That Flea Market Art Frame
November 7, 2016 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I don't know how else to describe it: you know that style of frame that you see on velvet paintings of unicorns, bad Bob-Ross-style art, and big-eyed-kid-ripoffs? I want to find that material.

You know the style: it's usually dark-stained, rough wood, with grooves and notches hacked out in a approximately-symmetric pattern, but not done with much finesse.

Examples: It's associated with hacky, amateur and naiive art -- and, lucky me, I have a bunch of hacky, amateur, naiive art I need framed and I'd like to frame it in this style!

Given how ubiquitous this type of wood frame has been in history (and I've seen new stuff framed this way, it's not just vintage), I would have thought this sort of framing material would be easy to come by, but it apparently isn't, or I don't know what it's proper name is and it doesn't turn up in my searches.

Does anyone know what this style of frame is called, where I can buy some (even if I have to cut it to fit my art myself), or tips or tricks for making it myself if it's not a commodity-type product I can buy pre-made?
posted by AzraelBrown to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
So, this sent me down a google hole, and while I don't have a name for you (besides "mexican black velvet painting frame"), I do think you might have some luck obtaining one from this ebay seller (at least one questionably safe for work listing).

Basically, I found this listing (SFW), which says:
Is the frame included in the auction?
No. But the winner may add any of the frames pictured in any of my auctions for an additional charge of $25-$50 depending on the frame style you choose for your velvet painting.
Another place that you might go looking for an answer is Velveteria: The Museum of Velvet Paintings.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:15 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Those are very 60's-70's frames and one reason you may not be finding them easily is that they are deeply unfashionable right now. Sleek is in, even in the "rustic" finishes which are more even (think barnwood) and less patterned than that.

Another reason is that standards of craftsmanship were much higher then, and what you're seeing on two of the three examples is a lot of care taken with the pattern-- the framer chopped the lengths of frame with an eye to making a cohesive design (lighter in the middles, darker at the corners; marks also make a pattern that isn't continuous and thus wasn't done by a machine) and that's not something big-box custom framers do (it's cheaper to use the whole length of molding than to pick and choose the parts that will make the best design.)

It's also probably an actual wood and not an MDF with a veneer, which is now typical for mass-market frames. The random-looking carving is relatively easy for a craftsman to do quickly, but it's difficult for machines-- for this exact look today you would be either paying serious $$$ for hand-carving, or you'd have an inferior plastic molded product on top of an MDF core with a wood-grain sticker over it. Maybe I'm wrong and someone is still producing this kind of thing, but it's not something I'm seeing on the molding sites I cursorily perused in trying to answer this, and it's not something I was seeing get a lot of requests when I was a framer (we mostly got "Can you please reframe this so it looks less...velvet, and please throw the old frame directly in the garbage.")

My suggestion is to buy unfinished molding (sometimes you can get this at Home Depot) with a shape you want (for example, Smith Frame and Molding who will sell molding retail, to the best of my knowledge-- "unfinished frame molding do it yourself" on google seems to bring up some results) and then finish it by chopping out the marks with a handsaw, sanding, and staining/sealing. It looks like you could place dramatic diagonal cuts on a thicker L-shape to get the look you want. The cost will be relatively low in money, but high in time and effort. You could also work with a papier-mache or a modeling compound on top of a cheap molding, but I think actually carving wood will give you more of the look you want than a modeling process.

You could also look into your local custom framers (Michaels cannot help you with this. Find a mom-n-pop shop) and tell them what you told us, and look for "African-style" or "rustic-carved" as a keyword when you're trying to get something framed. If they have a related molding (maybe old stock, maybe something close) they can surely put it together for you. Less effort, but more money.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You could try buying old tacky art at thrift shops, and reusing those frames.
posted by jhope71 at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2016

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