When it comes to framing art, my goal is always to enhance the piece and not distract from it. What’s fun about my job is that I never know who’s going to walk in the door and what that person will be looking for. Each customer brings a unique intention, and I work to put people at ease so they can discover a frame that completes the artwork.
In the design process, some people frame with a wall in mind, some frame for the artwork, and some frame to match the couch. Every approach is valid, and my job is to help people discover and articulate their aesthetic. I usually ask what they like about the piece and what elements they want to draw attention to. Sometimes, one color in the work will speak to them, and we’ll work to find a frame that will draw the eye to that color.
Other times, people come in with something flashy in mind. But they often begin to tone it down once they start looking at options. Heavy texture can pull the eye out of the piece, and people see that when it’s laid out in front of them.
It happens all the time that people get what I call “frame anxiety.” They worry about whether they will make the wrong decision. They’ll walk out the door, then call to say they need to come back again. They’ll bring in photographs or use software to envision what the room will look like with the framed piece. I try to put people at ease by giving them time and encouraging their own instincts. When it comes to framing art, you can overthink it. Really, picking a frame can be as simple as choosing what makes you happy and trusting your intuitive judgment.
Working with art that will be hung in a gallery is a different matter. In that case, the frame should allow viewers to keep their attention on the piece. For that reason, gallerists typically choose a simple black, white, gold or silver frame. But framing a piece for hanging at home is a process that connects people to their art.
One practicality: When it comes to hanging the piece, I suggest a two-point hanging system. Whether using screws or hangers, attach in two places to make the art more secure. I don’t give out hardware, and people sometimes ask why. There are a lot of different wall surfaces in old homes out here, and I wouldn’t want to provide hardware that slides right out from horsehair plaster.
Stephen Wells works from his studio at Pilgrim Framing in North Truro.