One of the great things about making photographs is getting a chance to display them. If you're like me, most of your images never see the light of day, and end up relegated to bits and bytes on a hard drive or film negatives stored in a three-ring binder. The ones that are seen make it to Facebook and that's about it. But recently, I got motivated and matted and framed some prints. I'm not a serious print collector, so I don't spend a lot of money on matting and framing prints. I've bought several prints from photographers who I respect and admire, particularly if they're trying to fund a project. Such is the case with two of the three prints I'll be talking about in this post. The first, Big Muskie Dragline by Daniel Shea, was offered by collect.give in support of Coal River Mountain Watch. (I got the first of 20 in the edition.) The second is Taca Zhijie Sui's White Dews from 20x200. Last, but certainly not least, is Chad A. Stevens' Mountain Lighting, which I bought in support of his film A Thousand Little Cuts.
I keep several frames of varying sizes on hand, usually ones I've used for my own prints and leftovers from previous shows. As cheap as it sounds, I almost always buy my frames and mats at a big box arts and crafts store like Michael's or A.C. Moore. Why? Because you simply can't beat their prices, especially when you factor in their weekly coupons. Also, if I'm making my own prints, I can print exactly to the size of the off-the-shelf mat I'm buying.
It was at the above-mentioned big box stores several weeks ago that I went looking for mats for these three prints to put in 16 x 20 frames. Two of the three prints are 8 x 10 and the other is 7 x 7. I didn't want the standard portrait or landscape opening, but something different. That's where your options are limited with off-the-shelf mats. The two 8x10 prints are landscape-oriented, but I was looking for portrait-oriented mats with landscape windows. And rather than the window opening in the center of the mat, I wanted it closer to the top. After looking thoroughly at both stores, I talked with a lady at the custom cutting counter about what I was looking for. She said for what I wanted, it would cost about $40 per mat. Yikes. I thanked her and walked away.
Then I remember that a couple of years ago, I read this blog post by Rachel Hulin where she mentioned Frames by Mail. So, I plugged in the dimensions I wanted for all three mats, and was surprised by the total: $27.81. Tack on FedEx shipping and it totalled $35.36. Three custom-cut mats and FedEx shipping for less than the cost of one at a local big box store. And they're fast. I placed my order on a Wednesday. It shipped the next day and arrived the following Monday. I highly recommend them.
I also have to recommend a local frame shop. Frame Warehouse in Cary, NC has really good prices too. I had a small print I wanted to mat (3.5 x 4.5 window for an 8 x 10 mat), which they did for about $8 - while I waited. They also dry-mounted a 37.5 x 34 West Virginia map for me very reasonably.
Finally, here's a great resource for matting and framing your prints courtesy of 20x200.