Monday, October 17, 2011

Review of Illusions Floater Frames from Jerry's Artarama

First, let me just say that I’m not really a frame guy.  I’ve never really cared for framing canvas, preferring instead to paint the edges on gallery wrapped canvas.  I’ve always felt like most frames draw too much attention to themselves.  Recently though I’ve been using up a stock pile of 3/4” deep canvases, so when three of my current paintings were accepted into the Artists of Texas show at the Dutch Art Gallery in Dallas I found myself in need of a few frames.  I looked into different readymade frames and custom moldings at local frame shops but didn’t really find anything I liked within my budget. Then I stumbled upon Illusions Floater Frames online at Jerry’s Artarama. 
Floater frames were popular in the 1970’s and seem to be making a comeback.  I found several frame companies that offered different versions of floaters, although most only seemed to come sized for 1 ½” deep canvas.  The Illusions frames come in ¾” and 1 ½” depths and are available in six different finishes.  Unlike most frames there is no lip that hangs over the front of the painting.  Instead there’s a small facing that’s offset about a ¼” from the canvas allowing the edges to be seen.  The inside is finished in black providing the “floating” affect.  They’ve received several good reviews on the Artarama site so I thought I’d give them a try.
This was my first experience with Jerry’s.  They have a four frame minimum order, but shipping was free with my order and arrived quickly.  I ordered five frames in different sizes, all in the natural finish.  When my order arrived I was initially a bit disappointed.  First off, the natural finish is actually unfinished, bare wood.  The first frames I opened were the 12” x 16” and 16” x 20” sizes and their fit was a bit uneven.  A couple of the corners had noticeable gaps.  My first instinct was to return the frames, but I decided to take a chance and open the larger ones.  To my surprise they were very well constructed with corners that fit tight.  I placed a couple of different paintings in the frames and really liked the look so I thought I’d see if I could make them work. 
Since the natural finish was actually bare wood, I first applied two coats of Tung Oil to seal and protect the wood and give it a bit more polished appearance.  There were also a couple of spots on the black paint on the inside that needed to be touched up.  The frames are supplied with all of the mounting hardware required and made for a pretty easy assembly.  I kind of wish they’d bypassed the clips and drilled holes for screws instead, but all in all the frames were easy to put together.  There’s also a video on Jerry’s Artarama showing how to attach the canvas to the frame using the supplied clips.   
The frames have an understated, unobtrusive look that really lets the painting speak for itself while providing a professional, finished appearance.  The problems I encountered seem to be primarily due to the natural finish.  For artists who prefer minimal framing, Illusions Floater Frames are a good choice, provided you’re willing to put in a little effort to touch up minor flaws.  They are inexpensive, lightweight, and if they’d just improve on the quality control a little I think they’re a perfect choice for a gallery setting.
You can check them out for yourself at Jerry's Artarama.
Pros
Inexpensive
Lightweight
Professional, clean appearance
Unobtrusive, let’s artwork speak for itself
Selection of six different finishes (black, white, natural, black w/ gold trim, black w/ silver trim, walnut w/gold trim)

Cons
Natural is actually unfinished, bare wood.  I sanded some spots lightly and applied two coats of Tung Oil.
Quality control is inconsistent.  Larger frames (18 x 24, 24 x 30, and 24 x 36) arrived with good fit and finish and clean corners while smaller frames (12 x 16 and 16 x 20) had gaps on corners.
Paint needed touch ups in places.

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