If you’re looking for a gift for an artistic type person in your life, see if she has art of her own, or art she’s picked up, lying around, or stuck to a wall with tacks, forlornly wishing it had a frame. If you know her taste, you can make an artist happy by buying art for a gift, or if you’re good yourself, of course, frame up your own art for her. However, the framing industry is a little booby trapped, so choose carefully.
Getting custom framing done is incredibly expensive, and even just going to a frame/art store to find one the right size and having the art piece put into it is steep. It’s rare to find frames second hand that are in good condition and the right size, and then they still need work to look professional. Being an artist, giving an art piece as a gift, putting one you’ve bought on the wall, or framing someone else’s art as a gift for them can be expensive, and framing takes time, as generally getting framing done professionally takes a week or two, sometimes three.
I do recommend giving art as a gift, and buying from the artist or gallery would be a lovely way to feel good about the money you’re spending. If it’s your own art, the recipient will always think of you and appreciate you, and your art will be doing its job. You may want to consider something even more unorthodox for, say, a Christmas present, or birthday present. Frame the art of someone you know who loves her work but can’t afford to put it in her wall, or who is trying to work towards having a show. If it’s for a show, you’ll seriously want to make sure it fits the rest of the framing she is getting done. Otherwise, fitting the art, and her style, and house will give you plenty of choices.
The cheapest way I’ve found to get my art framed is American Frame. They have some advantages and disadvantages. You can come away with a frame with a mat and glass or plexiglass, either archival museum quality framing or something more for hobbiests, very inexpensively. It can be like Christmas to find out how many frames you can get for the price you’d expect to pay elsewhere, without even having to leave your house. And it’s all easy to do. You just put in the sizes, pick out the colors, textures, proportions, and you’re good to go. It figures up the math for you, gives you images of it on your wall color, with your art piece image inside, if you have a jpg of it, very convenient. Some simple narrow metal frames with their house mats thrown in and acrylic if you’re concerned about shipping, and glass if you’re concerned about scratching, mounting board, some wire to hang with, and voila! It’s shipped in 2 or 3 days, and if you’re level headed, and healthy, not hard to put together once you get it.
However, if you are going to use their company’s services, be sure to order them far in advance of a holiday, or show. I know many, many people are turning to this company to solve their framing needs. It really is very reasonable. However, in all the years I ordered from them, I had to just come to assume that each order with a few frames would inevitably contain some frames, glass, or mats that were the wrong size, and unusable. I eventually had to stop using them. I gave them feedback each time, letting them know it was wrong, but never heard from them.
If you’re on a severe budget and can’t swallow it and re order if they do it wrong, or if you have a low tolerance for frustration, or if you are on a deadline and the wrong sizes will throw off your show or present timing, then forget it. I heartily don’t recommend American Frame. I’ve never found it worth it to try to deal with them once I got the wrong sizes, but maybe you will. I’ve just hunkered down and consoled myself and thrown out the framing materials and frowned. You may have a better approach.
So, framing would be a gift anyone with art, from photography to prints to paintings would be delighted to receive. However, to be safe, if you are uncertain, and want to use American Frame, use a gift card. That way, you won’t make a mistake about how to frame it'”just try it out to see what looks good to you, add a little money on top to give her some leeway, and let her deal with the wrong framing, and it will at least get to her on time. But if she has low frustration tolerance herself, get it framed professionally, and, I’m sorry to say, forget American Frame.