Hands up who has at least one print waiting to be framed? Yes - my hand went up too! And if you haven't framed art before, you might be feeling a bit uncertain.
Before going to the framers
If your print is rolled, try to resist temptation and don't unroll it for a peek. Leave it rolled until you get to the framer, to minimize damage. If it's in a cellophane sleeve, leave it inside. And if you do peek, be careful to not touch the surface, especially if the print is on a matte paper, which is easily scratched.
Think about where you'll hang it and make some measurements. Take a photo on your phone too, so the framer can see the colour of your wall. If you have other art hanging nearby, take photos of them too so the framer gets a sense of your style.
Have at least a rough idea of your budget range, and do give the framer an indication of whether you're looking for a low cost frame, mid-range, or something a bit special.
It's the thing you can't see that's most important - the glass
The most important decision is the glass, not the frame. You want to see the art in all its glory.
Plain glass is the cheapest, but is reflective. I don't know about you but reflections drive me crazy! It makes it so much harder to fully appreciate the print and the texture of the paper. Plain glass doesn't protect against UV light either, so your print will fade faster. Some people do like the shiny finish though - if that's you, then you've saved yourself some bucks!
I recommend the next step up, which is UV70 glass. It is anti-reflective and has 70% UV protection. It makes a HUGE difference in reducing (most, but not all) reflections, especially if you've bought a dark tūī print like the one above.
If you've bought an expensive print or original art, protect your investment and consider Museum grade glass, which is also anti-reflective and provides 99% UV protection. There are some other glasses out there, but those are the three key ones.
The fancier glass is of course more expensive. But I'd rather you chose a simpler frame and got the nice glass, rather than vice-versa. So a neat trick to reduce the cost is to reduce the area the glass has to cover. And that may mean using a narrower mat or no mat at all (the mat is the the cardboard frame between the print and the outer frame).
Less area = less glass = lower cost.
A simple 8cm wide mat on a 20x20cm print doubles your glass cost because the area goes from 400 to nearly 800 square cm.
If you choose to just use a frame with no mat, ask the framer to use "spacers". Spacers are plastic risers that sit between the frame (hidden just under the edge) and the print so the print isn't resting directly against the glass.
How to choose a frame and a mat
Nothing beats trying out lots of options. Your framer will have a huge range of possibilities, which can seem overwhelming, but they also have the experience to help you narrow them down. Don't immediately consider plain black or white frames with a white mat - have a play with some other options too.
There are also online framing configurators to experiment with, though the exact colours can be hard to reproduce on regular computer monitors. Pioneer Framing and Van Uffelen are both ones to try. Although they are designed for you to upload digital images, I believe you can also play with the configurators to work out what you like, then send them your print to frame. (I have some open edition prints from the "Flights of Fancy" series on Pioneer where you can choose my preferred framing or design your own.)
Why does framing cost so much?
It's a common refrain - the framing was more expensive than the print! Maybe one day I'll be rich enough to buy art that is more expensive than the frame, but if you're anything like me, that's a long way off! The reality is, the cost of producing a print is the cost of some fancy fine-art paper - expensive, but it's still only paper. But with a frame, there is the wooden moldings, the glass, the mat or spacers, the backing board, and all the hardware and tools needed to put it together, along with the labour costs. It simply costs more in materials and labour to make, compared to the print. I can't help but note too, that many artists, unlike framers, undervalue their work and price their prints too low!
Have fun with your framing
(Hover or click on the photos in this gallery to find out more about the framing used).
The frame is an integral part of the art - the right frame can transform an artwork from nice to magnficent. Even the simplest frames can be magical with the right picture and a well-matched mat.
When I first started getting art framed, I was so scared of making a bad decision and I was also reluctant to invest in getting quality framing. But after making hundreds of TinyArt pieces, I've tried so many weird and wonderful frames that I'm far more adventurous. I love trying new frames and fancy extras. A number of the framed prints I have in galleries have these extra touches because I love seeing my art beautifully presented and I know that it can be hard for customers to visualize how a print might look.
Some interesting things to try, once you've got your confidence up, include:
Can't I just buy a frame at Briscoes?
Of course! And if it gets the print out of its packaging and on the wall, then that's great! I don't need to tell you that you'll get the quality you'd expect. That's means over time, your print may fade because the glass or plastic is not UV resistent, or the print may react to the products used to build it (e.g., if the mat isn't acid-free). If your print isn't a standard size, you might find it hard to find a frame off-the-shelf. But do know there are no "frame police" that will come and tell you off.
You can also buy pre-made frames online. They're usually a bit better quality and the mats are usually acid-free, but in my experience, the frames tend to chip easily. They're actually expensive for the quality of the materials used. It can be a bit of a faff to mount the print too.
If you do decide to frame yourself, find or borrow an air puffer (every photographer has one) and a brand new microfibre glass cleaning cloth to help you remove dust.
Expect to wait 3-8 weeks to get your framed piece back. Framing is not a quick process.
Do get in touch with the artist and ask what type of framing and which framers they recommend. Some artists (me included) will even arrange the framing for you. I don't have that as an option in my shop as framing costs vary so much, so I prefer to have a chat with you first.
If you buy a print as a gift, consider getting a framing gift-certificate to go with it! (Or consider a TinyArt piece, which I created especially for gifts, where the recipient doesn't need to worry about framing.)
If you're an artist looking for help with framing, check out this other blog on exhibition and gallery framing hints.
With no big bucket-list travel plans on the horizon, I thought I might spelunk my archives and relive some old adventures. Here's hoping we all get to explore further fields again some day! This story is inspired by this week's Art of Birding photo challenge, which is "one from the archives." It's all about the time we visited the Galápagos Islands - a huge, wonderful and scary adventure we undertook in 2014. I'd not travelled for years and never intrepidly - this was well out of my comfort zone! It took much arm-twisting and encouragement from the lovely Lynn. But I'm so glad I took the plunge, not least of all because it sparked a love of wildlife photography. Because it was a photography trip, that was the impetus to buy my first decent camera (ironically most people on the trip were not photographers). It was a pivotal trip in my first steps towards becoming an artist, although I didn't know it at the time. Thanks Lynn and thanks Tui for a trip of a lifetime!
Lynn also twisted the arms of other Zealandia-associated people, making for a lovely, friendly group of people to travel with, along with a few brave souls from other parts of the world who found themselves surrounded by kiwi bird-nerds. Leaving from Ecuador, we flew to the islands and set sail on a little boat for an 11 day cruise. We each chose a “spirit animal” that we most wanted to see. I chose the Blue-footed Booby – a most ridiculous and improbable bird with bright blue feet and intricate courtship rituals, which involves showing off said feet and offering sticks to their beloved.
We learned so much from the amazing Tui de Roy - the wildlife photographer leading the tour - and a Galápagos native. My biggest take-home was to get on-level with my critter and not take “roadkill” shots looking down on them. That sometimes involves getting down in the sand and dirt, but we were also fortunate to get great angles on albatross that were launching themselves off a cliff face.
Landings on the islands are strictly controlled and timed. Because we were a photography tour, we got the early morning and late afternoon slots, which made for fabulous light (though some very early starts!).
The hardest outing, but the most rewarding, was getting out to the waved albatross colony, which involved walking a couple of km over pebbly rocks - exhausting! The albatross are amazing, and so beautiful with their delicate patterning and big eyes. We got to see their courtship rituals where they mimic each other in a choreographed dance, usually with a competitor looking on. My favourite shot from the entire trip is the one above.
I was blown away to see flamingos up close, peacefully feeding in the shallows. Such stunning birds. They're not endemic to the islands, but it was the first time I'd ever seen one.
Getting up close was a theme of the trip. Most of the birds evolved without seeing humans as a threat. We were able to walk through their breeding colonies and if we kept quietly to ourselves, they simply didn't give a shit that we were there. There was no need for a super long lens or tripod on this trip! Most of these photos were taken with a 35-100mm or 100-300mm zoom (4/3rds camera).
The Galápagos are filled with improbable critters, and the stories of their evolution are fascinating. Possibly the most improbable though is the Galápagos penguin - yes a penguin - found in the tropics at the equator! Curiously, the waters around the islands are cold due to the Humboldt current, which brings cold water up from southern Chile. This photo is a wee bit blurry because the zodiac was pitching up and down.
Another improbable bird was the short-eared owl that lives in cavities out on the volcanic flats - this was Lynn's spirit bird. We only spotted one once it started flapping its wings frantically.
It's always problematic to take long-haul travel to visit rare and endangered birds, but the Galápagos can only afford to look after these precious ecosystems with the money they get from tourism. It's a delicate balance with no easy answers. If you do get the opportunity to go, do go - there's nothing else like it on earth. But do your research first and choose your tour operator carefully to ensure they put the welfare of the critters first (Lynn did just this, and chose brilliantly!)
Next story, I'll show you some amazing birds from the side-trip we took to the Bella Vista Cloud Forest in Ecuador - just as amazing and totally different!
A P.S. about pottying and intrepid travelling...
One thing tour operators are often bad at is telling you how much fitness is needed for a trip and practical things like how long the walks are and how often you'll get a potty break - information I need before committing to a trip. People who have chronic illnesses can manage quite intrepid travelling if fully informed and well prepared. Fortunately the folk at Galapagos Travel were super helpful and allayed all my concerns.
If you're thinking of touring the Galápagos, know there are no loos on most of the islands, so you need to hold on for a couple of hours (most outings were for no longer than that). Most of the islands are covered in scrubby bush, so there's no ducking behind a tree, and even if you don't mind hanging it all out, it's discouraged. I managed by giving up coffee (a diuretic) before the trip, and only having a proper drink once we returned from the morning's outing. I only took judicious sips of water while out walking, just enough to avoid dehydration. I also had an emergency pee/poo/puke bag filled with absorbant crystals that could be used for emergencies, but thankfully never had to use it (pick them up online or from a travel/outdoors store for the peace-of-mind if nothing else).
Typically there were three things to do each day: a morning excursion, an afternoon snorkel, and a late afternoon/evening excursion. Some of the excursions were just cruising in the zodiacs and some involved getting out and walking. I usually chose just two of the three events a day to manage my energy levels and stayed on the boat otherwise. I didn't miss out on any show-stopper outings, and cleverly avoided climbing the volcano in the mist to not get a view and not get covered in mud 😂. I was converted to small boat cruises as a way to travel - you only unpack the once, and it's easier to skip an outing because you know you're not going to be left behind!
Happy to answer any questions you may have about travelling in the Galápagos in the comments below...
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Judi Lapsley Miller
Fine art inspired by the stories of birds and the natural world. Starting with photographs, I let my imagination take me on flights of fancy. What is real and what is imagined is blurred. What is physical and what is virtual is disrupted. Bursting with colour and life.
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