Make Your Framing Count – Three Steps to More Profitable Exhibiting

Picture framing tips from professional framer Jonathan Birch, Dovetail Framing

It’s said that you only get one chance to make a good impression, and this is particularly true where picture framing is concerned. As an artist, you have many important decisions to make, including where to exhibit, what work to include and how much to charge. All too often, how you’re going to frame and present your work comes a long way down that list. I’ve framed many exhibition pieces, and I’ve found that the most successful artists put framing at the heart of their decision making. As a result, they sell more work, more profitably. 

I’d like to suggest three ways in which you too can be a more successful exhibitor. None of these ideas are particularly new, but they are frequently forgotten in the excitement of preparing for an exhibition. The objective is to produce well-presented work that engages the viewer and encourages them to buy your art at a fair price.

Understand The Value of Framing

Firstly, build a relationship with a professional framer and understand what good framing can do for your work and what it costs. Good framing costs money, and unless this is understood, the artist can sometimes find themselves out of pocket when the exhibition’s over. I always encourage artists to think financially in terms of a ‘rule of threes’. The three main elements in a project are usually the framing, the gallery commission and the artist’s profit. It’s gratifying when people want to buy your work, but if there’s no money left after you’ve paid your framer and the gallery, you’ve sold yourself short. 

A mounted drawing with contrasting double mount (credit – Karen Coulson)

Keep It Simple.

There’s a reason why the vast majority of work sold is in white mounts and white or natural wood frames. It appeals to a wide audience, complements most homes and does not require reframing once purchased or given as a gift. You may prefer a black mount and frame on your drawing, but I’m afraid public opinion is largely against you. The only time this changes is for a commission, where the individual client’s taste is paramount and you can work with your framer on a more bespoke solution.

This doesn’t mean your work can’t look individual. You might consider a double mount instead of a single, or a thicker mount rather than a conventional one. You might want to try a tray or floater frame instead of a more conventional presentation for an oil or acrylic. Perhaps you might float mount a watercolour to add more interest, or use a contrasting double mount to give it a lift. You might also want to consider adding better quality glazing to your work to give it an edge. I frequently build bespoke hand painted frames for artists, ensuring that their work is truly distinctive. 

These are just some of the ways in which you can work with a picture framer to lift your work to another level, give your work the individual touch that buyers look for, and make exhibiting a more enjoyable  –  and profitable, activity.

Jonathan Birch owns Dovetail Framing, a bespoke picture framing business based in Awbridge, near Romsey. He offers a home visit framing service and also hosts consultations in his workshop.  Jonathan is a member of the Fine Art Trade Guild and is one of the few framers in the area to hold the Guild’s Certified Framer qualification, which is internationally recognized as the leading professional qualification for the picture framing industry. He is a previous winner of the Guild’s Larson-Juhl Scholarship and frames for a number of exhibiting artists and private clients across Hampshire and the New Forest.

Artful Collective members also receive 10% off bespoke framing with Dovetail Framing. Click here to find out about our membership.

A float mounted acrylic with bespoke tray frame (credit – Lynne Reeves)

Don’t be embarrassed by pricing.

If you’ve produced a piece of work that’s cost you £75.00 to frame, you will need to charge around £225.00 in order to pay a gallery a 35% commission and have a similar amount left for yourself. Your client will expect to pay a reasonable price for your work and will value it more as a result. Work that’s cheaply framed in order to lower the selling price rarely appeals and often goes unsold at the end of the exhibition.

how to frame your artwork