Picture Framer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotA picture framer uses his hands and imagination to provide the best setting and protection for his client's artwork.

"I enjoy the creativity it affords me," says framer Paul Thomas. "Object framing especially presents unique challenges."

dotIt's important to remember, though, that the customer, not the framer, defines art. Framers may find themselves designing and building a frame for anything from an old magazine to a hockey stick. However, that is one of the things that give framers a creative challenge.

"On the day the client returns to pick up the work, I am always pleased at their reaction," says framer John Van Doren. "Normally, it is even better than they imagined. That makes me the winner and that's because I love my work."

dotA picture framer must first discuss each job with the client to decide what will be best for the object or objects being framed.

Then the framer carefully measures the object and calculates the material needed to complete the project. The price is determined from the cost of materials and the time it will take the framer to complete the job.

dotThe framer attaches the item to the mounting board, cuts the mat to accent the display, and cuts and assembles the frame. Then they cut the glass to cover the front and fix it to the frame. The job is finished by applying the dust cover and hanging hardware.

"I cut frames in my garage," says Thomas. "Customer consultations, mat and glass cutting and assembly are all done in part of my basement. Our entire house is a showroom."

dotDuring busy times, a framer can work long days. "You need the ability to be on your feet 10 to 12 hours a day and smile the entire time," Van Doren says.

Yet it is worth it for many. "A typical workday is full of fun and challenges," Van Doren says. "The most fun is the unique items clients bring to me for framing or displaying."

dotThomas says the biggest requirement for a picture framer is patience.

"It's not hard physically, because most of the work is machine-aided," he says. "Picture framing is an equal opportunity job."

It is also a job Thomas recommends to others. "Initial costs do not have to be astronomical. The sense of satisfaction to be derived is huge. You also get to see some very interesting works of art."

"It's a great business, but it's quite a roller-coaster ride," says framer Joseph Volk of Massachusetts. He owns his own business. "Like any retail business, we struggle with the seasons. For us, summer is the pits for cash flow. Somehow we always make it through."

dotVan Doren says the best things about his job are being in charge of his life and doing what he loves best. "It's terrific," he says.

"It's just something you do because you like it," Volk says.

"Having a home-based business has been a dream for a long time," says Nancy Burdick of Columbia, Missouri. "No day is typical. The work is exciting and challenging and I love it."

dotThe nature of this job would make it challenging for those who are visually impaired.

At a Glance

Design the best setting for artwork

  • This job can involve long days
  • You can design and build a frame for anything from an old magazine to a hockey stick
  • Most framers are self-taught, but there are courses you can take