There has to be more to it. (long post)

Al E

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Jan 21, 2001
There have been many posts on TG describing, in excruciating detail, the extent to which some customers will go to "save money" on a framing job. We usually write them off as being "cheap". I would like to propose that there is another factor operating which, besides frugality, contributes to this phenomenon. Here are two recent examples which will serve to demonstrate my point.

I know a local crafter making silhouettes. They are well done and quite popular. Recently she described to me how she does her own framing which includes cutting mats with a hand held cutter on her dining room floor, cleaning glass from the hardware store etc. She spends more time on the framing (which, as you already guessed, looks horrible) than her craft.

I also know an artist who has had several museum shows, owns her own gallery in Dumbo (a trendy Bklyn enclave) and routinely sells pieces for five figures. She is planning an exhibition of her work and is going to pin the majority of the work to the wall and is asking me to cut mats she will buy elsewhere, hardware store glass and swiss clips she already has.

Now it is quite easy for me to write them off as "cheap" but they aren't. I am not aware of any other aspect of their work or personal lives in which they come close to demonstrating such frugality. They are both savvy business people who realize the hours they are wasting could be used making or selling their products. They know the work would look better and have told me so. Their experience is that the work will sell no matter how it is framed but I am not considering that as a factor. Its that the time they spend framing (and they hate it with a passion) is couterproductive, and they know they are losing money doing it themselves.

And this is the point I would like to raise: there must be more operating here than just saving money. They wouldn't do the same for any other area of their business or personal lives for that matter. Why is it that people have this compulsion, beyond saving money, to avoid paying for framing? Why would someone act against their best interests (financial included) to avoid custom framing? Is it something we said?
I don't think it is anything about custom framing. It is a behavioral quirk that many (if not all of us) may have, where we fell the need to save money, or to at least perceive that we are saving money, on certain things in our lives, even though it may not be rational. It seems like it is custom framing only because you are selling custom framing.
For instance, when I go to the supermarket, I almost never buy meet that isn't on sale. Oddly enough, I do not feel the same way about buying fish. And I know in my head that food prices are so fluid that being "on special" is almost meaningless. My partner likes bananas, but won't buy them when they go over .59 per pound, even though even at a banana a day, the cost is trifling. I pointed out that we could resolve the whole issue by eating out just one less time a month, and then walk up and down the aisles throwing food in the wagon without even looking at the prices and come out ahead. But we don't. So we keep on with our habits, in spite of ourselves. And that, I suspect, is where your artist friends are.
Besides the frugality angle which may indeed be partially present, there might be an element of wanting to retain total control of the finished product. At least that's what crossed my mind reading the OP.
I think its called a "complete and total disrespect for what we do."

I'll bet in both cases they have had something framed. The high end artist does confuse me a bit. However the silhouette artist can't spend $94.99 on framing art that she sells unframed for $30. I'm sure everybody here CAN frame for her inside her budget but I'm sure many wouldn't even try. The rest of us would still end up charging her way more than what she's currently spending. So for her I would think she is saving money.

One other possibility is that like needlepoint ladies they are just do-it-yourselfers by nature. They too have such a high respect for thier own labor, they don't respect yours.

Just a guess.

Carry on.
I have a customer that used to buy ready-mades, only when on sale, at the BB, bought his "acid-free" white mats on the internet, put them together on the living room floor, spent a ton of time doing it, and didn't understand why they didn't sell well.

It took a lot of talking. I framed a small one at my cost, and asked him to hang them side by side, his finger-printy, "acid-free", dog-hairy, scratched-up one, and my custom-framed, color-mat-to-suit-the-photo, clean one.

Difference? No fingerprints under the glass, no black dog hairs on top of the stark white mats, mats that were archival (he advertised "all archival materials" and thought "acid-free" was archival, then he saw the difference in the bevel color and backing, which were, in fact, not archival.We discussed false advertising.) No dings and scratches on the frames, or gaps in the miters, and dust cover and wires that didn't loosen and fall off the wall, and the colored mat and proper frame that made his photo "pop" (his words). Only then did he see the differnce, in-his-face difference!

And they sold! He was able to raise his prices and that recovered the cost of custom framing. He made a profit, but couldn't make anything when they didn't sell at all.

He realized, as has been stated, that the exhaustive and frustrating time he spent framing on the living room floor could be spent tracking down the next excellant shot, and did! He still had "total control" of framing, as we chose the frame and mats together. I just did the work.

I wish they could all be convinced. Just go to the local art gallery and see the bugs on the mats that look like they were cut with a steak knife, ratty garage-sale frames, etc. And notice the ones that sell are usually custom framed.

I'm planning a workshop at the gallery soon, part of a "marketing your artwork" series, to show them the difference. I might also hang a do-it-yourselfer next to a custom one, same print, in the shop. What do you think?

If I can convert one person, I'll be tickled. We'll see!
I would offer that it may also be a "complete and total lack of understanding of what we do" for some folks. All of you have touched on various points that probably would make a certain type of shopper hesitate to pay for our services.

I have a neighbor down here that owns a Hummer. He is so proud of that Hummer. He washes it at a local full service car wash with real people singing and dancing and playing music out in the finish area. Yeah just like the movie and the song, .........that's their draw!! He waxes that vehicle almost weekly. Yet he will drive that Hummer, which is lucky to get 8 mpg all the way over to Fort Walton Beach to gas up because they usually are 3 or 4 cents per gallon cheaper than gas stations in this immediate area! That's nearly a 40 mile round trip!

I told him that he is spending more for gas to save 4 pennies per gallon than what he is actually saving but he insists on going over there every time he has to fill up.

I guess it's the nature of the beast we call "man".

We have done a poor job of convincing the majority of the buying public that framing is a good investment.

In fact, by referring to it as an investment, we are holding it beyond the reach of most people, who don't invest at all. Those that do are smart enough to realize that framing is not really an investment.

Then we call them cheap behind their backs and can barely disguise our disdain to their faces. And it's their fault for not recognizing us as the geniuses that we know we are.

We are snobs and we can't even admit it to ourselves.

If realtors and car dealers worked the way we do, everyone would be living in studio apartments and driving used Yugos. (Can you buy a new Yugo?)

[ 04-29-2006, 10:24 AM: Message edited by: Ron Eggers ]
"...They wouldn't do the same for any other area of their business or personal lives for that matter. ..."

But they do, they do! Twice on "This Old House" the homeowners (one with a house on Nantucket, the other with a waterfront mansion with a private concert hall) announced they would "save money by doing some of the interior painting themselves". Now, I don't have access to their finances, but I would suspect that to afford a 2 million+ project, the homeowner makes a lot more an hour than any house painter.

I am sure landscapers will say that people just think it is dropping some shrubs in the ground and don't want to pay, caterers will say that people don't respect what it takes to feed 200 people at once, and don't want to pay, etc.
I don't think it's "all" money. In fact, my renovation project (I've done cielings, walls, woodwork, and floors) in my new condo is an example. I've done everything ... put up woodwork, new flooring, gutted a bathroom and redid it. Moved light fixtures, repaired cielings. You get the idea. In my previous house I paid when those things needed doing. I just want to do it myself. Can't explain it. I just want to do it myself.

Val, I gave a talk to one of the surrounding town's Art Society. I called it "Framing for Sales." Went very well. Have already gotten a few of sales from it. I actually told them "almost" how to do it themselves. But, kept saying "of course there's a little more to it than that, but I don't have time to give you a whole course now." I talked for about 1 1/2 hours and scared 'em all into thinking they were destrying there stuff. fun.
Cliff's observation about the "DIY" mystique is valid, but it quickly passes for most folks. I doubt Cliff would continue to do that kind of work for fun or profit.

In most cases I think it boils down to one's perception of value. Some folks just do not believe framing is important enough to pay for it. Loose miters, mat overcuts/undercuts, masking tape mounts are no big deal for some. We may never conquer their dollars.

A few consumers are the opposite, in that they are very particular about getting every detail right, and they are willing to pay more for better. We love them to pieces.

Most consumers are somewhere in the middle, and those are my targets. I welcome opportunities to explain to them the good, the bad, and the ugly of framing. When they listen, we win.

What a great idea! I wish I was more of a public speaker. I think that is a great idea.

Will you have sign ups and will you charge for the workshop?

How many do you anticipate will attend?

I would love to do that.

Most of us feel guilty about paying for something that we can physically do ourselves. It doesn't matter if we can't do it as well, nor as fast - if we are "able" to do it, we think we should be doing it.

My husband is an excellent mechanic - can do nearly anything to and for a vehicle including bodywork and painting - but in the past few years he has come to realize the time vs cost factor. He just doesn't have time to do these things anymore.

But - that doesn't keep him from feeling guilty about paying for something that he can do himself.

Framing is something that most folks "can" do - I didn't say "do well" just "do." And especially artists - they know if they had all the correct tools, education and experience they could do it as well as we can (and they could) but since they don't have the equipment, they just "make do" because, why pay for something you can do yourself?
Val, what a great post. That is overcoming objection and getting people to see the inherent value of getting it done right. And yes, as Jim said, it is VALUE (or perception of it) that is at issue, not really price.
:cool: Rick
Val & Cliff,
Your speaking engagements is a fabulous idea! Like Ron said:

"We have done a poor job of convincing the majority of the buying public that framing is a good investment."

And lets face it, educating "J.Q. Public" about the purpose of proper framing is really up to us! We've talked frequently about how little advertising/teaching is done regarding framing from those that could possibly afford such an effort.

So, besides what we do on a day to day basis at the design counter, how great to 'push the envelope', get outside our studios and interface with groups.

I'm definitely making that a goal of mine! Thanks for the idea.
I thnk a bigger challenge might be the percepion of "how hard can it be"?

Some folks buy 5 qts of oil and change it themselves

I'm with Betty

When you have enough "resources" to pay someone else, that rationality is easily attained.

If your resources are less abundant, the other rationality comes front and center

With regards to how this fits our livelihood, the simple answer is to either attract enough "abundant resources" clientele or learn to market to the "less abundant" segment

For us, we prefer a fuller wagon approach an dextend out to both (and more) groups. It is unwise to blame anyone for this quite natural paradigm
Originally posted by Bob Carter:

When you have enough "resources" to pay someone else, that rationality is easily attained.
That, essentially is the answer to the puzzle.

Why do people go to restaurants?? Everybody can after all make a burger or fry an egg.

Why hire a painter? Or have the huge grill assembled and delivered? Or have the garage door opener installed?? The hassle and the money to avoid the hassle.

Why do it yourself if you can relax and have someone else do it for you professionally?

Of course, there will always be a masochist with money who will always assemble a grill / garage door opener for fun.
I've watched my husband work and sweat and huff and puff in the heat, rototilling our garden before planting. Not a huge area, but enough to call it "a good workout". Said he enjoys it. A couple of years ago I saw a "Rototilling - Cheap" sign on a telephone pole, contacted the guy and he did it in less than an hour, while my husband was at work. He came home, with plans of tilling the garden, and SURPRISE! Cost me $25, and my husband nearly cried from relief of not having to do it, again, for the fun of it. Guilt-free, I might add!
Ron, I agree that we, as a whole, have done a poor job convincing the public that framing is a good investment. When I point out to a customer that the really expensive framing project is like selecting a piece of furniture, it ususally helps them make up thier mind. Oh yeah(light bulb going on), I'm going to have this on my wall and enjoy it for years to come.

Like Jim Miller pointed out, there are is a perception of value and sometimes we are the ones who need to point that out to the customer. The artist who is trying to sell their wares doesn't necessarily think along those lines. Unfortunately for us as professional picture framers their customers believe those substandard frame applications are acceptable.

For our shop, I can't even begin to remember all of the pieces we've reframed for our regular customers who have purchased framed art from local shows because we have educated them. A lot of what we do at the front counter is educated our customers. It definately pays to take the time to explain what you are doing to the art and why.

I used to have a friend, who is longer on this earth, who used to say to me "I'm an electrician, you're the framer. I'm no more qualified to frame this than you are to rewire your shop".

On the other side of the spectrum, I had a lady come in this morning and spend $572. on a $28. poster. Just goes to prove our customers are as diverse as the options available.

Some people just like doing as much as they can for themselves. I know that folks up here in Alaska are like that. Very independant. They live off the challenge of it. You should hear some of their stories about how they homesteaded their own place.
Money is not the issue for those wanting to do it themselves. Its the satisfaction of knowing that you did it. There is a place in Anchorage that captitalizes on that very concept. You frame it yourself. They have a counter all set up with all that may be needed. They work off the understanding that their are some people out their who will do it themselves
( and even pay for it ) and after all how hard can it really be? Especially if you got somewhere there to walk you thru it. Hold your hand from start to end. You will nevere convince them that their piece won't look as good, or that they can't do it. I think they cut the pieces for you reasons )
I for one hate being told that " I can't"!

I just think the "DIY" people work off a different concept than most.Not something that can be explained easily. Something you have to experience for yourself first hand.
One of my daughter's college housemates is an art major. She is hoping to intern with Gary this summer to learn photoraphy. I'm hoping to sit her down and teach her proper framing. I've already framed one of her pieces that she did for my daughter as a gift and she loved the way it looked. You never know, she may go back and teach others at the college. She may even correct a few professors who are teaching it wrong. She isn't shy about speaking up.
I think the idea of "educating" the public is not such a good idea-at least, not a productive one

When we assume that the consumer is interested in the "investment" angle, we might easily splinter the market into a microscopic segment.

Think of the things you have framed in your lifetime. How many do you still have? Garage sales are filled with these "treasures". I don't think there was much longevity considered in the vast majority of these items

Make a list of the last 50 pieces your shop has framed. Hw many really needed "long term" considerations?

Now, if the answer is most, then may I suggest you develop a new, niche market?

Framing those things that really are "throw away, disposable, inconsequential" goodies. Lastyear 26 million posters were sold

Sure, we all get that "once in a blue moon" lady like Lisa's client. But, for each of those that brings in a $28 poster, we more often see an under $100 option

Don't know if that very large segment will buy into any education program designed to elevate her purchase

It is easier to adapt to the market rather than attempting to make the market adapt to you

I think there's room for both!

The large market that you are referring to isn't goiong to be "educated." Trying is clearly a non-productive excersice.

HOWEVER, the "original art buying," "hysterical (sic) Society members," and some artists, are educable! And, based on my three talks so far, it's a better ROI than any advertising I've done!

There is a segment of the marketplace that IS "tippable."

I hope I can "educate" and convert those I can, adapt to those I can't, and have the wisdom to know the difference!
I generally try to avoid using the word "investment". An investment is expected to return interest- to grow in value. Even though some original art may increase in value, the framing will not. What it will do, however, is enhance the value that the art has for the customer, by enabling it to be seen and appreciated. So when one seeks custom framing, one expects value for the expenditure (at whatever niche or level), but not a return on an investment.
:cool: Rick

When I get a price quote on some product or service, if the amount is referred to as an "investment", I usually figure I'm paying too much. It's like a car commercial: if the interior is referred to as a "cabin", you know the cost is going to approach that of a small plane. :rolleyes:
Lets face it some people are just nutty. The artists in the original post as prime example. Throwing away several hours of your day "educating" that segment of the market is no different that the same artist doing their own framing. Cliff has it right, it's having the wisdom to know the difference where we can actually make some money.
I read most of this thread ( most but not all) .So if i repeat anyone's suggestion please excuse me. I am with those who feel that we aren't educateing the public enough.I feel this way becayse i used to feel just as they do until i went to classes and it got worse/better the more advanced my education in framing got.

I feel this way with a slight twist. We are selling simpler and simpler designs, we are doing work that is done quickly and cheaply and then we get upset when we hear the Cliche ,"how hard can iT be to put four sticks together" or something like it.

If we keep doing those quicky designs that some of the more profit oriented business do ,if we do what ever a customer wants while failing to explain what would help their work better but can't be seen from the front of the frame,If we brag on designs that could be accomplished by purchasing a precut mat and RM frame ,what else are they to think.

Add to this some of the ARTIST types that just know that the ONLY correct way to frame ANYTHING properly is with a wide white mat in slim simple black frame ,and they teach this to all their art students,then when we do half heartedly suggest some improveing methods or materials everyone just "KNOWS WE ARE JUST PADDING THE PRICE".

More involved framing designs can be seen and when my customers saw me carveing they were impressed .( even if they didn't want to pay)
But C/P methods and techniques often can't be. But the average consummer thinks what they do and what we do are exactly the same ,so why should they pay a penny more.( How many of us agreed that we couldn't tell C/P glass from float on the self? I remeber a thrad like that wonder what a consummer would have thought reading that?)

So unless you want to stay in the business of "wham -bam thank you mame" framing with simple mats and common materials and treatments ,you'd better(IMHO) get used to low prices and customers asummening they can do everthing you do for less.( and some of them will be right)

Or then you could take pride in what you do brag on it while educateing the public even when you don't do it that way and explain why what we do is soooo much better than what they can do or even what some discount outlets can.( and even they are trying to upgrade their work and image,while we are trying to copy their former image. isn't there something wrong with this picture?) .
I have an obsession to see what I can't do. I have to say I surprise myself with things I can do. I am not smart or completely handy. I just find ways to use framing skills and other things I have picked up thru my life. And if I think things thru I can usually come up with a creative way to do things. Although I do do (yes I said dodo) many drawings and lay awake at night pondering. When it is done I am happy. It is a great pleasure to surprise onesself by accoplishing things we thought we could not. Heck that is why we have so many great things, people have challenged themselves.

Now even on that happy note, people need not try framing...I have heard "Oh I do my own framing with a miter box) a few too many times. That was good 90 years ago, but now?

I just got a call from John Q. Photographer, the one I mentioned in my earlier post. He has 40 framed pieces in 16x20 ready-made frames, showing at a MAJOR hotel nearby. Everyone thought they were great.

Until one of is competitors saw them and told someone they "looked like crap", because the photos are warped and the frames are scratched. He framed them himself. Masking tape mounted, dust on the mats, fingerprints, etc. They are screwed onto the wall (after I told him about security hangers, but he didn't want to spend the money!)because people kept stealing them!

The hotel has asked him to have them reframed or fixed or remove them. He is so embarrassed, and angry with himself because he "didn't listen to his framer", (he was saving money by doing them himself) and that it took his competitor to point it out.

I resisted the temptation to say "I told you so" and just asked him "when do you need them done?"
We can clean them up, dry mount them, retouch the frames, etc. and they'll still be great photos, and his competitor will have nothing to whine about.

Another lesson learned the hard way.
Cliff-So right you are

I think too many framers don't understand that distinction

Our marketplace actually has three separate segments that are defined and measureable. We do have a portion of our biz that absoultely will get whatever they thinks looks best-price is not that important

WE have a segment that wants "better" framing-it's always a struggle-a balancing act- between what they really want and what thy really want to pay

And, we have the Opening Price Point crowd where the strongest motivation is price

Understand, in no segment, does any sinle factor become the solitary consideration. Unlike many framers (or so they claim) even our highest end clientele have price considerations and even our opening price point crowd won't accept lousy framing or material

But, by addressing each segment with products, marketing and selling techniques best suited for each, we improve our chances of meeting a larger percentage of those clients that stumble into our store

And, that educational process is better served in our own education to better understand our clientele.
I agree with everyone, and agree that it really stinks!
I also think that, (and maybe someone mentioned this), in mostly ALL areas of art or creative businesses, people have a hard time. Maybe it's the "flakey artist" syndrome, and people equate that syndrome to other peripheral areas of art. (Like people think artists are lazy and just don't want to work, or they're not professional, or whatever... I am an artist and I totally disagree, but I'm talking about what "the masses" think ...)
Whatever it is, I find it in other areas of my world as well...
For instance, I am a professional photographer also, (on the side), on top of the framing. I have a degree and do mostly fine art, (but also weddings, artistic portraiture), and I find that it takes a certain kind of client to pay someone for something like that. They usually need a basis for comparison; They need to have had some sort of BAD experience with the "do it yourself" thing. (Had a friend take photos of their baby when it was born, and the photos are terrible.. etc. Framed a picture themselves, and it wound up in the garage sale a year later..). Those people will pay for a pro, and come up with a realistic budget, and smile about it.

For most people on a budget, the idea of buying a "luxery" item is a hard one. Not that I think custom framing is unnecessary at all, on the contrary, I think it is the best least expensive way to make a room way more comfy.. but I think for most people, it's an extra, and not a priority..
It sucks..
I hate it.
I do find that people who get referred through friends to my shop are less defensive and more open-minded, in general. Maybe there's something to that too..

(Is this why they call it "the grumble"?)