The majority of artists have the age-old problem of creating art at a faster rate than they’re able to sell them at. Chances are, if that’s you, you’ll have a range of canvas prints, perhaps even photography, all neatly stored with preservation materials ready to demo at the next gallery, trade fair or exhibition.
In the months, weeks and days leading up to the demo event, the buzz can be overwhelming. Finally, you can take your masterpieces to showcase to an appreciative audience and make a profit from your creativity instead of it being stored away while you create more.
In the heat of all of the excitement, it’s all too easy to go overboard on presentation, investing too much in framing materials that it forces you to increase the price of your work to rates people aren’t willing to pay. The solution to keeping your prices down is to budget for presentation costs.
That’s your frames, the mounts and your presentation pieces. When you factor for the cost of presentation, it may mean that you’re forced to consider where you demo your work carefully. There are some exhibitions that focus highly on the buyer experience, insisting artists present their work in monochrome frames because that’s their theme of the year or whatever reason they give. If you have to increase your costs, find out if the exhibition is willing to contribute financially. Most won’t. When that’s the case, it may be worth giving it a miss.
Because the first that’s going to happen, when someone buys your framed work, is that they’re likely to reframe it anyway. It’s a waste of your cash. That is unless you’re splashing the money by investing in professional frames custom-fitted, which is never a good idea for any budding artist. You want to go with budget frames, and the best way to do that is to focus on the materials.
Some are better than others, depending on the material you’re framing.
What to Budget and Consider for Presenting Art Professionally
The frame moulding
If you’re framing with a wood mould, customers appreciate environmentally friendly materials. For you, that means finding a supplier that sources from reputable timber mills that are FSC certified. Prices are slightly higher, but a lot of frames are still within budget. These wood frames are higher quality than those you’d pick up in high street chain stores. Who knows how long they’ve been in stock or the conditions they’ve been stored in?
The Picture Mount and Cut Quality
Picture mounts can save you a bundle because they let you use larger frames for smaller prints by trimming the mount to the window size you need. You could buy bulk standard frames with a traditional wood mount or aluminium frames that are 11 x 14 and use those with a trimmed mount to frame an A4 print. If you have any other size of art printed, the window opening can be changed to suit the size you need.
Cutting picture mounts can be done with a precision computerised mount cutter or a manual cutter. For doing your own mount cutting, there’s no way a computerised cutter would be cost-effective as top quality brands cost thousands. For framers, they make sense as they’re used every day. When you need something precision cut with a professional finish, use a framer to cut your mounts to the specific dimensions you need. For simpler straight cuts, it’s cheaper to pick up a good manual cutter. One of the better-known brands among artists is the Logan brand with a range of cutters, some straight, others having bevel cut options.
Equipped with a quality mount cutter, you’ll be able to save on mounts by ordering neutral colours of mount board that you can then cut to whatever size you need, when you need them.
Only frame your demo pieces – not the finished product
To keep your cash flow in good shape, don’t resell your frames with the prints. Have alternative options for your customers because many are going to reframe these anyway. Use quality frames for demo work with a professional finish but sell the work as unframed. If your work is on the higher price range, some customers may even ask for a discount by effectively selling you back your frame.
If you have a framing partner where you can source reasonably priced frames, you could showcase your demo work even more professionally by showing your framed prints and another collection of mouldings for your customers to choose the frame they’d like. Or just sell stock frames as temporary placeholders until they have their print framed how they want.
Don’t’ waste overheads by trying to frame your work to sell as you won’t be able to cater to everyone’s taste. Just as art is personal to the buyer, so too is how they present that on their wall displays. The important part is your demo pieces. Professionally frame those, so people see what’s possible but leave the end display for them to tailor rather than absorbing the cost of something that’s going to be replaced anyway – in most cases.