivery on her lunch break. So you would think I had this in my blood! Cutting glass, no problem! Do it in my sleep! But after having a cut go sideways on a $50 piece of glass this summer, I am filled with therapy-worthy anxiety over glass.
I bought a giant wall-hung glass cutter to make the job easier (thanks to my wholesalers who found a used one for me almost instantly and at a very reasonable price). This should have been comforting but instead it, too, intimidated me... I'd never used one before and here I was staring at it alongside a $200 box of glass. Three sheets per box. I thought, hey, my dad can help! He must have used one of these before, since he had a glass shop. Not so much. Turns out he cut giant sheets of commercial plate glass BY HAND with a long board and one of those little green-handled cutters. He then proceeded to cut several small pieces of my troublesome coated glass by doing little more than look at it funny, like some mythical character from Dune. Looks like I'm on my own with the wall-mount contraption.
In the end, I pretty much figured out the cutter. It cuts really well. And after I turned several large, expensive sheets of glass into small, more expensive sheets of glass, I even figured out that I have to run the glass through the cutter with paper to keep the coating from scratching. So I guess this is it, my new system. I'm less anxious now---slightly. The new frames look really good, and the glass just disappears. But after a very stressful week of framing for a show, I can't help but wonder what it would have cost to hire a framer instead. I kind of think I should find out so I will feel better about all the money I'm saving. Or am I?
(Above: Bohemia, ©2011. Pastel, 8" x 24". It will be on display along with several other new works at the private Spokane Club starting this Wednesday, February 2nd. If you happen to be a member, please check it out.)