quality comparisons UK-USA


PFG, Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Nov 19, 2002
United Kingdom, West Sussex Coast. (Bottom centre)
I am a UK framer and I think I am in a very small minority in this country by having uncompromisingly high standards. Perfect mitres and mounts are easy with today's machinery. A framer's true colours are shown INSIDE the frame (plus also in selecting the RIGHT frame) In this country, "out of sight" is "out of mind" - generally. Needlework is stapled, glued or taped and often trimmed to the glas size. Artwork on paper, regardless of value or replace-ability, is secured on its face with masking tape. Undermounts are extremely uncommon and conservation quality work, on artwork that warrants it, is even moreso.

From what I read in our trade press, standards are much higher in the USA, I would be interested to know what my opposite number over there finds when s/he opens a recently made (elsewhere)frame for glass replacement etc.

Welcome to the grumble.

We have always strived to give our clients the best possible fame job possible. We are always looking for ways to improve our product.

The one factor that puts a wrench into the "best possible job" is the customers request to have us perform our skills to meet a specific budget. It is probally the same in the UK. When a client comes in and states "I don't want to spend more than I paid for the art" or something similar there is little lattitude that can be given to do our best.

In my situation there are some 60 frame shops in a 7-8 mile radius. Four are Big Box locations. They are both in commercial spaces and home based. Competition is fierce. These figures have doubled in the last 10-12 years. Price rules.

Quality is seen as a secondary requirement. Actual quality in most items we see from other shops is for the most part good. Some is exceptional and some is just lousy. The general public is just not informed of what good vs bad framing quality is. We try to educate our regular clients on proper conservation framing.

My prices are at or below large metro averages even though we have the experience, know how, and equipment to what many are not capable of doing. It is very interesting to see a prospective client park in front in an Audi, BMW, Lincoln etc. and listen to their lamenting about price.
So you mean to tell me that all those frame packages I've opened up that are full of duct tape, masking tape, hot glue, chipboard, cardboard cartons and last month's funny paper were all produced in the UK??

Boy, that's a relief! I'd hate to think we were cranking out that stuff in the USA.

Seriously, I think you'll find the whole range of frame-quality everywhere. If you spend some time on The Grumble, you start to get the feeling that EVERYONE is utilizing responsible materials and practices for everything that comes through the door.

Not true. Never will be. Not in my lifetime, anyway.
Sounds to me like the U.K. framing standards are much like ours were prior to the eighties. Your observation sort of surprises me. I have seen some really beautiful framing come out of the U.K.. French mats (mounts) hand leafed frames, etc. Kind of disappointing.

From one UK Framer to another.. Welcome to the Grumble... But PLEASE do not tar us all with the same brush.... You may be in a minority where you are. Certainly down here in the West Country standards are good. I am a GCF and follow their guidelines. Admitedly I have reframed a lot of 'competitors' work and have not been impressed with some of their standards. Mine are high and my charges are only slightly higher. It has taken five years to get where I am, but my workload is increasing and without being too bigheaded 80% of my new customers come from word of mouth. Plus (and I know I will get some stick from the Yank Grumblers) I do not advertise. So I am doing something right.

[ 01-15-2004, 05:59 PM: Message edited by: Merlin Framers ]
There are usually one or two good framers per town or district in this country.And then there are a lot of rubbishy ones.

I would imagine that the US is much the same as Great Britain in that respect.

The fact of the matter is that the general public wouldnt know a good frame if it landed in their soup.Thats why so many crap framers get away with it.

Just keep your standards as high as you can and lord it over them.Its a good feeling to take apart another persons shoddy work in front of a customer.

I particularly like the head shaking and tut tut tutting.Maybe a big sigh too.
Welcome to the Grumble.

I can’t believe that there is any real cultural differences among picture framers anywhere. Unlike some other professions like health care workers and lawyers, quality standards are largely self applied. Most of us take real pride in our work and wouldn’t let lousy framing out of our shop.

Some years ago I helped a customer whose father-in-law was a framer in the Philippines. Before I steered him to several U.S. distributors, the father-in-law was using a primitive mitre system and a hand held mat cutter. He turned out pretty good work considering the limitations of the materials that were available to him, because he took pride in what he did.

But, believe me, poor workmanship transcends international borders.
Originally posted by Bill Henry:
I can’t believe that there is any real cultural differences among picture framers anywhere...quality standards are largely self applied. Most of us take real pride in our work and wouldn’t let lousy framing out of our shop...
Bill, we agree about framers' intentions; we all take pride in producing what we believe to be good work.

And we agree that there aren't differences among framers based on nationality or location.

But I respectfully submit that there are huge differences in what individual framers believe to be good work, no matter where they are.

And the differences I see are often cultural, because they are related to the framers' basic concepts of purposes & procedures, and the lack of common industry standards. We agree that "...quality standards are largely self applied", and therein lie the differences.

For example, there's a mass-market framing culture, a preservation-is-important culture, a preservation-doesn't-matter culture, a hobbyist-framer culture, an artist-framer culture, an out-of-touch-veteran-framer culture, and others.
A friend and I went visiting frameshops on the other side of town last Sunday, just to look and see and size up. I wasn't looking to compare prices, I just wanted to see what was out there.

I could not believe the horrors I saw. Tired bedraggled wall displays. None of them needed to be even taken apart to see the inappropriate framing on the inside. Faded bevels, faded art, overcuts, gapping frame corners.........kind of like John said, using leftovers to frame up the samples. Some of these shops looked like nothing had been moved or changed in years. It felt like time had stood still. It was eye opening.

I saw some stunningly good shops too. Really up to date samples, lots of color and life, nary a faded bevel to be found........

There is plenty to criticize in my shop too, I don't want to throw stones but I do think it is all about perception. I agree that most customers don't have a clue what is good and bad when it comes to framing and that is why so many framers can stagnate and not keep up with the times. I don't think it is that hard to keep up on trends and techniques. All you have to do is thumb through PFM or Decor on a monthly basis. Or read the Grumble or HH.

So, it all comes down to ethics and how you want to personally be perceived. I'm willing to bet most of the lacklustre framers out there are ignorant as opposed to lazy though. I can't imagine anybody knowing the right way and still doing it the wrong way....or am I just naive?
An existing customer brought in a framed photograph yesterday. He had paid a
"great deal of money" for it and was told it was framed to the highest-possible standards by a shop in Chicago.

It had a nice L-J moulding, a rag mat (in an unfortunate color) and was hinged with artist tape on rag with standard f/c filler.

I wouldn't call that the highest-possible standards, but it certainly wasn't anything I'd be too alarmed about. (There wasn't any duct tape, Bob.)

To keep the glass from shattering during shipping, they covered it with about 20 pieces of filament packing tape. Since the frame was sealed and wired, I'm sure they expected that somebody was going to be able to remove that mess with the glass in place.

I told my customer it would be MUCH cheaper to have me replace the glass with conservation glazing than to pay me my shop rate for about a hour of time to try and clean the regular glass that was in there.

Here's the real kicker. The glass and mat were each 3/8" narrower than the custom frame, so an edge was exposed. Someone actually sealed it up, put on a shop sticker and shipped it out with the glass and mat falling out of the front of the frame.

Oh, sure, each of us has a little nit-picking framing snob in us. But how could anyone in any shop in any country of the world imagine that this would be acceptable?