Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Trend Watch: Framing Fabrics

The word “framing” usually conjures images of professionally displayed photographs, sketches, or paintings. But there’s a big world of creativity beyond those mediums.

Lately, framing trends have embraced more unorthodox art like gift wrap, dried foliage, and a new favorite: fabric. It’s a versatile, easy-to-frame, and unexpected design element in any space. Style experts seem to agree, touting custom cloth art everywhere from the popular blog Apartment Therapy to the online home of lifestyle guru Martha Stewart.

It’s easy to see why framed fabric has captured so much attention. It allows artists and hobbyists to flex their creative muscles: playing with textures, experimenting with image orientation, and elevating everyday items to art.

The options are endless. Spice up a den with a mounted sports jersey. Display and preserve a delicate heirloom handkerchief with protective glazing and archival mounting board. Have leftover floral print material from a sewing project? Turn it into an eye-catching statement piece. Our own framing expert Mike Cromly tells you how here.
Up for a challenge? Create your own DIY printed cloths. We love the Japanese Shibori dyeing technique (think upscale tie-dye) as well as trendy make-at-home African mud cloth. Or try framing patterned fabric wallpaper and hanging it against a stark white wall for a stunning effect.  
Whether it’s a vintage letterman jacket or a recently finished cloth creation, any textile item can be framed and used as an interesting focal point in your space.

Ready to get started? Here are some things to keep in mind.
Creating Composition

Don’t be afraid to experiment with composition. The cloth may have vertical lines, but that doesn’t mean it has to be displayed that way. How would it look tilted at a diagonal? What if you framed several pieces of the same fabric oriented in different ways? Take some time to imagine a unique layout, not necessarily the one the fabric designer intended. Then, iron and trim the fabric for a professional finish.
Securing the Fabric

Slipping fabric can destroy the look of the finished treatment. But before choosing a method of securing your items, be aware that some of them require holes in the cloth. If the piece holds no sentimental or resale value, don’t hesitate to sew it directly to the mounting board. Using a thin fabric? Self-adhesive mounting board will keep it in place without puncture marks. To avoid holes altogether, try a jersey case. It uses a garment hanging system to keep the items secure without damage.

Matching the Frame

When choosing a frame, keep the subject in mind. For vintage pieces, select a frame that fits the era of the clothing. An ornate carved gold wood frame, for instance, would look right at home displaying grandma’s wedding veil, while a Mid-Century Modern one might pair nicely with a 1960s dress. For bold patterns, consider a classic black metal Nielsen™ frame that won’t compete for attention. Framing sports memorabilia? Look for Nielsen™ metal frames in the team’s colors. Need inspiration? Browse our wood and metal collections for the perfect frame to enhance the piece.

Selecting Accessories

Accessories also play an important role in the look and longevity of the display. For extra protection, count on conservation-quality Bainbridge Alphamat Artcare mat board. It’s free of lignin and acids, which could decay the piece over time. Concerned about U.V. rays? Our acrylic glazing in U.V. or Non Glare U.V. varieties blocks them.

Excited to try framing fabrics? Share the results with us. Tweet a photo of your creation to @AmericanFrame using #AmericanFramed or email it to

Have framing questions? We’re here to help. Contact our customer service experts.

For tips and exciting offers, sign up for our e-Tip newsletter.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Here’s a Tip: Experiment with Frame and Mat Combinations

Black and white is a classic combination. The two colors contrast stunningly and match almost any type of art or décor. So, it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular mix of mats and frames our customers purchase.
But we all feel like mixing it up once in awhile. And our wide selection of mat and frame colors allows you to do that easily.
Experiment with colors and textures in your framing treatment, especially to highlight certain subtle colors within your artwork. Explore using multiple mats, or extra thick 6 or 8 ply mats to add extra dimension and make your artwork stand out in a crowd.
Ready to start? Here are some interesting combinations to try, courtesy of Showroom Manager Lindsey Harrison.

This Sea Green Bainbridge AlphaMat mat mimics the colors in the water, while the Bainbridge Alphamat board in Spanish white creates a visual break between the photo and mat. The rustic blue-grey frame adds texture while mirroring the clouds in the sky.
The light cherry finish on this frame highlights the warm tones in the sunset while the Alphamat Artcare mat in Chameleon pulls the blue from the sky and water. The grain of the frame also imitates the movement in the clouds and water.
This Alphamat Artcare mat in Marigold brings out the richness of the sunset, while the black core of the taupe mat provides a nice outline for the artwork.  The warm colors of the sunset are again picked up in the beaded detail of the black wood frame.
The warm metallic bronze of this metal frame perfectly captures the warm sun glistening off the water and the steel grey of this Alphamat Artcare mat emphasizes the dark clouds rolling over it.
This rustic black wood frame reflects the lighthearted beachy feeling the lighthouse evokes, and the texture provided by the frame draws your attention to the movement in the rolling clouds. The AlphaEssentials mat in Sand provides a neutral background for the photo and helps to emphasize the brown tones in the frame. The frame also has undertones of blue which helps draw your eye to the storm clouds.
Here, we’ve added a mint metal frame to draw your eye into the waterfall and pick up the greens in the water. The soft white Alphamat mat is an ideal background to provide a break between the frame and art, and also highlights the mist from the water.
The texture of this Chino AlphaLinen mat, reminiscent of menswear, has several shades of grey, white, and tan woven into it. The putty-colored wood frame picks up on the grey tones and allows the texture of the linen weave to stand out.

Artist credit: Stephanie Prechter artist/photographer

Logan Dual Drive Elite Point Driver Now at American Frame

If you use both rigid and flexible points when securing artwork into a wood frame, you probably get tired of switching between point drivers. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were one tool that could handle both kinds of points?

Now there is.

American Frame now carries the Logan Dual PointDriver Elite. It’s designed to fire stacks of either rigid or flexible inserts into all types of wood frame moldings and features a tension adjustment for harder woods. It makes securing your art stack or canvas into wood frames a breeze, no matter which kind of points you have on hand. And its comfort-grip handle ensures your hands won’t tire, even during marathon framing sessions.

So, now that you can use either type of points, which should be your go-to? It depends on your plans for the art. We’ve also added Logan rigid and flexible points as well.

Rigid Points  — Rigid points provide a more permanent solution to assembling a frame. These are more often used with long-term permanent artwork and often feature backing paper to finish a frame and cover the points. But if you plan on reframing your piece, these may not be your best bet. They can’t be bent, like flexible points can, so pliers must be used to remove the entire point from the frame itself.

Flexible Points  — These points allow the user to bend them after a frame has been assembled, so the artwork can be removed without removing the point from the wood. Flexible points can be bent by hand and then bent back into place when the frame is reassembled. If you’re new to framing, and want more leeway to change the framing treatment after finishing it, or if you plan to eventually reframe the piece, opt for flexible points.

Can’t decide between the two? Stock up on both. The Logan Dual Point Driver Elite will let you switch between them effortlessly, for any framing job.

Need help choosing the right tools for your project? Contact us.

By a Hair: Bearded Lady Project Challenges Stereotypes

There are a few things you notice about Dr. Ellen Currano right away.

She has a youthful, makeup-free face, a soft, lilting voice, and absolutely no facial hair.

And that sets her apart from most of her paleontology colleagues.

“If you go and you open up a popular science magazine, you flip on the T.V., and there’s a paleontology show, most of the time, what you’re gonna see is someone who’s pretty large, pretty scruffy looking, pretty dirty, and totally male,” Currano said. “And that’s not me.”

Currano, a paleontologist at the University of Wyoming, is one of just 16 percent of U.S. college geoscience faculty members who are female. Female PhDs in the field make an average of $10,000 less per year than their male counterparts. And the media is saturated with images of scientists who are burly, rugged, and decidedly male.

Once, when talking shop with a few of her female co-workers, Currano blurted out a possible solution to the pressures that come with being a woman in a male-dominated field: maybe it would be easier if she came to work with a beard.

That accidental revelation launched a larger idea: The Bearded Lady Project. The photo series and documentary were produced by Currano, director Lexi Jamieson Marsh, and fine-art photographer Kelsey Vance. They feature top geoscientists who happen to be women, sporting faux facial hair to fit the common misconception of how a scientist should look.

When we’re being blasted with very negative portrayals of female scientists or no portrayals at all of female scientists having these photos to come back to, I think is going to be very important,” Currano said.

The Bearded Lady Project: Challenging the Face of Science demonstrates the competencies and obstacles of female paleontologists and how gendered stereotypes about the field can be diminished with some well-placed facial hair. It follows women who dedicate their lives to uncovering the history of life on Earth. And it takes viewers on digs, behind microscopes, and into the inequalities of a world most of us don’t get to see for ourselves.

Along with a photography collection of bewhiskered women in labs and the field, the documentary will be featured at American Frame July 5th to September 26th.

American Frame President Laura Jajko said she was drawn to the project because of its novelty and its underlying message of female empowerment.

“It’s funny, it’s beautiful, and it sparks a conversation,” Jajko said. “And to me, that is the power of art.”

Proceeds from the film and portrait collection will start a scholarship fund for future female scientists.

“There’s no reason physically or chemically why women can’t be good at science,” Currano said. “Why wouldn’t a woman make a good paleontologist?”

No reason we can find.
See the film and photo collection at American Frame’s showroom July 5th to September 26th. An opening reception will take place Thursday, July 12th from 6 to 7:30 PM.

Art on the Street: Preparing for Summer Art Shows


For art lovers, there’s nothing quite like summer art shows. They let attendees see a variety of works, meet the artists who create them and bring their favorite pieces home.
And for Toledo watercolor artist Katie Heft, they give her a rare treat: the looks on the faces of people who pass her booth.

“There have been dozens of people to glance in my tent, keep walking, stop, backpedal; look again, and smile or laugh,” Heft said. “I love those reactions. That tells me I'm doing a good job making them believable. I wouldn't be able to see those reactions over a computer.”
Heft creates detailed art featuring imaginary creatures like rattlesnake-kangaroo hybrids and raven-sea urchin mashups. She primarily sells them on her
Etsy shop, but said the exchanges leave her craving buyer feedback.
So last year, she journeyed beyond the world of anonymous online sales to participate in art shows, showing her work at University of Toledo's Art on the Mall, Wild About Art at the Toledo Zoo, and The Point Place Art Walk on the Bay.
But attending art shows didn’t exactly prepare her for participating in one, especially when it came to her tent.

“At my first show, I realized that by the end of the day, my paintings were weighing down my tent and almost snapped the metal that was holding the canopy up,” Heft said.
Luckily, Heft sold enough prints at her first show to afford a new tent. A large part of art shows, she said, is investing money in yourself and your art.

“Investing in yourself is the most intimidating thing in the world,” according to Heft. “You need to make sure you have enough inventory to keep your tent full of work. This can mean spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars before you even know how you will do at the festival. Terrifying. You just have to believe in yourself and in your art.”
Considering renting a booth at your first art show? Here are some other things to keep in mind.

Have Plenty of Prints

Heft’s originals are large and cumbersome to haul to and from shows. So she instead settled on prints, which are more popular among art show buyers.
“I take my large paintings and shrink them down to standard sizes like 11x14, 16x20, and 22x28, which people are much more ready to buy,” Heft said.

Heft asked her family and friends to point out their favorite pieces of hers and stocked up of smaller size prints of those, as most shoppers opt for easily portable artwork.
Heft said she buys all her prints, frames, and mats from American Frame.

“American Frame is the only place that I've found that has quality archival papers and a fantastic print team,” Heft said. “If something is wrong with the image they will notify you and will even do touch-ups! All of my prints look amazing and I know they will last for years to come.”
American Frame offers volume discounts starting at quantities of five for items of the same size and material, as well as museum-quality, giclee printing services so you can prepare for the show quickly.
Another helpful tip? Stock up on business cards. Shoppers may not be ready to buy from you at the fair, but may contact you later to buy existing art or commission you for a specific project.
Research the Fair

Before your first show, attend as many as possible. Get a feel for the kind of art on offer, as well as any tips you may be able to apply to your own booth. “It helps to walk around and see all the different ways people display and present their art. There are always ways to improve your display, your pitch, and your product,” Heft said.

Collage artist Steven Wipfli has been selling his work at art shows for six years. He said the look of the booth is one of the most important factors.
The immediate visual impact of a booth is very, very important,” he said. “A potential customer must be drawn into the space, sometimes from quite a distance away.”
Wipfli believes a well-coordinated booth can draw interest, while a random-looking one can scare potential shoppers away.
“Is the work about color,” he said. “Is it black and white photography? Is it natural-toned ceramics? A hodgepodge of many different styles, techniques, and media does not usually draw visitors in to look more closely. Consistent framing is one way to establish that look.”
Wipfli achieves a consistent frame look by shopping only at American frame and limiting his purchases to a few complimentary collections.
“I frame with only two or three different frame styles and colors,” he said. “My matting width is consistent and I use three mat colors. This establishes an identifiable look which, even from a distance, defines the work and give the patron a quick idea about what’s in store.”
Talk to Other Artists

Don’t view other artists as your competition, but as an important resource. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the way they prepare for a show, Heft said. 
“Most everyone has been in your position before and everyone just wants to have a good time and bring art and smiles to people's lives,” she said. “They may also have great tips on new shows or ways to get more involved in the art community! Be interactive with your customers and try to stay positive regardless of the weather or the clientele.”
Share your art show prep with us. Tweet a photo of your prep process, or your booth to @AmericanFrame using #AmericanFramed or email it to

Have questions? Our framing experts are just a phone call away.

For tips and exciting offers, sign up for our e-Tip newsletter.

Laura Jajko
Laura Jajko is President of American Frame and a longtime contributor to "A Good Frame of Mind." Here, she delights in bonding with others over her love of art and framing. With more than 40 years of practical experience, she brings a unique perspective in a straightforward style that she hopes will spark lots of interesting and relevant dialogue in our online community. Connect with Laura directly here on the blog or follow her on Twitter @LauraJajko.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Breaking Artist’s Block

Sometimes, it feels like the paint is flowing from your brush effortlessly. There’s no thinking or plotting the next move. You just have to keep painting and let the piece come together, as if it’s creating itself.

And other times, the creative faucet feels broken. You stand in front of the canvas, struggling for inspiration that feels hopelessly out of reach.

All creative people have experienced both scenarios. The key is turning the latter one around. And one of the best ways to do that is to try something new.

We’re not talking about swapping your standard sky-blue paint for navy. To break a creative block, you’ll have to step far outside your comfort zone and try a new style of art, new materials, a new medium, or new scenery.

If you normally paint nature scenes, try a portrait. Love Impressionism? Give Modern Art a whirl. Trade in your watercolors for charcoal. Or step entirely outside your comfort zone and pick up a camera (like artist Vineta Cook explains in this blog post). Maybe leave the comfort of the studio and paint surrounded by nature, like these Plein Air artists do.

Ready to stretch your creative wings? Here are some tips to get started.

See More Art
It’s hard to paint what you haven’t been exposed to. So, explore different kinds of art. Visit upscale museums and funky, downtown art shows. Immerse yourself in masters like Monet, Dali, and Warhol, as well as up-and-coming artists in your own neighborhood (or at one of our showroom exhibits). Browse the works of respected photographers, like Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, and Diane Arbus. And don’t forget less-obvious sources of inspiration, like people-watching or browsing vintage clothing boutiques to explore fabrics, shapes, and colors. The creative spark leading to your next great work could be behind any corner.

Learn from the Best

When you’re in a creative rut, it can be helpful to get back to your roots. Who were the artists who first inspired you? Look at their work, deconstruct it, then try it for yourself. We don’t mean you should copy their works or attempt to pass them off as your own. But studying their successful techniques and trying your hand at them could help banish the block and let the ideas flow.  Past featured artist Renee Smith, for example, creates her own twists on the work of masters. Read about her art in our blog post.

Try Something New
Unsure where to start? Take a trip back in time. Paint a Renaissance-inspired portrait. Try your hand at abstract art. Incorporate elements of the Art Deco style into your work. No matter how the finished piece looks, you’ll learn new skills and expand your creativity in the process.

Take a Break
A watched pot doesn’t boil. And no matter how long you stare at that blank paper, a work of art won’t magically appear out of thin air. So, when art feels like a chore, do something else. Take a walk. Wash the dishes. Order art supplies. Even meditate, like past featured artist Peter DeWood does. Interrupting the task at hand can let your mind wander and your creative juices start to flow.

Give Yourself a Pep Talk

During a slump, it can be helpful to remember your accomplishments. Dig into your archives and review pieces that were received well, got attention, or earned awards. And don’t forget your personal favorite creations as well, even if they didn’t earn kudos. Reliving career highs can be helpful when doubting your talents.
Display Your Work

Who knows? Fighting against a creative block could produce an unexpected and interesting piece. If you’re proud of what you’ve created, give it the framing treatment it deserves. Our wood and metal frame collections feature frames fit for any era of art, from ornate gold and silver wood frames to clean Mid-Century Modern designs. After choosing a frame, the online design workflow makes it easy to choose the frame and accessories to complete your piece.



Share your projects with us. Tweet a photo of your experimental creation to @AmericanFrame using #AmericanFramed or email it to
Have questions? Our framing experts are just a phone call away.
For tips and exciting offers, sign up for our e-Tip newsletter.















































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