Poplars Above the Snake. ©2010 Lisa McShane. Oil on Linen Panel.  16x20".

2015 Update

One of the questions that came up several times during the Studio Tour was that of framing.

- Do I frame my own paintings?
- Where do I get my frames?
- Why do I use black frames?
- Where did I get that sweet gold frame?

Yes, I frame my own paintings. Yes, I think artists should frame their paintings as a way of reducing costs and making a living at their profession. Yes, I think buyers of art should take their work to a local frame shop for framing.

It took me awhile to figure out how to frame my work. First, I decided to make my own frames. After all, I was a sculpture major and I've got skills! I bought stock lumber (1 x 3's) and painted it black to make simple butt frames. It looked all right, but it doesn't provide the same level of protection because the frame is attached directly to the side of the stretcher bars. Over time, that pulls on the canvas. Ideally, the stretched canvas sits - floats - inside a frame and is not directly attached to its frame.

I then bought a special miter saw and framing stock and tried making my own frames. The miter saw is now in the basement with cobwebs. This was not the best use of my time.

Next up I started looking online to see what my options were. I explored a wide variety of websites that sell frames made to order. I talked with other artists locally to get their input on the various sources.

Here's my experience:

Web Picture Frames
. They are fast, affordable, good selection and they're in Eugene, Oregon. I've used them for the traditional frames (panel depth with a rabbet) for my last two shows and I've been really happy with the service and quality.

Metropolitan Frames. Gorgeous for solid wood floating frames. Customers like these frames.

Frames by Mail. This is on the east coast and I've ordered a lot of small frames from them for daily paintings. They have a wide variety of frame molding in stock. The website is a little unwieldy and they don't have much available for stretched canvas. Most of their offerings have a shallow rabbet so work only for works on paper or panels. Where they've done well for me are on a couple of frames that I ordered with linen liners. Those were lovely. But since then the quality and turnaround has been less reliable. Still, if I had a small work on paper that needed a mat and a frame I'd probably order from them.

Frames Destination. This is a nice outfit in Dallas. Their frame selection was recently expanded but their focus is to frame photographs. When I need a simple black or dark brown frame fast, this is my source and there is one line of wood frames deep enough for 3/4" canvas. Plus whenever I've called, the owner answers the phone and when I've asked, my order has gone out the same day I placed it. I like that.

Franken Frames. I placed my first order with them about a week ago, for floater frames for some larger paintings, so I'll report back on that. But artists I know in Bellingham swear by this company. They're in Tennessee.

My Framing Tools. You need the right tools and they need to be handy because you frame more often than seems reasonable. I do this in my kitchen, on a long buffet counter. I now keep the tools in a nearby cupboard. Here's what I use:
  • Drill with drill bit. Since everything requires the same size screw, I just keep it together now.
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Roll of wire
  • Wire cutters
  • D-ring Hangers to attach the wire to the side of the frame. Buy this in large quantities.
  • Point Driver. I use the Logan dual drive point driver and I love it. When I framed my first show last December I didn't want to invest in a point driver and spent two days on framing as a result. So yes, I love the point driver. 
  • Cork or plastic bumpers for the bottom corners. I don't like the frame to rub against the wall.


Sonya Johnson said…
What great information, Lisa - thanks so much for sharing it here on your blog. Ditto the last post on making linen panels - I'm definitely a "DIY" person, so this is most useful to me.
Kim said…
Thank you for sharing this Lisa. I think I will give Mountains Edge a try for my dad's painting. It was very nice meeting you at your studio during the tour. What a treat!
Lisa McShane said…
Thanks Sonya - so glad it's helpful.

Kim - great to meet you too! Yes, the Mountains Edge frames are gorgeous, aren't they? Your dad's work should be in something nice.