February 23rd, 2013

Is DIY Framing Worth The Deep Discount?

On January 17th in the Chicago publication Time Out, one of our clients, Marissa Conrad, wrote an article about comparing The Great Frame Up to our humble establishment, Flax Art & Frame. While the intention was to show the pro's and con's of shopping in both places, she chose to take sides and conclude that the GFU was better because it was cheaper. I believe that a more balanced conclusion would have been to say something along the lines of, "If cost is the primary factor or you really feel the need to say that 'I helped make that', you should go to the GFU. However, if you value experienced designers input, prompt service, no hassles and top quality work, then you should go to Flax. You get what you pay for. That way, nobody has to choose sides. While we are grateful for the kind words and free publicity, we are puzzled as to why she felt it was necessary to make a penultimate recommendation, rather than letting the reader decide for themselves.

When making comparisons like this, it helps to compare apples to apples. In this case, that did not happen. The piece we framed for her had a more expensive frame (Gemini 1494 Silver Ornate w/Beaded Edge) and was a different size. Also, she chose to use Museum Glass, which is the most expensive of all the glazing options. I am sure that she did not use that on her piece she framed at the GFU. If she had framed the same piece at both places using the same shopping list of materials, the comparison would be valid. In this case, not so much.

After pointing out all the hassles she endured at the GFU, it is remarkable that she would come to the conclusion she did. GFU was, by the way, founded in the town in which I live (Evanston, IL) and, while I have always found their business model interesting, I could never stand to watch customers struggle with gluing and nailing a frame together or doing assembly work that requires a lot of hand-holding and, in the end, pay for the privilege of tormenting themselves.Would you return to a restaurant where the service was non-existent and the food was cheap but awful? How about a frame shop where the cost of framing was cheap, but the journey to a finished, framed piece of art was frustrating, too long and the end result not satisfying? This is what the author of the article was advocating.

Between my framers and I, we have nearly 60 years of framing experience to bring to the table. If you want a fun, non-adversarial, satisfying experience, bring your framing projects to us. Our style is to collaborate, never to dictate what must be done. We make suggestions, showing you creative solutions, and give you enough choices to make an informed decision that you can be happy with. With 3000 mouldings to choose from and a thousand mat options, our purpose is not to turn you loose and fend for yourself. We are designers and will guide the frame design process to a happy, satisfying conclusion.


While we are busy flogging the competition, I want to also comment on something I read on the web on 12/27/12 about the Supreme Court denying a request to block part of the federal health care law that requires employee health-care plans to provide insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar emergency contraception. Hobby Lobby Stores (who does a lot of picture framing), sued the government, claiming the mandate violates the religious beliefs of its owners.

Then, in the New York Times on 2/11/13 was an article by Bill Keller that goes into a lot of detail about this whole affair and makes an excellent case for how Hobby Lobby is on the wrong side of the constitution and the sexual revolution. He quotes some of the right wing religious rhetoric out there and concludes, at the end of the article that, "When I read that kind of rhetoric from our country's loftier pulpits, I understand why the fastest-growing religious affiliation in America is 'none."

Hobby Lobby's position is akin to saying that, if an employee believes that their newborn baby boys should be circumcised, but it is against the owners' personal beliefs, then they should not have to pay for that procedure. Or, if they were against homosexuality, they should not have to pay for AIDS treatments (since they, clearly, believe the disease to be a heaven-sent scourage) if their "gay" employee(s) needed them. For the record: Nothing could be further from my own personal beliefs nor my hiring and employment practices.These businesses are cloaking their desire to reduce expenses in the trappings of religion and conservative dogma. And, even giving them the benefit of the doubt and saying that they, truly, believe what they are preaching, it still doesn't give them the right to violate the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution protects us all from that kind of wrong-headed thinking. It guarantees freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. I believe that no for-profit (or non-profit) corporation should be allowed to discriminate on that basis and inflict their religious beliefs on their employees.

Another example: While many insurance policies provide for men to receive medication for erectile dysfunction, women are denied the medication to prevent unwanted pregnancies which, in the end, cost insurance companies way, way more than the meds would have cost. Lots of other similar scenarios are there, but you get the picture.

My opinion only. I'm just sayin'.............

Marathon Medals Shadowbox

One of our long-time clients, Tom Mosher, brought in a bag full of Marathon medals from races he had participated in over the past decade or so here in Chicago. What is most remarkable is that he suffered a nasty stroke but fought his way back from it to be able to run, once again. He is one tough guy! A Vietnam War veteran and Probation officer, Tom has seen it all. We are grateful that he is still with us to tell the tale. Speaking of which, here is what we did for him recently:

                                     Mosher Marathon Medals Shadowbox

The frame is Larson-Juhl 119630 Confetti Black Cap that is 1" wide. The glass is GroGlass Artcare Water White Anti-Reflective glass. The matting is Crescent 5511 Light Grey suede. There are box strips of the grey suede lining the inside of the octagonal frame that our shop manager, Dana Fisher, built. As you can see, the medal's ribbons have been inserted through slits in the matting and attached on the back. The bib numbers have been mounted on black board and then elevated with risers. Below are a few details of the medals. These are, primarily, Chicago races in which Mr. Mosher participated.

Mosher BOA Marathon Medal Detail  Mosher Medal Detail #2







BOA Marathon Medal Detail     R&R Chicago Marathon Medal Detail









When designing shadowbox frames, you need to keep in mind how many layers of material the depth of the frame needs to encompass. We, also, try to use the least invasive methods for securing the items to be framed, while trying to ensure that they stay put. Great job Dana!

Frame designed by Dana L. Fisher, CPF

Photos by Brian D. Flax, CPF and shown by kind permission of Thomas Mosher.

Framed Golf Flag

A client of ours at the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund (we work with a lot of non-profits) brought in a golf flag for us to frame that is a donor gift. Below is a picture of the finished frame and some details of the job:

                                      DMSF Golf Flag Frame

DMSF Golf Flag Detail 1  DMSF Golf Flag Detail 2







                                                  DMSF Golf Flag Detail 3

The frame used is one of Larson-Juhl's newest collections: Hudson River, a collection of mouldings that are American in their origins during the late 19th century. The frame used is an antiqued silver 1 3/4" wide. Glass is regular (to keep the cost down) and the matting on top is Crescent 9853 Bruxelles, a faux linen. The flag is floated against Crescent 9811 Putty. There is a glass spacer in the frame  and a foam core backing board.

Framing designed and executed by Julie Kotulak.

Images shown by kind permission of A. Freund with the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund.

Photos by Brian D. Flax, CPF

Gemini Moulding Museum Work

I have always believed in working with the best vendors in our field, the ones who have the best customer service and products. One of those elite few is Gemini Moulding, based in the Chicago area. We have done business with them for over 22 years. They have a division called Showcase Acrylics, who fabricates plexi-boxes, vitrines and all manner of acrylic / plexi brackets and inserts such as you would see in a museum exhibit or in the display area of a personal collector of memorabilia. Below is a link to a press release regarding a huge job they did for the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois, with a special exhibition of the rock group Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen's famous and exotic guitar collection. 


Gemini has built lots of plexi box frames and plexi boxes with stands for us over the years to house things like flags, electric guitars, works of art and sports memorabilia. They have made it possible for us to expand our capabilities to be a one-stop framing source. You should check out their website: http://www.geminimoulding.com.

Coming Next Month

We promised you, in December 2012, that there would be a pricing table forthcoming that you could refer to for canvas stretching. I am putting the finishing touches on it and hope to have it on the website next month, March.

And, while I have no control over the weather, I promise that Spring will return some time during that month as well. I look forward to it for many reasons. March 20th is, aside from being the Vernal Equinox, my wedding anniversary. I will be married 30 years to my college sweetheart, Sarah. 

See you soon!

--Brian D. Flax, CPF

President, Flax Art & Frame Inc.


Brian's Blog is our way of communicating to you, our valued framing clients (and prospective clients) what we are all about: Picture Framing and Framing-related services. That's all we do. Of the 66 years we have been in business, we have spent the last 22 of them as a framing company. Over all those years, we learned that the customer is king and customer service is everything. So, we focus on the thing that we do best: Being the most innovative, experienced, service-focused picture framer in all of downtown Chicago.

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