How do I learn how to mat and frame pictures professionally?
March 11, 2017 1:02 AM   Subscribe

I live near Brisbane, Australia and I'd like to learn how to mat and frame pictures (drawings, predominantly) professionally. I'm pretty poor so I can't spend thousands of dollars on lessons and even if I could there doesn't appear to be anywhere nearby that offers classes. Where do I start?
posted by h00py to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Matting is easy; it's really about getting a decent mat cutter, keeping your blades sharp, and perhaps watching a tutorial video or two on YouTube and then cutting a few postcard-sized ones (to save on material waste) until you get the hang of it. I do a ten-minute demo on it in my art classes (I'm an art professor) and people are good to go afterwards.

Framing, depending on what you mean by framing, can vary wildly in difficulty. Obviously the easiest path is to buy premade frames and then put pieces in them. Only slightly more difficult is buying premade frame pieces that slot together and then assembling them yourself. If you want to build your own wood frames, it will require woodshop knowledge and a number of relatively costly woodshop tools - i.e. access to a woodshop - and is a much bigger task than cutting your own mats. I built around 20 of my own frames for a show once (with significant assistance from woodshop staff), and I have ever since then happily paid others to do that task for me when I need custom framing whereas I cut my own mats all the time.
posted by vegartanipla at 1:17 AM on March 11, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, meant to also mention that another way you could gain this type of knowledge fairly quickly is by working part- or full-time for a framer. And you wouldn't have to pay - they'd pay you! But FYI frame shops don't fully craft the frames; they order prestained/surfaced/designed from companies though they do have to cut them down to size and assemble them.
posted by vegartanipla at 1:23 AM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

I second getting a job at a framing store. There's a chain of craft stores in the US that offers framing and matting (Michael's) and maybe there's a similar one in Australia?

I learned how to mat in HS (we had an unusually robust art department for a public HS) and it isn't difficult, but it does require a good mat cutter, mat board, and a steady and precise hand. The latter will come with practice, but the first two are expensive and take up a decent amount of space. If you can work on your skills using someone else's equipment, so much the better.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:22 AM on March 11, 2017

Once upon a time we even had "frame it yourself" stores. It had the fancy vices where you chucked up your frame, nailed it together,machines to cut your mats, even glass cutting stations. After that I figured out it was way easier, and cheaper, to buy a store bought frame, and get the mat cut for a couple dollars at the frame shop. If they give me any grief about not buying one of their frames, I tell them I'm reusing an antique frame. Really, mats cost a couple dollars here where I am in the US. For me the hardest part is figuring out what color mat I want.
posted by PJMoore at 6:47 AM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi, I used to be a framer, albeit in the USA. How I did it:

1) Was an art student who picked it up from other art students who had shows coming up and needed help
2) Had a printmaking professor who taught students to cut mats, outside of class time/extracurricularly
3) Was a galleries/museum practices student who did an internship at a museum that did some of its own framing
4) Got hired as sales in a frame shop because one of my art school buddies knew I needed a job
5) Got pulled into the frame shop during the holidays to help with the easier framing tasks, then got trained as needed.
6) (Went back to school for not-framing so that I could start earning a living wage.)

There are expensive classes that purport to teach you to frame; there's also the CPF and MCPF program, which is expensive and doesn't do all that much for you, professionally, until you're someone who runs multiple independent shops (as far as I can tell). I could be wrong, though. The PPFA runs the certification and it won't really teach you to frame, per se (you need actual experience with art handling and physically building the thing), but the study guide for the test is pretty helpful for someone starting out. I haven't checked recently, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were YouTube videos about this exact topic.

My advice is to check out the PPFA free study guide and read up on art materials and handling, and to practice by framing your own art. If you start to get results you're happy with, volunteer to frame art (make them pay for materials; be firm about what you'll do and when they need to show up) for art students who are showing (they will be so grateful!) If you're near a university, there will be students constantly hustling to get their stuff ready to hang.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:50 AM on March 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

One more thing: if you want to practice with mat cutting, get a good mat cutter, but get cheap board. You can start with illustration board or even chipboard or cardboard, because your first cuts will be hideous and you want to get the feel for it before you start working with the expensive good stuff.

Never put cheap board next to your actual art, but when you're just trying to cut a square line and get the corners to be nice and neat for the first time, you can practice with whatever. The skill is not rocket surgery, but you do need to get a feel for it.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:54 AM on March 11, 2017

« Older How did people get fancy degrees in the olden days...   |   Help me teach 'review writing' - best written... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.