Friday, 18 June 2010

To frame or not to frame...

I've just collected this piece from the local gallery who have been trying to sell it for about 9 months. It's been an interesting experience raising all sorts of questions about the cost of framing a textile piece, in fact framing ANY piece of art, and gallery commission.

I made the felt as a sample for a larger wallhanging with more leaves in it, that I sent in for an Open Exhibition last summer:

(not a great photo but it gives some idea). The gallery co-owner bought the larger one for herself and then she is going to frame it, well her partner at the gallery is, so it will just cost her the materials. Now I can't exactly remember how large it came out, I think it would have been about 50-60cm square-ish, but to have a piece that large framed for ordinary people would surely cost a lot of money.

Anyway, the gallery ladies said they would like to frame the smaller piece and see if they could sell it. I personally like the idea of textile wall art just being hung as it is, like you would hang a quilt, so that you can see all the textures really properly, but everyone has their own opinions, and of course it's easier to dust if it's behind glass.
I think they have framed it really well, the frame compliments the piece and doesn't detract from it at all, I was really pleased, and I think it probably changed my mind about framing felt! The framed piece is about 40cm square - the cost came out at £45. So to re-coup the cost of framing, plus the gallery commission of 35% which is at the low end of what commission can be, they ended up putting the picture up for sale at £95, fully expecting it to sell. Now I'm not saying that galleries are unfair in taking commission, of course they have to, and you are paying for their running costs and customers and display and reputation, it's only right.
Now I was in the shop while my picture was displayed in the window (a very proud moment for me, probably never to be repeated!) and I could hear customers saying how expensive it was, which it is for a small picture, I quite agree!

So framed it's really expensive for someone to buy, and yet if it had sold for £95, I would have got slightly less than £17 for my several hours of designing and making, once the commission and framing cost had been taken off.

Isn't it all complicated?
Anyway, I decided I'd take it back and possibly try and sell it direct at a craft fair, which would mean that I wouldn't have to build the commission into the price.

But now we've put it up in the kitchen we like it so much where it is that we're just going to keep it!

So there we are, the dilemma of framing and costing and galleries.

Now to end on a different note, in the spirit of complete honesty about what my house really looks like, I'm showing you my magic curtain, which I made on Monday evening.

Here is my horrid utility room:

It's a bit like Monica's secret cupboard in Friends if you've ever seen that episode, it's really terrible. Note the sacks of wool and mess and broken cupboard doors (also you might be able to see that our kitchen bin is held together with duck tape). And that's only one half of the room, the other half is worse and has a computer and years of paperwork stuffed sideways into shelves (the papers that is, the computer is upright).

So here is my magic curtain:

Mess....what mess? All gone away. Surely now it no longer exists at all?

Archie helped.

What is it about cats and ironing boards?


  1. I can quite see the dilemma of the final price for your hard work, when you see so lttle return. Even without the costs of framing and galleries I think all crafts people face this same problem. You want to sell of course and you want to keep things realistic, but it is rare that you receive what should be a reasonable amount for the materials and effort you put in. Of course thats why you really have to be mad about your craft to do it commercially at all!
    I love the honest photo of your utility room...perhaps we should have a warts and all Wednesday when we all reveal the horrors (rooms) we usually keep hidden. Mine is our spare back room which is in fear of decending into the kitchen below if we throw anything else in it!. The magic curtain works a treat.

  2. Ha! I REALLY need a magic curtain!! I do love the framing of your piece.

  3. Out of 95 pounds (no "pound" key on this keyboard!) you would see only 17? That's not much.

    I don't know about the framing dilemma. I think I would opt for it more on a smaller piece, not so much because of cost but just to "anchor" it, if that makes sense. (Remember I'm not a craftsperson.)

    But I could see leaving a larger piece as is, no need of a visual "anchor."

    I love your magic curtain, by the way. Great idea! And I'm quite certain Archie was a "great" help.

  4. I think we should all have magic curtains and I'd certainly love Archie to come to help me make one :-)
    I love your framed pic but know exactly where you are coming from about the costs. I have sold several of mine that I have mounted on artists canvasses and that has helped with keeping the costs down.
    A x

  5. Oh your little framed felt is adorable! I'm glad you are keeping it. It does look lovely - but I do understand how the price has put off potential buyers - I hope you do get to do another piece and sell it directly yourself at a price where you would get a better profit than the measly £17 for a £95 sale!!! GOOD LUCK!!!

    Oh I love your magic curtain. Every home should have one. It'll solve so many problems and even bring world peace!!! I'm sure of it!!

    Archie is looking as adorable as ever!! He is really getting to be a big manly mancat!! And he loves his ironing. :-)

    Take care

  6. I really empathise with you on this one! Think we probably all do tbh. Id personally be very unlikely to pay for framing... costs too much for me and like you I like to see & `feel` the textures & colours, I think you can lose that behind glass. That said, yours really do look lovely! I too would keep it and enjoy it myself rather than sell for a £17 profit.

    I have to mount my sunset soon... And Im planning some seascapes. Think I`ll mount them on linen stretched over a board - I like mounting them in the way I would stumpwork embroidery; but its timeconsuming.

    Mounting them on artists canvas is a really good idea too... Id been thinking of that, but havent tried it yet. Probably the option Id go with for pieces to sell.

    Our cats used to love the ironing board :o)

  7. It is lovely to hear the other end of the story when it comes to art e.g. what the artist actually gets. My uncle is an artist and doesn't really sell his art anymore as he became a bit disillusioned with it all I think - shame as he is fab. Great magic curtain!

  8. I am glad you decided to keep the little piece. I didn't see a thing :-D

  9. I'm not artistic at all...two left thumbs...but I think that you should realize more than 18% of the price of the item! I say leave it up at your house, where it makes you happy.

    I have a closet wherein resides all the things I have no other place for. Thank goodness for the magic bi-fold door curtain, LOL!

    Archie, you are one fine Cat. Be sure to plant your kitty bum on the fresh's a Rule, you know!

  10. I completely understand where you're coming from. Non crafty people who like art of all forms, often don't understand the time it takes to create one-off pieces of art. Sometimes not framing something doesn't bring it to the customers attention and make it stand out, but you when you do frame it and it screams "look at me, look how wonderful I am" people are instantly drawn to it, but don't want to pay the money.
    I think all artists must feel the same way as you(and me), sometimes you feel its a thankless job, but you have to remember the joy it gave you in making it, and like homing puppies or kittens, you have to be happy with the home its going to ... if that's your own, then so be it. Better to hang in your own home and make you smile, than go somewhere its not appreciated.
    Don't you just love it when people say "oh thats lovely, can you make me one" ... like its something you whip up in 5 minutes ... I've learnt to smile, and just not make any comment at all.
    I think your work looks fabulous in the frame, and the second piece looks fabulous unframed ... either way, they are wonderful pieces of art. Sometimes you feel you're not getting anywhere but don't sell yourself short ...your creativity, individuality and time are worth something .. and its a damn sight more than 18%.
    Don't give up ... there are people out there who will understand your works true value.
    And I love the magic curtain ... could do with one for my office. Big cuddles to Archie.

  11. Is duck tape a waterproof version of duct tape? Ha ha! I vote for frameless textile art- let's see it in all its glory.

  12. Archie is soooo cute and he's really grown up!How nice :)
    send him many cuddles :)
    Happy to hear again from you, it's been a while!

  13. It can be such a dilemma. I have framed some pieces but i think I am now inclined to find bits of gorse and strip it back to give a frame fror hanging. It can add to the simple beauty of felt. Your work is looking very lovely though. It is difficult to know what to charge too.

  14. I`m so sorry to find out that your exquisite piece of art didn`t sell!
    Wishing you better luck on the craft fair!


  15. Hi, I found your post after googling 'how to frame felt art' I am a feltmaker and teach Wet felting and needle felting from my studio where I work from ( past 3 months). But I have not got into framing my many many pictures, It scares me to be honest. The cost of framing against what people will pay is sole destroying, hence me teaching instead of trying to get into galleries...although I have been told that I really should exhibit my work in galleries and I receive so many positive comments, but! we all have to pay the bills and I agree with others that £17 is like a kick in the teeth for your beautiful piece! (Ha my words not theirs). I say it depends on how much you want the money against making someone happy and appreciative of your work! Or offer the person a private lesson to make their very own piece and charge. You win then, don't give a frame or pay the gallery fee! Best of luck. Barbara Meek :-)

    1. Hi Barbara, how very nice to hear from you. And actually quite strange timing. As you may or may not have noticed I haven't posted on my blog for a very long time, it's been a hard and dark phase of life for the last few years and I packed all my felt away and haven't made anything, until yesterday! With a small new craft shop opening up in our town recently I thought I might try to start again, so it was really surprising to see your comment come through this morning.
      One of the things I think I need to learn to let go of is the trying to judge the value of anything I create by the monetary value I might be able to realise, it really hit me yesterday that I need to focus first on sharing objects that, as you say, make someone happy. Hard to do sometimes when costing time into a piece gets nowhere even near a minimum wage, but I think a much better and more generous approach to creating. I think teaching is the answer as part of a creative practice, I have a friend who finally took the plunge in having her own studio and running workshops and she is flourishing.
      With regard to any wall art I might make, the one idea I have left to try is to stretch a felted piece over an artist's canvas, that's next on my list to try when I've started to create more pieces again! I do hope you find a way to get some more of your work into galleries, it sounds like there would be demand for it!
      Best wishes.


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