Pricing French Mats

Maria Nucci Designs

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Jul 13, 2002
Asheville, NC
Terry started a good discussion reagarding the french matting article in the June PFM.

The discussion of pricing is a new topic, maybe even a business topic, but here goes...

Time studies are absolutely fact the ONLY way to price this specialty.

Terry you have the right idea by breaking up the tasks into the number of lines and washes. Sounds like you're on track.

Probably the stumbling block for most framers is they don't do this often enough to have enough data.

I'd suggest you take a standard size, say 16 x 20 and time the basic tasks.

Time a single line.
Time a 1/2" wash with flanking lines.
Time a marbled paper panel, cutting paper & laying down.
****Be aware of set up time.

You can put together an initial pricing structure from that and then...

Do a time study on every mat you do from that point on to tweak the least for a while, And then time study every now and then to check.

We do thousands of mats a year, so we have broken up the pricing structure into about 12 different categories and have time studied many a project.

Series 1 is 1-3 lines
Series 2 is 1/4" wash with 2 lines
and so on and so on....

Marbled papers, gilded bevels, etc. are add-ons.
(Like the buck you pay to add pepperoni to your veggie pizza.)

Curious to hear how others are handling pricing on specialty matting.
I have just begun learning color washed panels. I’m having fun playing with it but speed is certainly not my strong point. It’s much like when I started learning how to do digital graphics. At first I was very slow and the product wasn’t very good.

I’m not sure when I will be confident selling a watercolor wash but when I do there is three facts from pricing as you suggest.

1. It will take me insanely longer than it does you.
2. It will be a very inferior product to yours.
3. It will cost probably several times what yours does.

I have raised this same question when we talk about pricing for digital photo restoration. This is the same problem you end up with pricing this laborious product too. I don’t see how it’s fair to sell an inferior product for more money.

I’ll suggest how I intend to price them. I will find out from people like you and other shops in the area what they charge. Then I will practice practice practice until its worthwhile to do them for what others charge.

I’m not totally disagreeing, but it seems that is just half the process. The second half is determining what value it has in a particular market. Once you know what you should sell them for, compared to your skill level, then you can decide if it’s even a good idea to do them in house.

I have some friends who have bought from you, Maria. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s never profitable for me to do this in house. They were extremely happy with your prices and quality and options. I’m almost convinced that it will never be a good thing for me to try to match that, as I doubt I will ever do enough to “specialize” in it.

I guess when you set the standard, like you do, then time is the only factor you need to consider. That’s probably not the case with most of us.

That’s how I intend to approach pricing anyway.

You are right, sometimes it's just not worth it to do it in house.

That's why I don't gild my own frames. I imagine I could learn but the investment in time (if I had it) probably wouldn't net the quality a customer expects.

I do feel, though, that almost anyone can learn to do a few simple tricks..some lines, a gold bevel. And those things require a little (or a lot) of practice and a little time study.

Even though I've been at this a long time, I still have to pay attention to quality, not just time. Especially since I have an assistant now who does a good deal of the work.

I'd be happy to share my wholesale pricing if it would help.
I, for one, would love to see your wholesale pricing. It might be worth it for me to farm out the work to you. I am getting better at french matting, but I don't know if I'll ever do enough of them to get faster at it.
Maria I was hoping there would be more input into this discussion. I know often we're a little touchy sharing pricing but comparing some time studies for example would only help everyone in the difficult task of pricing specialty work. When you go to get your car fixed I know there are guidelines as to how long repairs take. Now it might take longer or shorter depending on circumstances but there is a baseline. If you are willing to share some pricing I think that would be great. It would sure help in establishing that baseline. Regarding my comments on time alloted for lines & panel on the other thread do you find that after the first panel with border lines set up time for additional panels and lines are reduced? Seems to make sense but I haven't made that distinction in my priceing. I'm going to do a couple of those soon & see how it goes. It's been a long time since I've accuratly timed more involved work & it's easy to forget how long it really takes. Sometimes what seems so clear in my mind as to how long things take turns out to be wishful thinking. Great website by the way. I hope everyone is inspired to try this out. Like you said a basic line isn't that bad to learn & really enhances the overall effect of the frame package. & if we send you the tough stuff like Diane said, thats ok too.
Hey Maria, how about that workshop in Atlanta this year? You were too busy with the new store last should be humming along on auto-pilot about now

I think Baer would be on board, and possibly some of the others here on the G. Don't make us show up at you shop en masse demanding tutelage.
Originally posted by Maria Nucci Designs:

I'd be happy to share my wholesale pricing if it would help.
It would be a great help to those of us who are just starting out in lines and washes what we should expect to charge on the retail level, as well. I'm more interested in seeing high and low ranges, if that it is possible.
How about doing a survey on pricing French Matting? Maybe MIke from GTP would help. Those interested in sharing, but not on an open forum could send Mike some info about their pricing so he could know what to put in it.
Once again, I think time is the key. What you charge for your time is dependant on your situation. For instance I posted on the other thread that I'm charging about 1/3 hr for a line around a 16x20 opening & a little over an hr for a panel bordered on both sides by lines. This includes layout, clean up etc.
I have gotten a few mats from Maria and they are fabulous!

I have decided, that untill I can take a "hands on class", I will leave this one up to the experts.

Quality is what is so important with these mats.

It is something I want to persue, because, with the age of pre framed art, I think this is a traditional effect that Big box stores and retailers can't offer and this really can set us apart.

It also has a long history, and makes the customer feel like they are getting an orginal piece of art in addition to the framing.

Will you be in Atlanta this year and will you be giving class. I'd like to be first on the list!!

I'll see what I can do about getting in touch with Decor about a class in Atlanta...I was planning on being there anyway. best to share pricing. It's a word doc so I can e-mail it privately to all who want it. Please e-mail me privately through the website.

Keep in mind the price list is wholesale to the trade. Most of my customers have been doubling the prices (or close to it) for retail.

The price list should be self explanatory. There are a bunch of designs broken up into "Series" numbers. I lump some tasks together for simplicity's sake. For instance Series 3 is a 1/2" wash and 2-3 lines.

As Terry implied, It takes almost as long to cut, line and rule 2 lines as 3.

Spacing and color changes don't affect the price.

All the Series include a rag board, and there are some add-on goodies, like gold bevels, marbled paper.