Making my own frames

I’ve taken on a new venture – making my own picture frames. I’ve been using ready-made frames until now but I’ve long wanted to make my own. I’ll be writing a bit about my experiences of doing this, the equipment I’m using and the lessons learned. I’m hoping also to add the option of a frame to my Etsy on-line shop so you can buy a print that is ready to hang.

Newly made frames
Newly-made frames, in solid wood, made by me.

Why not just stick to buying ready-made? Well, several reasons. First, I really stress to all customers I speak to that “I do everything myself”. I’m very proud that I’m selling my own work, printed by me, mounted by me. This isn’t true of all traders at the markets I attend so I make it a point of difference. The one thing I haven’t been able to say is that I make my own frames – until now. This is also important for my Etsy shop – Etsy has a policy that you must make everything yourself.

Second, the ready made frames are made from MDF, not solid wood. They’re very good quality, very solid and they look great but it’s going to be nice to say “solid wood frames”. Making them myself means I can get the cost price down to near the ready-made MDF price but for a really nice solid wood moulding. The difference isn’t immediately obvious but when you pick them up you can see and feel the extra quality. The vast majority of market traders selling framed pictures use the same ready-made frames as I do so it will be nice to differentiate with a better quality product.

Third, I can make non-standard sizes. I’d like to start selling wide-format (panoramic) shots but at the moment I can’t find a standard-sized ready-made frame for those sizes. That won’t be a problem if I make my own.

I can also decide to try different mouldings, perhaps for special pictures or projects.

So far I’ve only made nine frames (one of which wasn’t a success, so I’ve got eight that I can use). Results have been mixed – the quality is there, the end result is great, but the labour involved is much more than I expected and I’m only managing to make two a day. It doesn’t take me all day to make two, it’s the glue-drying-while-sitting-in-the-clamp time that’s the bottleneck.

Frame setting in the clamp
A newly made frame in a band clamp while the glue dries.

I’m quite excited though. I’ve started to dream about making frames, a sure sign that I’m getting a little over-obsessed by it. I’ll hopefully have my first hand-made frames for sale at my next West Didsbury market at the end of next week, Sunday the 30th September.

iZettle again

I wrote about iZettle some time ago when I got myself an iZettle credit card reading device. I was delighted with it at the time but I had taken a chance because officially my phone wasn’t a supported device. This finally bit me, as the card reader became increasingly unreliable and finally just didn’t work. Fortunately, the customers were patient and I didn’t lose any sales but it couldn’t carry on.

So I checked with iZettle and I’ve spent £70 on a new, bluetooth-connected, iZettle reader.

Old (left) vs. new

This worked first time out. Set-up was easy and in fact, compared to the previous model, this one is almost instantaneous in use. I no longer need to engage the customer in polite chit-chat while we wait for the swirly image on the phone to indicate “ready”.

In use, it’s basically the same as the old device except you don’t need to plug it into your phone. I’ll write again if I have any trouble with it but for now I’m going to be optimistic and assume it will work.

Remembering hard work

Phew! Since swapping full time office work for a new business as a full time landscape photographer I’ve forgotten what it’s like to work hard. Now I remember. I’ve just done three art markets in a row. Fill the car full of stock and display gear. Hump it from car to market, unpack, set up. Stand in the freezing cold for ten hours. Tear down, lift and carry, unpack. Make more stock for the next day. Repeat. I can’t complain though because the time actually at the market is such a lot of fun. Two more markets this week, thursday and friday with Makers Market at Spinningfields. Looking forward to it!

Exhibiting at the St Gemma’s Leeds exhibition

I’ve booked a place at the St. Gemma’s Leeds Art and Photography Exhibition in October. I’ve chosen a set of eight shots from my recent Porth Or trip, which you can see again here. They look fantastic framed and I had them on show at my last art market and the response was really good (which means I’ve got some more framing to do!).

Here’s the set of eight I’ll be showing.

Getting ready – Cumbria Photography Show

I’ll be at the Cumbria Photography Show this weekend, with a specially selected set of pictures focussing on mountains but especially Cumbrian mountains.

I’ve done some printing and mounting of shots I haven’t shown before. Getting stock ready for exhibition is, without doubt, the hardest and most tedious part of the job. I’ve spent about six hours in preparation today and what I’ve done is:

  • Added hanging wire to four frames
  • Mounted and wrapped four medium-size prints
  • Printed three small prints

…and that’s it. In six hours. I’m sure some people must be more productive than that. There is better mounting equipment I could buy that would make things faster but I have to sell a lot more before I can invest any more. Here are some pictures of the process.

I start with full size sheets of mount or backing board. These are too big for my small mounting machine so at this size I have to do the first cuts by hand with a ruler that isn’t big enough for the job. Note the piece of gear every printmaker needs – a very large sheet of cardboard as a sacrificial piece underneath. Also note the table isn’t big enough for the full cut either. See why I’d like to invest in more equipment?

Cutting a full size sheet of backing board

With the backing board and the window mount cut (using the mounting machine) you place the print and attach to the back with T hinges.

Attach print with T-hinges

Then add double sided tape which will hold the window mount to the backing board. Some (most) people use a single piece of tape to hinge these two together, making it easier to access the print. I like my method as it makes for a much sturdier product that will stand a lot of handling.

Add double sided tape to three sides

Here are some special custom-made mounting tools. A nice heavy paperweight and a Tokina 70-200mm lens, in Pentax A-mount, wrapped in a sock as a second paperweight.

Special tools

I sign the print in the margin and add the title, using a pencil (an “H” pencil) for this kind of matte paper. I also put a white label on the back with extra information. People looking through prints in the print browsers usually turn them over to see what’s on the back, so this label gives them something to read.

Prints are signed and titled

Finally, the prints mounted and wrapped in cellophane ready to sell.

Wrapped and ready to sell

I’m really looking forward to the show. I don’t think I’ll sell much. The audience will be mostly photographers and photographers aren’t likely to buy other people’s photographs, but I think there’ll be some really interesting people to talk to.

Artsmix Leeds, last Saturday

I had a great day at the Artsmix market in Leeds a couple of days ago. I’ve made a new set of framed pictures using my more recent mountain shots of the Lake District and Snowdonia and they looked absolutely great. I’d also got some nicer display gear and on the whole the stall looked fantastic (IMHO 🙂 The new stuff got a really good reaction and I sold a couple of them. The bonus was that nothing got broken or damaged by weather!

2016-04-23 10.55.49

Not surprisingly I forgot to take my camera (again!) and took this shot with my wife’s smartphone.

Cumbria Photography Show

I’ll be exhibiting at the Cumbria Photography Show with my collaborator Richard on the 14th and 15th of May. It’s at the Rheged exhibition centre outside Penrith. I’m really excited by it. Our usual showings are at town centre art markets with a general town centre population as the audience. The Rheged exhibition is different in a couple of ways. First, it’s in the Lake District, which is where I’ve been specialising for the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see how my Lake District pictures go down in the place they were made.

Second, this is a photography show for photographers. There’ll be a lot of good photographers there and it will be really interesting to see how our stuff compares with theirs. I’m looking forward to it.