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Author Topic: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice  (Read 9539 times)

CRFTony

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Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« on: November 04, 2014, 02:41:10 pm »

I've been a full time photographer for 7 years.  I primarily focus on portraits and I hate to repeatedly tell clients to go to Michaels/Hobby Lobby to get their portraits framed.  I feel like I'm losing money on potential add on sales, but I'm also making another "chore" for my clients to deal with and with everyone's hectic lifestyles today, I know most customers don't want to be bothered. 

I'm considering turning part of my home based studio into a framing business and I'm wondering if anyone else here has made that leap and wants to share some advice.  I already do my own printing and adding framing would be a nice addition because I could more easily offer custom sizes, etc.  I also like the idea of giving clients a truly "finished" product.  I've already begun looking around at the various items needed, the wall mounted glass cutter, mat cutter, etc.  If anyone wants to give advice on suppliers for moulding/mats I'd be very receptive.  I'm in Western Pennsylvania, if that matters. :)

Thanks!

Tony
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bill t.

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2014, 03:32:38 pm »

I frame my gator-mounted, varnished prints with very simple frames where I pick the moulding which I buy 1000+ feet at a time.  No glazing, no mattes, no backing, no user-specified options, just a classic oil-painting style presentation.  Looks fabulous on the wall.  Takes less than an hour to go from print to finished frame, and earns me several hundred extra dollars per sofa-sized piece.  But it would be wildly insane for me to do the whole thing with glass, mattes, etc because I would have no time left for shooting or wasting on forums.

If you simply must persist, find a framing business that is closing and buy their equipment.  And listen to their woeful stories, and think about those carefully before you leap.  Or lay down $12,000+ for decent equipment, being careful not to be seduced by hobbiest level equipment that is worse than useless.  Crummy equipment is a soul crushing curse.

Be advised that I know two photographers who tried the framing + photography thing, and they both repeatedly tell me how glad they were to drop the framing part.  And they were just buying nearly completed frames from, uh, a company named maybe Stevens (or something) that panders to the wedding market.  And add one gallery owner to that list.

International Moulding is not far from you and has some some decent bargain moulding.  Omega is another low-baller.  Negotiate volume pricing on the phone.  Note that shipping costs for box quantity moulding might be substantial depending on your location and must always be factored into price calculations.  Ask about shipping programs, sometimes you can get a break on shipping that is significant.   Look for a supplier that has some sort of deal with a local shipper, that can be a real money saver over the standard LTL freight that I have to use.  Framing Supplies dot com sells marginally OK framing hardware and consumables, also matboard and glass by the palette.  Or cut a volume production deal with somebody like framah and save some money in the long run, unless you are looking at enough product per year to justify a skilled employee which is the only option I would consider for framing fancier than the basic stuff I do now.

You should ask your question on thegrumble.com.  Expect an ear full.
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Kanvas Keepsakes

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2014, 04:15:51 pm »

Hey Bill.  I'm curious what your finished product looks like.  You have any photos anywhere?
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JeanMichel

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2014, 04:32:00 pm »

Hi,
I do some of my own personal work framing, but find that working with a local framer often works best for client work-- I am a better photographer than framer :-). I simply mark-up the framing cost. And, I highly recommend having framed samples with regular framing glass and non-reflective glass such as Artglass.
Jean-Michel
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BobShaw

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2014, 04:37:46 pm »

Read what Bill said again.

What part of your studio are you going to convert to framing? - 80%?

A moulding cutter with a 3 metre length hanging out of it requires at least 5metres, plus walk round area. Then you have to store the mouldings. You need a place to store the mat boards and two tables about 2metres long. You will also need an underpinner and a table for that to support to the frame lengths. You will probably need a vertical cutter and you will certainly need a mat board cutter, not a toy but something over a metre long like a Keencut. You will eventually need other gear like a press, shrink wrapper etc.

I have all this gear but it is in the garage with the car outside. Space for the studio is by comparison small.

Also don't think that you can just pick this up. You will need to be taught. Good luck if you go this road.
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PeterAit

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2014, 05:30:42 pm »

Perhaps you could find a good framing shop and strike up a relationship - they would frame your prints for your customers, with perhaps a limited range of options, and you would charge a reasonable markup.
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bill t.

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2014, 05:54:12 pm »

Hey Bill.  I'm curious what your finished product looks like.

Well here's a cell phone shot of my art fair booth a few years ago.  Note the frames and mostly 3 to 4 wide moulding in a bronze style that sells well in the southwest.  All the scenes are local to Albuquerque, and sized to decorate the spaces over sofas and beds, plus waiting rooms, hallways, etc.  Nothing else comes even close to selling images that glorify the local scenery, shows like this are good for $20K+ net with that kind of material.

You can see some stuff in the locally produced video, towards the end.  Just click on the video.  Note the cutting edge panohead and the Nikon/Canon hybrid.

http://krqe.com/2014/07/18/at-first-a-health-scare-now-world-renowned-art/
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CRFTony

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2014, 07:16:34 pm »

You all have officially talked me out of this.  Thanks! ;) 

I really do appreciate the candid advice, it's just what I needed to hear.  Unfortunately there aren't an local framers left in my area with whom I can team up.  The only outlet within 25 miles is a Michaels. 

I do think I'll check out some premade frames though, and just stick with the more typical sizes. 

Thanks again!
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bill t.

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2014, 07:36:01 pm »

If you have a change of heart, you should go to the West Coast Art and Framing Show in Las Vegas this coming January 25 to 28.  The trade show has displays from all the major moulding and equipment suppliers.  You can see examples of all the latest printer gear at the DTG booth.  Epson has a very large booth, where they typically display framed but not glazed examples of all their media printed with very high quality images that best demonstrate the paper.  Schewe's amazing d-max on d-max gumball machine print was prominently displayed there when last I attended, it has to seen to be believed.

Hmmm, looking at the floor plan it seems a bit smaller than previous years, but the heavy hitters will be there.

http://www.wcafshow.com
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Justan

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2014, 11:40:12 am »

I've been a full time photographer for 7 years.  I primarily focus on portraits and I hate to repeatedly tell clients to go to Michaels/Hobby Lobby to get their portraits framed.  I feel like I'm losing money on potential add on sales, but I'm also making another "chore" for my clients to deal with and with everyone's hectic lifestyles today, I know most customers don't want to be bothered. 

I'm considering turning part of my home based studio into a framing business and I'm wondering if anyone else here has made that leap and wants to share some advice.  I already do my own printing and adding framing would be a nice addition because I could more easily offer custom sizes, etc.  I also like the idea of giving clients a truly "finished" product.  I've already begun looking around at the various items needed, the wall mounted glass cutter, mat cutter, etc.  If anyone wants to give advice on suppliers for moulding/mats I'd be very receptive.  I'm in Western Pennsylvania, if that matters. :)

Thanks!

Tony

I’m in the process of setting up a frame making shop and will echo comments made above. It takes a lot of space, professional/commercial quality equipment and a lot of practice. And that does not include space needed for making the matts, which requires another set of specialized tools and skills. Frame making creates a very dusty environment where mats need a very clean environment.

And then, if you use glass, you’ll need to make sure you never, ever, ever walk barefoot or stocking footed within about 50’ of the glass cutter.

I recommend you find a wholesale frame maker nearby. They can solve all your needs for a lot less than Michael’s or other frame making thugs. In the Pennsylvania area there are probably lots of candidates for that. You will need to have a business license and probably the equivalent of a resale license in hand to get any wholesaler to work with you. The economics of making your own frames only start to become worthwhile once you are selling about 30 to 50+ average sized frames per month. The economics of in-house matt making are much more approachable than for frames.

Bill, awesome video and it’s a treat to see yer booth shot but your booth shot must have been captured on a Sunday; otherwise you’d be wearing slacks at your shows, right?

The simple area carpet and plant are nice touches. I’ve been debating using AstroTurf for inside shows ‘cus I’ve gotten used to doing shows on grassy fields.

bill t.

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2014, 12:34:31 pm »

your booth shot must have been captured on a Sunday; otherwise you’d be wearing slacks at your shows, right?

The surprising thing is I wasn't wearing my cowboy boots.  Oh I remember, didn't have time to scrape the manure off.  Did you know that jeans are de rigueur in Paris?  Hah!  And you have to give me credit for brushing my teeth and not wearing a t-shirt.

And yes, the "practice" component of frame making is non trivial.  Figure many hundreds of frames to begin producing non-embarrassing results.  Just getting to the point where your corners fit properly is a steep climb.  Really.
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chez

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2014, 01:00:09 pm »

The surprising thing is I wasn't wearing my cowboy boots.  Oh I remember, didn't have time to scrape the manure off.  Did you know that jeans are de rigueur in Paris?  Hah!  And you have to give me credit for brushing my teeth and not wearing a t-shirt.

And yes, the "practice" component of frame making is non trivial.  Figure many hundreds of frames to begin producing non-embarrassing results.  Just getting to the point where your corners fit properly is a steep climb.  Really.

What, no filling up with wood putty like you do with Crown Moldings?  :)
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bill t.

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2014, 04:22:22 pm »

What, no filling up with wood putty like you do with Crown Moldings?  :)

No, you would have to use compo, a concoction of dead rabbits, piss, and other interesting stuff used to caste molded filagrees that are applied to wood.  Here's how real frames made, often using molded compo decorations. I'm pretty sure that's framah's shop.  When my pieces reach the $40K a pop range, I'll use those kinds of frames.

And BTW, unfinished crown moulding is too expense to use for framing.  Edit: at my level.
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framah

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2014, 04:24:31 pm »

Somebody call my name???

Thanks, Bill for the endorsement. The check is in the mail.  ;)

First thing I have to say is:

 Just say no to Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Most frame shops prices on a regular basis, are in line with their "sale" prices.

I usually give a 15 - 20% discount for just making a batch of frames for an established artist, but they must be ordered and paid for all at once, not  I promise to buy 50 frames from you but can I just get 6 for now at the same price?

I think your best bet is to do what Bill is doing and work with set sizes and a minimum of frame styles. 3 or 4 at the most. Most frame suppliers sell joined frames and are shipped to you ready for you to fill.
You can show a couple of portraits framed in a couple of frame choices and also hang a few corner samples showing them the choices available. Try to find frames that will cost the same so they get one price shopping on all of your  frames.

The basic thing to consider here is:

Do you want to photograph or do you want to make frames? Odds are that one or the other will suffer in some way.  I got into framing so I could do my own work and eventually made it a store front and have been framing for over 20 yrs now and I have to close and go away for 2 or 3 weeks to be able to be fully in the shooting frame of mind.

Just heading out on a day off... if I actually GET one... doesn't cut it. All I think about is what still needs to be finished in 2 days so I can get paid.

Hmmm... the whine factor is increasing.. I feel a vacation coming on soon!!
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framah

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2014, 04:30:27 pm »

Here's my shop:

]
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framah

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2014, 04:31:49 pm »

PS:

We don't pee on the frames anymore. ;D
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Landscapes

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2014, 05:51:12 pm »

I frame my gator-mounted, varnished prints with very simple frames where I pick the moulding which I buy 1000+ feet at a time.  No glazing, no mattes, no backing, no user-specified options, just a classic oil-painting style presentation.  Looks fabulous on the wall.  Takes less than an hour to go from print to finished frame, and earns me several hundred extra dollars per sofa-sized piece.  But it would be wildly insane for me to do the whole thing with glass, mattes, etc because I would have no time left for shooting or wasting on forums.

Quick question Bill.  I'm sure you've mentioned it before because I'm sure I've read it, but just wanting to ask again. 

You're no longer printing on canvas because of the surface defects.. correct?  And switched to a textured water-color type paper which has a perfect finish if I recall... right?  How are you mounting to gatorboard?  And lastly, wide moulding is always gorgeous, as in your picture.  What does it work out to per foot?  I realize you're getting a quantity discount since you're buying 1000 feet, but I'm curious about the price and who the supplier/maker is if you don't mind.  I almost wonder if all the expense that goes into tossed canvas prints because of surface defects, especially in gradient skies, combined with time to make stretcher bars and then stretch plus finish with black tape, if all this might be not that far off from buying molding, which is clearly gonna cost more than stretcher bars, but then you save on the paper vs canvas, no tape, no staples, no time to stretch... but of course the cost of the gator.  In terms of presentation though, you can't beat the moulding versus just a stretched canvas. Thanks!
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framah

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2014, 06:02:37 pm »

If I may offer another little suggestion...

That black tape on the sides does not look as professional as you might think it does.
It looks very amateurish.  If you are trying to cover the staples, then you need to staple on the back.

A cleanly folded corner with clean white sides looks way more professional than any tape does.
I would rather paint the edge black than put tape on it.

Plus you could mirror the image onto the sides of the canvas when it is printed... even better than just white canvas.
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bill t.

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #18 on: November 06, 2014, 09:07:18 pm »

Nice shop photo there, framah!  But quite frankly, I am shocked by all the open floor space and easy access to tools that you have allowed to accumulate.  There's help available, I'll say no more.

In regards to the types of moulding I use, about half of it is polystyrene that gives me a killer price point that makes me the terror of the few remaining art fairs I attend.  The public loves it, framers hate it, galleries no longer care as long as it looks really good.  The best looking 3 to 5 inch polys now look better than almost any wood moulding that can be bought for less than $6/foot in quantity.  Be aware that most poly is crud, but 1 or 2% is superb until the supplier decides to go with the cheapest factory on the next run.

But there can be problems with even the best looking poly profiles.  There is a packaging genius somewhere in China, and the attached photo shows you an example of his brilliant work.  Discovered this only yesterday.  I've got 20 more such boxes, and it's all going back.  This is what framers have to deal with.  I use everything up through the $20/ft moulding used my Mr. Lik, although I think it's the ugliest stuff on Earth.  Sorry, no names will be named, I invested a heck of lot of time and money picking and testing those mouldings.  Go to the WCAF show for more information.

Yes, BC Pura Velvet is a nice option to canvas, with a100% yield.  But I wish it weren't so damned curly.  It's got remarkable punch *for a matte paper* and seems to me as snappy as Epson Cold Press Bright, but without the OBA's.  When varnished it pops up quite a bit, but you need custom profiles from varnished targets to make full use of that.  As with the Epson "cold" papers the texture is quite pronounced and mechanically repetitive, which may or may not be a problem aesthetically.  But it's a whole lot less mechanical looking than most canvases that are out there now, which is a look I just can't tolerate any more, especially when I see my old corrugated-surface canvas prints next to other more organic artwork surfaces.  That upsets me, and it's a big competitive disadvantage where you work is seen next to original paintings, etc.  But none of the manufacturers will listen to me on these topics, and I've tried.  FWIW, Fredrix 777 has the best and most organic looking canvas surface right now, and its excellent reflective qualities when varnished usually make it the best looking canvas on the wall, in spite of having a rather meager gamut.

Am now experimenting with varnished Silver Rag.  SR has the most stipple of any rich looking gloss media I have tried.  That stipple carries on through several varnishing steps to create a more-or-less art paper looking type of surface.  There are a few issues, but so far so good and I'm taking a chance by testing it at a major art fair next week.  The pieces I have completed so far are rather stunning, even my jaded self is impressed.  Tried also coating some of the Barytas, of which the new BC version is the best looking by far.  However, because of the smooth surfaces on that type of media it's very difficult to get an artsy surface after varnishing.  Every minute speck of dust is conspicuous on the nearly gloss varnished Baryta surfaces, whereas that it is not an issue on the stipply varnished SR surface.

All the media discussed here glues quite easily to Gator using LaminAll or Miracle Muck, which is the only way I have mounted art for a few years now.  In comparison to canvas, you should let the glue get a little tackier before rolling on art paper prints, and be extra careful about removing little glue buggers and dirt before rolling the prints, because you can not press those down as you can with canvas.

So there!

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Landscapes

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Re: Home based framing biz - Seeking advice
« Reply #19 on: November 06, 2014, 11:26:55 pm »

If I may offer another little suggestion...

That black tape on the sides does not look as professional as you might think it does.
It looks very amateurish.  If you are trying to cover the staples, then you need to staple on the back.

A cleanly folded corner with clean white sides looks way more professional than any tape does.
I would rather paint the edge black than put tape on it.

Plus you could mirror the image onto the sides of the canvas when it is printed... even better than just white canvas.

Interesting viewpoint.  The staples are on the back, the black tape on the side simply covers the image that is stretched over the side of the bars. 

The way I see it is that when the image is left to go over the edge a few millimeters, this to me looks a bit amateurish because they couldn't get it lined up properly  (which is of course difficult to do).  So leaving it white never really looks that good in my opinion since you have about 1/2 centimeter of image and then white.  The mirrored edge looks just as bad I think, especially given content where you might have stuff floating in space in a blue sky... like the top of a tree that gets mirrored.  When this mirrored edge gets stretched over the side, this looks just as bad to me because now its very obvious where the mirrored edge starts and you get so many of those "V's" from the lines in the image that get mirrored.

The best solution is having enough of the picture to stretch over the sides, but this is a waste of megapixels, and you cannot frame your pictures properly when taking them to account for having to waste so much of the picture for stretching.  Lastly, and most importantly, I see far too many canvases in the stores that have banged up corners where the ink starts to peel off.  Even though coating a canvas works for not cracking when pulled tight over the bars, I just don't think it can stand multiple folds and creases around the corner.  Once you bang this corner when either delivering the canvas or bringing it home, ink starts to flake off and this to me looks cheap.  Who wants to buy a canvas where the corners are missing ink?

So I do actually think that the black tape looks the best in light of the limitations of all the other options.  But nothing would look as nice as wooden moulding with the canvas mounted to gatorboard.
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