OKAY. So a ton of people have asked me where I find the frames that I use for my work. Here is a list of my frame hunting sources. IF you want to find the good frames and don’t have a regular source, you should make frame hunting a normal part of your routine.
First: Before you start your frame hunt, you need to know what it is that you are looking for. What style of frame fits your work the best. Do you have a sleek, modern aesthetic, or maybe something crazy and Nouveau would better suit your work? Also, before you start, remember that if you take your work in to be framed professionally, it is likely that you will spend a pretty penny, don’t skimp on cheapo frames, it will show. I learned this the hard way so take my advice and treat your work the way you want to be treated- with a nice frame. Set a budget ahead of time, after a few years of frame hunting, you will be able to tell what frames are worth like a pro, but for now, watch your wallet, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to shell out a little extra cash for that PERFECT antique 3 panel vintage amiore mirror, it is not likely that you’ll come across it again. Also, remember that sometimes older pieces need to be fixed up before you can use them, so that will cost a little bit of money too. Also, if you work on paper, definitely matte your work. It makes a huge difference. If you are a painter, you generally won’t need glass over your piece.
Also, when you see frames, try to visualize them in other colors, you can repaint and refinish frames that you find, so don’t poopoo something if you like the style and but the color. You can even modernize vintage pieces and give antique finishes to newer pieces, so pretend all the frames you see are grey.
Craigslist: Give it a whirl. But be careful, craigslisters can be creepy. I’ve found a ton of great frames on craigslist.
Ebay: About half of my frames I use, I find on ebay. Yep, it’s true. A lot of them start out as mirrors, I chuck/recycle the mirror and then use the frame. I have a few keywords I use in my searches that help me narrow down and find the specific styles I need. After some searching, you’ll see which ones you like and which ones you don’t and you can make your own list of keywords to use in your searches. You can save your searches so you can check them the next week. I do a frame hunt on ebay every couple weeks. The nice thing about ebay is that its contents are constantly cycling, so there’s always going to be something you haven’t seen yet if you are willing to take the time search.
Estate Sales: Old people have the best stuff! I love estate sales, one time I found a HUGE hand stretched, linen gallery profile canvas for like 20 bucks at an estate sale. But, that is besides the point, at about half of the estate sales I’ve been to, there has been a decent assortment of frames/mirrors. The other cool thing about estate sales is that you can usually haggle. I one time found a HUGE museum style baroque frame for 45.00, which would have been at least 400.00 if it had been purchased new. Also, Beware of Fondue pots, estate sales are riddled with them. It’s cute, but are you really going to use it? NO!
Sometimes if your lucky: Occasionally you’ll run into an old syrocco frame at a garage sale or second hand store, it doesn’t happen often, but you never know what you will find. The second hand stores in my area are always picked over and garage sales are a total hit or miss. I didn’t want to leave it off the list though because it can happen.
Mirrors: Mirrors make awesome frames for paintings. Just Sayin’. Antique dresser mirrors are the best thing ever. Ever.
Tell People: My close friends and family keep an eye out for frames on my behalf. The frame game is hit or miss, so sometimes while your missing, a friend will hit. On many occasions I’ve had people come to my door with frames. It is great!
Obviously: Be ready to wrestle rusty nails and non shatterproof glass out of crusty old frames. Be careful. Use tools, not your hands. Spring for the expensive nail polish if you don’t want to chip your nails. If you can’t remove glass from a mirror and breaking it out is your only hope of removing it, put it in a garbage bag first and then smash it up, that way you won’t have a shardy mess of shimmering death to deal with.
Before you Repaint: If you are going to paint an old frame with gesso work or ornate details, clean it up first so you don’t get bubbles and crusties in your paint. Use a a cotton swab to clean out all the nooks and crannies. If you’re fixing up something fragile, KEEP IN MIND that it will be hanging on a wall and it needs to be able to support the weight of itself as well as the weight of your work. Prime before spray painting. Don’t work in a dusty area. You can whitewash and antique your frames with a rough bristle brush or you can leave them as they are. Crackle paint them, gold leaf them, make ’em black, so whatever you want. The options are endless.
TIP: If you have a round or unusual shaped frame, remember to keep the glass or paper insert so you can trace it when its time to prepare your canvas/panel/paper.
Cracks and chunks: Fix cracks with epoxy putty or bondo. Be sure to sand and refinish when your done an no one will know! IF an old gesso frame is missing chunks, you can actually make molds and replace them. I’ll post more about that another day.
Another Tip: If you think it looks like shit, other people will probably think it looks like shit. Do not hang your art in a gallery if you think the frame looks like shit. Your better off with a simple frame than with a DIY antique frame that isn’t cutting it. If edges of your work are showing because the frame is to shallow, for the love of god please at least paint them black so they are hidden against the wall.
Good Luck on your frame hunting journey friends. I hope this has answered questions and helped someone.