Have you ever picked up a frame, expecting it to be a certain weight, only to find yourself saying, ” Wow, this is light!”
You were probably holding a plastic frame.
While the wood used in custom framing is generally lightweight, plastic frames are an exceptionally low weight, especially if there is no glass. Being a previous employee at Hobby Lobby, I’ve seen an amazing increase of home decor stores using plastic in their pre-framed art. While the prices are great, that’s really about it. Most frames will have a disclaimer on the back to not add wire to the hooks. You gently tap the frame on a corner, and the whole thing will fall apart on you. I swear I’ve looked at plastic frames and they’ve fallen apart before my eyes. What’s worse, there is no re-joining of the corners on these guys. Once it’s damaged, the only option you have is to replace it.
A recent experience with a plastic frame has be thinking….why don’t people realize what they are paying for? As a professional framer and a working artist, I feel like I need to speak out.
First of all, a plastic frame looks cheap. There — I said it! There is no going around it. If you buy a pre-framed art at a home decor store, like Hobby Lobby, you are basically paying for the art, not the framing. Most of that art is mass-produced, which is fine is that style fits your home. However, most people are not great at matching framing to their home, resulting in the design left looking out of place and mis-matched from the rest of the decor.
It’s mostly shipped in from China, that is, if it survives the trip. I remember truck days in my previous retail position where the frames would come in battered from transport, and they would literally have to be thrown away before they went on the floor. So, quality in this type of framing is about as low as you can go.
This past May, I recently curated my first art exhibition. It was a completely new experience for me, and I dealt with both professional artists and also artists new to the exhibition world. Most galleries and group exhibitions forms state: “No plastic or sawtooth frames” in their exhibition contract for a reason. Luckily, I added that to the contract for exhibit since I did have one artist use a plastic frame. She had dropped it off with another person, so I wasn’t able to tell her to that this framing was unacceptable. When I did come around to hanging it, I quickly found out that it was in fact a plastic frame …. the minute it fell of the wall. She had wired the frame from the back, and the weight and pressure of the wire pulled the frame sides out of the corners, lost its place on the hook, and crashed to the floor. The frame was destroyed, the glass shattered, and the mat scratched. I was relieved to see that the art remain unscathed. She was lucky that the art survived the crash, and I was able to add the art to an extra frame I had at home so her work could still be on display for the exhibit. I explained to her that this was the reason the companies added the disclaimer on the back of their frames and she understood right away.
Bottom line: You get what you pay for. Wood frames are not drastically more expensive than plastic, and a million-times worth the extra few bucks. So if you pick up a frame that seems “too light to be true,” it probably is.