Arrowheads in a Roma shadow box

Do you collect anything? Arrowheads are still a popular collectible, and this recent custom job at our Harvard Square location is proof. The customer did it as a gift to a geologist in Texas. All the arrowheads were ones the geologist had collected over the course of the last several decades. The framer designed the arrangement on a silk mat, using museum glass. Each arrowhead had to be sewn onto the mat by hand. They’re shadowboxed in one of our Roma frames – a line of hand finished frames from Italy. Great job, guys! arrowheads


Oh, hi there. We didn’t see you come in – we’ve been busy working out, getting ready for the 117th Boston Marathon. There’s been a lot of lawn chair folding and closing, some intense elbow bending, and we usually finish up with some rapid clapping combined with an alternating “WHOOP-WHOOP!” and “GOOOOOOO!”
But if you’re not like us and you actually run in a marathon, then you’ve got some runner’s memorabilia. It’s one of the more common, non 2D items that we custom frame. It’s nice to remember that level of accomplishment with something other than a jar of sweat and bleeding nipples. It’s fun for us too when we have something to frame that’s more of a challenge than a flat image. The design requires different considerations, like which method to use so that the glass doesn’t sit on the medal or other objects. And the actual construction and attachment takes more time to get it just right. There are a lot of different design options we can use to make any of those items look terrific!
So until you make it in with your bib number, shirt, and finish line photo, we’re gonna keep at our workout regiment. Time for another 50 reps of Chariots of Fire…

Cesar Del Valle’s drawings are in their own space… and yours

Hyperrealistic human forms? Check. Clever paper cuts that are more 3D than 2D? Check. But the colliding of the two, creating an illusion that your brain can’t ignore? Well, Cesar Del Valle’s got that one all sewn up. The Columbian artist’s black & white illustrations are photo realistic, adding to the jarring sense that the figures might actually be balancing on a pencil or in front of the wall, rather than on it. We like his self-restraint when it comes to how much the paper is manipulated. Just a string here or a tear there, but for the most part our brains complete the effect. All that empty space on the paper carries a lot of power – it’s characteristically, uh… paperish.

This art will stick with you

At first, we figured there wasn’t much more to Max Zorn’s tape art than what meets the eye. But the street artist has a few twists waiting for anyone who takes the time to check out his site. First of all, it’s not evident in these online pics, but he hangs his portraits on street lamps and other urban light sources. The tape has been applied to clear plastic layers, so the lamp illuminates what might otherwise look like the top of a discarded shipping box.

Max Zorn (surely not his real name – that was the villain’s name in the James Bond flick, A View to a Kill, played by Chris Walken!) includes a map on his site that will tell you where he’s “displayed” his art. And he even announces upcoming “shows”. Just the other day, he posted that Liverpool, Bristol, and London can expect to see the release of his take on The Beatles.
If there’s any doubt as to the talent that his tape art requires, there’s a time-lapse video below of Zorn at work. We wouldn’t have guessed the process requires so many steps, both additive and reductive. It’s darn impressive.

Julie Bender draws heat with animal drawings

Rodan sculpted in clay & bronze. Gauguin painted with oils. Cristo wrapped fabric. Julie Bender draws with heat. She practices the art of pyrography – the art of burning or scorching on wood. You may not have heard of it before, but pyrography has been around since the beginning of recorded history in Egypt and Africa. However, the art form has come a long way since then. Bender uses tools that are like a soldering iron but much more sophisticated. She can adjust the temperature and in turn control the shading, thickness, and other values of her line making. That, along with different tool tips and varying degrees of pressure allow her to create these remarkable and photo-realistic images. Her wood of choice is grade A northern maple veneer, sealed with protective finish. The natural motif she’s chosen is a fine match for her subject matter – the animal kingdom. Grouped into “Wildlife”, “Avian”, “Canine”, and “Equine”, her portfolio has something for every animal lover.

After we got over the impressive nature of Bender’s work, there were two qualities that stood out to us. It would seem that if an artist doesn’t have different colors, sizes of brushes, surfaces, etc. to work with then there would be a limit to how different each picture would look. But with the same type of wood and the same tool over & over, Bender is able to communicate very distinct surfaces and textures. The hair in a horse’s mane looks nothing like the hair of a snow monkey. The results she achieves appear limitless.

We also enjoyed the fact that some of the wood is left untouched on many of her pieces. This is probably a practical decision as well as an aesthetic one. It lets the grain of the maple become part of the image. The empty areas are an interesting contrast to her detailed mark making and remind us that these are not your typical illustrations.

Now is the time to custom frame

Halley’s Comet. A royal coronation. The Centennial Exposition. Some events don’t come around very often. Like this. The big one. Our half off sale. That’s right, 50% off all custom framing.
Oh, yeah – we can hear some of you out there. “Pffft, half off – that’s no big deal. Places do that all the time!” Not us. Remember, when stores give you a discounted price, the value is only as good as the number that’s being discounted. Our normal, everyday 30% discount is taken off of standard framing industry list prices. We don’t start with a built-in markup. We’re not a big box store that’s part of a nationwide chain with lots of overhead costs to cover. So we’re able to stand behind our guarantee that you can’t get any of our custom frames for less anywhere else.
ImageProxyThat means that when we do our world-renowned 50% off sale, you better believe it’s a true value. Great, you’re gonna save a bucket of money – now what?
Well, this would be a great time to bring in anything from Dad’s game winning golf putter to that menu you kept from the family’s trip to Disney World. Quilts, sports jerseys, diplomas, vinyl records, army medals – bring in whatever you’ve got and let us show you how custom framing can look amazing on anything that you want to display and protect.

Not your average Easter eggs

Ah, the smell of vinegar and boiled eggs first thing on Easter Sunday morning. The little colored tablets of food dye. That pesky wire dipper that was supposed to “hold” your egg while you drowned it in ultramarine blue. Pffft, that thing never worked – you always had to steady the egg with your other hand anyway. Thanks, Paas. Who else remembers a plastic tool some kits included? – it held a marker in place while you turned your egg and was supposed to make lines all the way ’round the surface. Invariably, the lines would end up jagged, appearing to indicate a crack in the shell. For those of us who are haunted by that annual failure, there’s the new and improved solution: the Egg-Bot. This contraption goes for $200, but you’ll never again be shamed by that know-it-all Susan Meriwether and her paisley egg designs at the neighborhood Easter egg hunt. If the Egg-Bot intimidates you, there are still plenty of old world solutions to expressing yourself with chicken embryos. These Ukrainian women are making Pysankas. Pysaty means “to write” and Ukrainian Easter eggs are decorated using a wax-resist method called batik. Batik is more commonly seen used in decorating fabrics. But many Easter European countries have long used it for writing on eggs with beeswax, rather than painting them. What’s the biggest pysanka ever made, you ask? Easy – it’s in Vegreville, Alberta. It’s three and a half stories high and was commissioned in 1975 as an acknowledgment to Canada’s Ukranian culture. If you’re looking for something a little smaller (and easier), you could always pass off some pop art designs with acrylic paint, rather than dyes or wax. Here’re some Roy Lichtenstein-inspired eggs – equally satisfactory to the comic book nerd in the family. We hadn’t seen this before, but evidently using silk neck ties to transfer the patterns onto eggs is an easy short cut to some fancy designs. If after all this, yer still not inspired to let your artist’s flag fly this week, well, there’s a little box you can buy that’ll practically do the work for you. And if they don’t come out gallery-worthy, you can always eat the results.

Cardboarders unite!

Cardboard workshopHow many of us give a discarded product a second life by repurposing it? Recycling an item by using it again in a way that was not intended is the whole idea behind Cardboarders, a website about “people with a fetish for cardboard.” Cardboarders seeks to promote “playfulness, inventiveness and other experimental and creative behavior.” On it, you’ll find music videos, cardboard-intensive crowd events, art installations, and a wide range of different events where the material is featured. If you think you’ve seen wearable cardboard before, trust us – nothing compares to some of these wardrobe examples. There’s even a town built out of cardboard, called Cardboardia! Here’s a sampler of what you’ll find, including a music video from their library of films that use cardboard.

CardboardiaOxfam Where the Wild Things Are festivalwearabletown

Wire these drawings so amazing?

CW Roelle wire drawing 6Take a look at these drawings by Providence, RI based artist CW Roelle. We were intrigued just as much by the unique choice of medium and the effort involved as we were by Roelle’s unusual choice of subject matter. “What, drawings made out of wire? Oh, okay. What, drawings made out of wire of a guy moving his lawn? Whaa-?!”
You can see more of his intricate work in our very own neck of the woods at 13FOREST Gallery in Arlington, MA – many of the pieces are for sale.

CW Roelle wire drawing 4

CW Roelle wire drawing 2

CW Roelle wire drawing 5

CW Roelle wire drawing 3

CW Roelle wire drawing 1

CW Roelle wire drawing 1 detail

To custom frame or not to custom frame?

Quick! You need a frame for that sports photo so you can give it as a gift when you get to the birthday party – what do you do?! Grab a ready made frame off the shelf at Target on your way, right? Wrong-o-mondo! It certainly seems like the way to go because they’re cheap and accessible, but that knee-jerk reaction is only going to bring heart ache and headache, either in the future or as soon as you try to put your image in the frame. We’re going to give you the ins and outs of custom vs ready made frames so there won’t be any guess-work when you’re getting ready to display that special picture.
The 4 ways that store-bought frames fall short of custom frames are appearance, size, construction, and versatility. These 4 qualities may sound highfalutin for your typical snapshot. We often hear the phrase, “It’s not like it’s a piece of art.” Well, maybe it’s not going in a museum, but you made it important when you decided to display it in your living space or give it to someone to hang in theirs. So rather than waste $20, spend a little more to do it right. Here’s why…


Ready made frames are going to look like just that. They don’t look unique and that laminate finish just gave it away like free perfume samples at Macy’s. You’ve got a better selection when you go with a custom frame and therefore a better chance of finding something that looks great with the image you’re displaying. A custom choice also means you’ll get the right…


When we say “size”, what we really means is “shape.” Sure you can find a frame big enough for whatever you’re framing, but is it the right shape? Frames on the shelf come in predetermined shapes. You may get lucky and find your image is already a standard shape. But be careful – if you use a frame that’s the same size as your photo or art, that means there’s no room for a mat. Our customers have already learned that a mat is important for more than just looks. The mat is what keeps the glass from touching your art. Glass can stick to or otherwise damage what you’re framing and it starts to look bad. A custom frame allows for a uniform amount of mat space all the way around your art. Ready made frames that come with a mat are disproportionate – there isn’t the same width of mat on the sides as there is on the top. That’s weird – no one would ever do that by design. Next time you see one, check it out.


This is a big one, because it’s probably the quality that’s going to fail the fastest and in the biggest way. Ready made frames simply aren’t made as well as a custom frame. We can’t tell you how many times customers have brought us broken glass because the ready made frame fell off the wall. Or it fell for a different reason and the frame itself didn’t survive. This can be because of the way they’re hung on the wall. Store-bought frames rarely take a wire on the back. Instead they use one of the metal clasps shown below.A true wire that can be attached to a custom frame is going to not only make it more secure, but much easier to hang.Whether it’s wood or metal, custom frames are joined differently at the corners. Take a look at the back of this custom frame’s corner. It’s made of real wood and there’s enough of it so that several nails can be used to hold it together.Custom frames are more sturdy. The nice thing about that is that you can put lots of different kinds of art in them – they have more…


If you ever have to frame something that’s not just paper or a photograph – something thicker or heavier or not made of paper – you’re not going to have much luck with a store-bought frame. Typically, they’re too shallow. Look at the channel of the metal frame on the left vs the open back of the custom wood frame on the right. That metal channel has to hold the glass, your art, and the backing at least – your art, a mat, and any additional support might take up even more space. Even if you pick a ready made off the shelf that’s wood, it’ll likely have a closed back with clasps or springs that limit how much material you can fit inside the frame. Often times, when photographs are printed, they’re mounted on a board. However thin that board may seem to you, fitting it in one of these frames is gonna be all but impossible.

There ya go. A crash course in why most ready made frames are probably the last thing you want to put your art in. If you keep this in mind, you’ll be impressed every day you look at it hanging on your wall.