Merion Art Blog

In Praise of Art Supply Brand Websites

While we at Merion Art always recommend talking to your Art Materials Retailer for information on your art supplies, sometimes it’s more effective to go straight to the source. After all, the people who make your favorite art supplies often have an incredibly deep knowledge of the products they develop. Many art supply manufacturers have websites with a wealth of information that can be useful to the artist who reads carefully. Manufacturer websites can also be a great place to find safety sheets, detailed product specifications, project ideas, art communities, specialized apps, and more. Here are a few manufacturer websites which we feel merit special recognition.

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The Golden Artist Acrylic website includes SO MUCH INFORMATION. The caps are warranted: the website not only contains basic product info (How to use GAC 100, 200, etc) it also includes a virtual paint mixer, an interactive color chart, store locator (you don’t need this, since you have us!), how-to videos, and a link to their bi-annual newsletter “Just Paint” which “is a technical resource for painters about the capabilities and possibilities of materials, and (sometimes) their limitations.” It’s incredibly in-depth and it’s a great resource for art nerds.

 

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Along with product specs and usage directions, Gamblin has a gorgeous website with a plethora of useful tidbits. There’s a load of interesting articles and videos on their “Experience Color” page. They have info on Ultramarine Blue and its history, different pallette examples for different applications, and multiple articles on choosing the correct white for your work. They also have a section dedicated to Studio Safety– an important topic for any artist. They’ve also got posts about less-considered aspects of living an artist’s life, like how to travel with art supplies, how to store paintings, and how to effectively clean brushes.

 

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Sakura, who makes Pigma Microns, Cray Pas, and Identi Pens has a wealth of information on their website including applications and technical qualities for most of their products. This tells you how their products can best be used, as well as answering questions about what will remove their inks and what could destroy your work: They often tell if the product is “Not recommended for use on fabrics intended to be washed. Not evaluated for cosmetic use on skin.”

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The Speedball Art website has lots of information on the products Speedball specializes in. There’s in-depth info about the history of Speedballs contributions to calligraphy, recommended best practices for blockprinting, and the techniques involved in screenprinting and gold-leafing.

 

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Marabu Creative has a website full of inspiration, instructions, and information. They have page upon page of projects, complete with step by step directions and pictures. They have downloadable and printable instructions organized by difficulty level, as well as the usual informative lists of product specs and usability details. The company is German, so there are occasional small mis-translations, but it just gives the site a little European flair.

 

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At Princeton Artist Brush Co., it’s all paintbrushes, all the time. They’re a fantastic company founded and based in Princeton NJ, and they really care about their brushes and their customers. On their site, you can learn what each shape of brush is intended for, read interviews with featured artists, explore painting techniques, and learn in-depth information about brush anatomy, hair choices, and brush care.

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As you can see, these companies don’t just make your favorite brands, they do research and development of new products, gather helpful tips and tricks for artists-at-large, design online tools to help creative people, and their websites are a great place to spend some time. If you’re looking for information, inspiration, or just something to do on the internet, you should definitely dive deep into these websites. Let us know your favorite art company websites in the comments!


3 Reasons to Custom Frame Your License or Diploma

From pet stores, to beauty salons, to lawyers, to doctors, many businesses have official documents which are required by law to be posted in public view. Diplomas, certificates, licenses, awards…there’s a plethora of important paperwork that should be visible to clients and customers. While business people are required to “post” these documents, there is nothing that requires them to be posted nicely. All too often, I see them taped to walls, crooked inside plastic frames, fading in direct sunlight, and crinkling in humidity. Here are 3 reasons I believe you and your business can benefit from custom framing these documents instead.

It looks more professional- The whole reason we are required to post certificates and licenses is to prove that we are trained and certified professionals at what we do. A slap-dash framed license makes you look unprofessional and careless. No one is reassured by seeing a doctor or dentist with a slovenly diploma. If they can’t take care of an important document, how well will they take care of you? Even a Harvard diploma looks trashy when it’s crooked and pressed up against the glass in a cheap frame. A bad frame on your diploma is the equivalent of showing up to work wearing a Snuggie. Sure, you’re technically present, but it’s not going to impress your clients at all. Consider your workplace framing as an important aspect of brand image. Your office likely has a dress code, and I’d suggest your framing should follow it- if your place of business is all scrubs and sensible shoes, a simple no-nonsense frame will convey your attitude and skills to clients waiting for medical care. If you work in an office that’s got a suit-and-tie standard, let your frame impart your competence and professionalism with richly stained wood and linen, or modern minimalist glass and metal.

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How Not To Do It: This license is wrinkled, faded, and generally sketchy

It shows pride in your workA Veterinarian I know went a little over the top framing his diploma, and when asked if he was okay with the higher final price and the large frame, he said “This diploma is what I’ve spent the last 8 years working towards, of course I’m going to make a big deal of it.” He was proud of all the work he had put into becoming a doctor, and this diploma was a visible, physical reminder of all he had accomplished. For people in high-stress jobs (and really, what job isn’t stressful?), it can be a powerful reassurance to see a physical representation of their accomplishments. After a difficult day at work, you can see proof of your own achievements hung like a big sign on the wall saying “You did it!” This can be especially helpful for high-achievers who have trouble with “Imposter Syndrome.” Well-framed diplomas, accolades, licenses and certificates can all reassure you, and your customers and clients, that “You’ve earned this.” 

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Now that’s an impressive diploma!

It will protect your valuable certificate– Of course, some things are not meant for the grand look- for instance, state-issued business licenses aren’t really intended to be gorgeous framed artwork. We’re not suggesting a full custom frame job on every OSHA flyer! Framing is not just for visual impact, it’s also for protection, and protecting your paper certifications is the practical thing to do. That piece of paper is the legal proof of your hard work and education and professional status- so you should treat it nicely! If it’s not properly framed, it can decay, bleach, fade and become brittle. It will destroy itself, just by being framed cheaply! The important things to make sure you consider (as we’ve repeated almost ad nauseum) are acid free backing and UV protective glass. If UV damage causes the certificate to bleach out, have you really still got your license posted as required? If your “Voted Best” award gets acid burns from the backing and changes color, does that help your business image or hurt it? Is your diploma still valid if the Dean’s signature fades under fluorescent lights?  Most of those kinds of certifications can be re-issued, but if you take the time to frame it right, you won’t have to order a potentially costly or inconvenient replacement.

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Merion Art’s License: Not visually exciting, but very well protected!

We hope this post has caused you to think about the state of your certificates, licenses and diplomas. Does your diploma fit the image you want your business to impart to new customers? Does looking at your certification documents make you feel a sense of accomplishment and pride, or does the look of them make you start thinking of excuses? What messages are your posted licenses conveying to your customers and to your staff? If you’d like to improve the look and longevity of your diploma, license or certificate, bring them in and let one of our talented framers take a look. We promise to make it look professional! Click here for a special deal for upgrading your professional certifications!

 

 


Exciting New Products, and Why We Chose Them!

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At Merion Art, we are constantly bringing in new products throughout the year to make sure we’re carrying the most interesting, useful, and up-to-date art supplies. Along with all the logistical changes going on at Merion Art right now, (like the store remodel and a planned outer-facade facelift) we’re also getting in a larger-than-usual surge of exciting new items in the near future, and we want to give our customers a heads up!

Here are some of the new things that our Purchasing Manager Justine and Marketing Coordinator Jen picked out at the Dealer Workshop they attended in California in June. They are both working artists with 5+ years in art retail, and these were the products that made them say “OOH! We NEED to carry that!”

 

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Itoya Pop-Up Easel Presentation Books: These are going to be useful to non-artists and artists alike! This presentation book is a portfolio with a built in stand. This is going to make displaying and transporting papers much simpler. For anyone looking for a way to hold and protect recipes, sheet music, large photos, and (of course) artwork, this a great buy.

 

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Gamblin 1980: While not the same top shelf quality as Gamblin Artist Oils, these paints are a much higher quality than student brands.  At a very similar price to Winsor Newton’s Winton student line, they offer a consistent, creamy texture and rich pigment load far surpassing its competitors. These paints are perfect for pros who want to watch their wallet, as well as students who want a higher quality paint without breaking the bank.

 

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Angelus Leather Paint: These paints are a darling of the shoe customizing community. They paint excellently on leather, plastic, and rubber, and their additives allow for a range of applications from airbrush to multi-surface. It’s not just a great product for the re-sale market, it’s the perfect paint to touch up old accessories, furniture, or just giving that outdated handbag a fresh look.

 

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Micron Pigma PN: These new pens are the brothers of the industry standard Pigma Micron. The PN stands for plastic nib–or more accurately “polyacetal nib”. The new nib offers greater durability allowing for heavier uses such as everyday writing and note-taking. “Pigma archival quality ink is waterproof, chemical and fade resistant, bleed free, quick drying, and pH neutral!”

 

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Marabu Porcelain & Glas Painters: These markers allow you to decorate and customize glass and porcelain. The paint is food-safe, unlike many other porcelain markers, and the Painters come in 33 high pigment colors, giving you a huge creative range for decorating tableware. “The Painters with the new formulation are ideal for use on porcelain and glass, but also on metal, mirrors, ceramic, terracotta and stone (…) The decorated objects become dishwasher-safe by simply fixing them in an oven.” Colorful, durable and easy to use!

 

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Sennelier Abstract Acrylics: Just when you were wondering how they could possibly get acrylics to do anything new, they repackage! These high quality artist acrylics come in a bag with customizable tips (much like a piping bag) for varying applications. This new design is great for modeling the techniques of Jackson Pollack and giving you an increased range of control without a brush. The softer casing is also beneficial for getting out the last drop of paint. These acrylics come in a soft matte and high gloss finish.

 

We hope you’re as excited about these art supplies as we are! Let us know what you think of these new items in the comments!


“MFA: Yes or No?” Personal Reflections on Grad School from Darryl Smith

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Images Copyright Darryl Smith

Merion Art Team Member Darryl Smith is leaving us! He had his last day and farewell demo this past Monday. The intrepid draftsman will be leaving to start earning his Master of Fine Arts degree in Drawing and Artistic Anatomy from the New York Academy of Art in the fall. The whole team at Merion Art would like to wish Darryl best of luck in his studies and future teaching endeavors! Before he left, Darryl wrote down some of his musings about why he knows an MFA is right for him, and some thoughts on how to decide if one is right for you…

Guest post by Darryl Smith

“Now that I am going to grad school, I wanted to talk about why exactly I am getting my masters degree in Drawing, and help you to decide whether getting a masters degree, or any degree, in the fine arts might or might not be a path for you.

Many folks have been perplexed when I tell them I am getting another degree saying, “Oh but you draw so well already! What is this next degree for?” Well it can be for a lot of things: networking, skill-building, and more networking.  (The networking is important!) Finding and becoming part of a professional artistic community is an aspect of the grad school experience that I definitely wanted, mainly because it was something that I have never actually had a chance to be a part of. I’m excited to work in a group of peers who think in the same manner as myself and have similar interests (like going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spending 5 hours just drawing in the Greek and Roman sculpture section of the museum).

I am primarily getting my MFA in Drawing because it was an interest that I followed right at the end of my BFA program and really wanted to take the time to explore professionally what this medium was, and I wanted to explore it under the guidance of well-established artists who currently work in the medium.

Besides being amongst professional figurative painters, sculptors, and draftsmen, I plan to use my MFA degree so I can teach and lecture at the collegiate level about drawing techniques and advanced artistic anatomy.  As most of you who have attended my demos know, I LOVE talking about techniques and the history of said techniques and I would love to share my knowledge and passion with many folks!

Being in a classroom setting is very challenging- you are exposed to a variety of processes and techniques, and I enjoy that because it really helps me fight for my ideologies, so to speak.  I got a lot of this challenge during my time when I was getting my BFA–I went to 3 separate schools.  I soaked up any information like a sponge and just unleashed it all at the end during my thesis exhibition and I learned quite a lot about what I like and what I didn’t like and the next step afterwards is to really take a hold of what I enjoyed and research it extensively.

Now, there are cases where higher education may not be suitable.  Granted, it’s a very structured system, which does not work for everyone, and of course the cost is a huge factor. Unlike more structured occupations that require professional certification, its possible to succeed as an artist without a graduate or even under graduate degree. In an artistic career (unless you are planning to teach) working experience can often act as a substitute for graduate diplomas, and there are a number of paths you can take.

I personally love the experience gained by just working by yourself, away from the structured class environment, to see how you can learn and interpret the medium without any outside influence (whether it be from a teacher or classmate). You can learn a lot about the medium and about yourself that way. For example, I taught myself how to oil paint.  It was very hard, I used crappy materials, but in the end it worked and I found out I really like structured techniques and processes, which now carry over into how I execute my drawings.  I also taught myself sumi ink drawing which, through constant failure, taught me how to become zen when I begin a new drawing, and accept the mistakes. I probably wouldn’t have come across these ideologies organically, had I started immediately studying in a degree program in art without some prior experience messing around with art.

As an alternative to a full graduate experience, I have encountered many folks who have taken continuing education (CE) classes at schools and art centers and they, too, have found their artistic community.  I think CE classes are an extraordinary opportunity for vast exploration, just because you have many choices at your disposal. Between college courses, workshops with working artists, evening studio classes, lectures, and camps, there are plenty of ways for an artist to further their education outside of graduate school.

I am a firm believer that passion drives absolutely everything that anyone wants to achieve in life and you must go down any path that suits your practice, whether it be an MFA degree or not! The answer to “Should I get my MFA?” is ultimately something to be decided between you, your passion, and your plans for the future.”

 


Know Your (Living) Artists

 

A Quick Personal Story and A Challenge:

In a college studio art class, my professor did an experiment. As a quiz, without Googling, he asked the class to name 50 artists in 10 minutes. “Piece of cake!” we thought, and started listing. He continued, “-who are ALIVE TODAY,” and we froze, crossing Michelangelo, Picasso, Pollack, and DaVinci off the list, minds racing, Art History majors panicking.

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“Dead, dead, dead again, dead, very dead…”

50 suddenly seemed like a much larger number, and we almost immediately tried to stretch the time limit, and the definition of “artist,” and “alive,” and “today,” to make more names count: “Ray, do we count? We’re all artists, there’s like 10 kids in this class, okay, how about you and all our other professors, cool that’s 15, oh, that guy that died just last week, can he count? Yeah, I know I hadn’t heard about him ‘til he died, but-”.

 

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We got a little desperate…

Dead Artists’ Society

This exercise was meant to point out that the most easily recognizable names in Art History are dead, and most have been dead for hundreds of years, but the landscape of the art world is always changing. It requires constant effort to keep up with changing times -going to galleries, reading art news, doing research- but that effort is worthwhile.

A Challenge

If this challenge still sounds like a piece of cake to you (good for you!), take it up a notch. The most easily recognizable names in Art History are also overwhelmingly male, white, and EuropeanIf asked to name 30 living female artists, could you get 30 in 10 minutes? How about 30 female artists, period? Without cheating!

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Try it! Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Could you name 25 black artists, any nationality? Or 20 American artists, alive or otherwise? How about just 15 Asian artists? Try 5 local artists- can you name 5 artists working right now in a 5 mile radius of your town or nearest city?  They do exist, even in the suburbs!

The Takeaway

Take 10 minutes today to learn about living artists. See what new things people are trying with contemporary technology and what they have to say about modern-day issues. Starry Night and the Mona Lisa aren’t the end all and be-all of artwork, lots has happened in the last hundred years that’s worth painting. 

Take 10 more minutes to specifically research female artists, and non-Caucasian artists, both working today and throughout history. Their work will educate and inspire. They are around, and they are fascinating. They’ve always been in the art world, pushing aesthetic boundaries, exploring issues of race and gender, and just generally defying the image of an artist as a white guy with a mustache, a palette, and a jaunty beret.

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You know… *this* guy.

Make it a point to learn about local artists, even (especially) those who haven’t yet been “discovered”- take a look at what’s on display at the nearest gallery, even if you’re in a small town, or check out local art fairs. See the kind of art made by people living and working in the same time and place as you do, and see if the things you have in common foster a deeper connection and understanding of their artwork.

I promise the effort is still worthwhile!

-Jen

 


5 Reasons to Reframe Old Art

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Look around your room. Is there some art on the walls? Nice! Is it more than 10 years since that frame was opened? Less nice. Think about your basement or attic- is there any framed artwork stored there? Even less nice.

Once something has been framed, the inclination is to leave it alone, pretty much forever. After all, it’s framed, it’s done: the only thing worse than re-doing a bad job is re-doing a good one. While it’s true that a good frame job will preserve and display artwork for a good, long time, nothing is permanent, and eventually it’s time to take your art down and bring it to see a custom framer for a checkup or a refresh. Here are some reasons you should consider reframing or refitting your old art and photographs.

(Reframing describes taking the art out of its old frame and choosing a new frame and or mat. Refitting involves taking art out of its old frame and putting it back in without changing out the mat, glass, or frame.)

 

Changing Styles

This is the most obvious reason to change the frames on decorative artwork. While framers often recommend “framing to the piece,” not to the room it’s destined for, most people consider their home’s aesthetic when picking out a framing package. That frame may have gone with your decor when it was chosen, but you’ve got new furniture and new paint now. If it’s a very old piece, the colors of mats and frames may have shifted or faded over time, and a combo that looked great now clashes. If it’s a piece you inherited or something that’s been through a move or two, maybe it was designed for an entirely different house in an entirely different style. And hey, maybe your personal tastes have just changed over time- something you loved in your twenties is going to look very different to a 40 year old.

The frames we chose in 1995 are not the frames we would choose for 2017. Even something as straightforward as metallics go through changing trends: In the 80’s we were into shiny silver chrome, in the 90’s we loved that brassy gold, and the last 10 years have been all about gunmetal and copper, and recently rose-gold. The point is, simply swapping out the mat and frame can totally revitalize a piece of art that feels tired or dated. It’s the same as reupholstering an antique chair or changing the tailoring on a vintage dress- little tweaks can bring it into this decade and give it years of new life.

*(As I was writing this post, an object lesson came in- an antique map, which has been in its frame for probably 50 years. Below, you can see three pictures: the first shows the dinged and dated frame, too thin for the piece, with no mat. In the third photo you can see the backing, mid-century cardboard, which is starting to break down and mildew. In the middle, you can see the back of the artwork, which is stained and brittle from being against the cardboard.

The map will be getting a gorgeous cream 100% cotton rag mat, a cream acid free backing, and a classic black and gold frame. A checkup and a reframe are going to save this cool 1930’s map for generations to come!)

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Definitely time for a reframe!

Check-up on Art Condition

If you have a very old piece of original artwork or an old photo, you might want to refit just in order to give your art a checkup. This is an especially good idea for artwork that was already framed when you received or purchased it. It’s good to know just how the frame was put together, whether the mats and backing are acid free, and whether the glass is uv protective. We once saw a piece that a customer had inherited from a family member, and wanted to make sure it was well preserved. When we popped the backing off, it turned out the frame was good, the mat was fine, but it was mounted using duct tape and an old piece of 1960’s wood paneling- NOT the PPFA recommended method for hinging delicate artwork!

This is really a checkup for your art- when you go to the doctor for a checkup, it’s not because something is wrong, it’s to stop things going wrong in the future, and to touch base with a professional who knows what to look out for. Having a framer take a look behind the dustcover once every decade or so is a very good way to keep your art in good condition for years to come.

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It’s a combination tune-up and spa day for your frame…

Clean Glass and Dust

If you’ve got some art that’s been sitting framed in a basement or attic covered in cobwebs, or lives in a humid bathroom, or salty and dusty shore-house, or even just a frame that hasn’t got a good dust-cover on the back, this might be the reason to get it re-framed or refitted. Dust, insects, dirt, humidity and oils can get behind the glass and make your artwork look grubby and gross. Out-gassing from incorrectly framed artwork can fog the insides of the glass. Let a framer take the glass off and clean it, brush off any residue, give the frame itself a good rubdown and then put the whole shebang back together with a new dust-cover- it will give a dirty old frame a new lease on life. It can even be economical: a cleaning and refit is cheap compared to the cost of buying new artwork- you can spend a fraction and take care of the artwork you already have.

This is especially important for a frame that has escaped some kind of catastrophe- flood, fire, etc. We had a customer bring in a sweet cross-stitch that had escaped a house fire but not the fire-hoses- it had some moisture stains and discoloration, but no actual structural damage to the frame. The customer’s aunt had made it and given it as a gift decades ago. The customer felt obliged to display it every time the aunt visited, but the rest of the year, she was so embarrassed and put off by the outdated frame and water stains that it lived in a closet. We chucked the old frame, had the cross-stitch laundered, and put it in a fresh new mat and frame- now it’s lovely and clean, and on the wall all year round.

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Cleaned, lean, and ready to hang! No hideous, stained-and-dated before-photo necessary…

Safety

This may sound like an odd reason, but it’s a valid one: frames are heavy, and glass can shatter. Frames need to be treated carefully or they could be a hazard! I knew a family who hung a framed piece next to a heavy door. Every time one of their kids closed the door hard, the piece would drop off the wall, and the glass would shatter everywhere. This happened multiple times before we suggested reframing using plexi- no more problem!

Another time, we had a customer who wanted to re-use an antique frame. When we got it, it was so loosely joined and damaged that it easily shifted into a rhombus and could barely hold a screw without falling apart. That’s bad enough as-is, but then the customer cheerfully mentioned that he intended to hang it over the baby’s crib. There were looks of horror all around, while we imagined this heavy frame disintegrating and the glass plummeting towards an unsuspecting child! Sometimes it’s time to reframe for safety’s sake: let the framer pick you a brand new frame that’s structurally sound!

New Framing Technology

One of the best reasons to replace a frame, mat, and glass is the advent of new framing technology. Sure, Grandma’s wedding photo was framed with state-of-the-art framing tech in 1945, but we’ve got acid free mats, conservation glass, new frames, and better backings now. This is hugely important for things of sentimental value. You’ll want to reframe to avoid mat burn, UV-bleaching, and out-gassing that comes from the breakdown of old framing materials.  If your treasured family snapshots are fading to that vintage Instagram-filter greenish orange, it’s time to reframe. If it has been more than 20 years since your item was framed, chances are we may have something new to show you! When your photos have lasted another 100 years, you can thank us…

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If your Grandma’s cherished color photos look like this, REPLACE THE GLASS, please!

Reframing the Conversation

I hope we’ve given you some food for thought! As professional custom framers we always want what’s best for you and your artwork. A good frame provides both decoration and preservation, and we always want to make sure your frames are lookin’ good and working well. As always, feel free to leave any questions in the comments!