Be Smart About Art

Personal recommendations are best - how not to get framed

written by: Susan Mumford Jan. 26, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 3094 views

Personal recommendations are best - how not to get framed

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I have long valued the use of archival materials for making and presenting works on paper, from photographs to etchings. Archival materials reassure clients about the lifetime of the works they are buying, and thus a potential barrier to purchase can be removed.

Starting out a dealership in my flat in South-West London, where I would hold residential openings and appointments, and plan pop-up shows and fairs, I sought a local framer. Et voilà! There was a nearby workshop that produced custom-made frames. Prior to having any jobs done, I visited to ascertain the suitability for my needs. The owner of the outfit was seemingly a like-minded small business owner and reassured me that only archival materials were used.

Excellent! Yet another essential supplier had been sourced, and I was well on my way to staging an at-home exhibition.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I had opened my gallery in Soho. On moving the business to Central London, I had started using a West End framer who came recommended by another art dealer.

An old client sought a different frame from the one that had been made by the original South-West London shop, so I set to taking the piece out of its moulding. (In hindsight, the Central London framer could have saved me time by doing this.) In this particular situation, however, it was no bad thing that it was myself who did it.

The original framer had applied normal masking tape – yes, that’s right, NORMAL MASKING TAPE, to the backs of the works of art. Disaster. I knew that in just a few short years, the masking tape would start eating through the paper if not removed. And the whole time, I had been telling clients that works were archivally produced and presented, from the work of art to the window mount.

All remaining pieces that had originated from the ‘dodgy framer’ had to be taken out of their original frames to be re-mounted. Time consuming, yes, expensive, yes, and essential for professional integrity.

An important principle can be gleaned from this simple story. When it comes to sourcing a new supplier for your business, professional recommendations (such as the one I got for the Central London framer) are the ideal starting point whenever possible. And regardless, a trial phase is essential. A trial can entail thoroughly checking completed jobs, or asking to be shown materials used on-site.

These days, getting personal recommendations is easier than ever. You can ask other local business owners and practitioners, check reliable websites that list industry service providers, email existing contacts and ask your social media network. 

Have your say! Share your comments below - and we will provide a link to your site / blog (if you so wish...).

Let other readers know about your personal experience of this, and what wisdom you have to share.    

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Photographs © Chris King.

user name

Hello Simon:

Great point! Yes indeed, an excellent stamp of credibility for any business will be membership of a trade association such as the Fine Art Trade Guild. Yet, it is not an absolute guarantee of excellent service and products - much the same as a personal recommendation does not provide certainty of quality.

All businesses including galleries as in your case should always endeavour to raise credibility and trustworthiness to increase customer confidence and improve likelihood of converting new clients.

user name

If anyone wants a framer recommendation then I do recommend the lovely Jan Poul at Bridget Riley studios. I have used him for many years and he is excellent and very knowledgeable re conservation work. He frames my very large drawings, not an easy task for some framers and smaller work as well. He is used by galleries and I have never heard a bad word about his work. This is his email


user name

living in Camden I just gave up on local framers and if I had to use them requested that the fixings were left open at the back so I could check. Sellotape is the worst.

Wouldn't it also have been worthwhile to check whether the framer had 'Fine Art Trade Guild approved' status? Or doesn't that count for much?