I have sold my drawings over the years but I have never wanted to make my living trying to please people with my work. Instead I have earned my way by doing framing. It has given me a chance to see on a very intimate basis many amazing works of art brought in by collectors and artists. I consider it a serious business, showing respect for the work in terms of the presentation which you see and in terms of preservation which you don't see - the work behind the mat and inside the frame.
In my own project I have chosen to go in the opposite aesthetic direction. I have been hunting for handmade frames that are a statement in themselves. My most satisfying finds have been longer in the area of being eccentric than classically constructed. Even the art is going backwards. I have been drawing to suit the frames.
The vine frame was a present from Wanda Miller. It was just a flat construction with no possible way to install anything in it. She said "I knew you would figure out what to do with it." 20 years later it occurred to me to have a normal frame constructed and attach the vine frame to it. The beetle, Scarabaeidea Propomacrus jansoni, from the "Insect Range" at the University of Michigan, with its twig- like appendages, suited the frame perfectly.
I have been very lucky in my relationship with the University of Michigan Exhibit Museum and with their entomology department which is housed in the same building. Mark O'Brien, who maintains their great collection, has allowed me space to draw in and has been more than generous in his help. Days spent in that building in Ann Arbor have been among the most fruitful and happiest that I have known in my professional life.
The folded leather frame was found on E-Bay. The seller dated it from the late 1800's. It was set up to hold a picture by sliding it in between the leather and a small flap of cloth. This was another case of impossible installation so I had a black frame built to act as a base. The beetle, Scarabaeidae Dynastes titus, has a background that emulates old wallpaper, true to finding a bug crawling up your wall.
The tramp art frame is German and was made by either a less talented tramp or one that had inadequate materials. It is the classic chip carved style but it is put together in bits and pieces, not long strips. The beetle it holds is a Cerambycidae Batocera.
I went over my budget to get this shaped wooden frame covered with tooled copper. It was irresistible. No one would ever confuse it with something mass produced. I bid. I won. I waited. Then I forgot it was even out there until it arrived in the mail and I found out that it was sent from Peru. It was a challenge to find something suitable for the shape and the feel of the frame. The winning insect is the beetle Cerambycidae Petrognatha gigas with its strange wavy legs and antennae. The flower it is sitting on is a delicate poppy that came in a bouquet from Mary Alice Benkert.
The butterfly enclosed in this little frame is a Nymphalidae Hamadrys feronia. It was part of a series of drawings of butterflies that are camouflaged but not in the way that they were designed to blend into their natural surroundings. Each background is specific to the insect and each one is quite different. This one is the pattern on a piece of textile that echos the weight and design of the wings. The frame is an Ebay purchase, handmade and irregular with a leaf in each corner. It is a common ornament but more charming than usual do to the hand of the person who made it.
I have a little supply of frames that are awaiting the perfect subject. One is another tramp art frame that was made out of a tin can! I have very high standards for my frames.