Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right Illinois icon-chevron-right Chicago icon-chevron-right Is DIY framing worth the deep discount?

Is DIY framing worth the deep discount?

A writer pits the DIY counter at the Great Frame Up against a full-service shop.

By Marissa Conrad |
From the Great Frame Up, $43At the Great Frame Up, choosing a mat and frame is chiefly self-guided, though a patient employee cheered me on as I flitted among about 20 different choices, debating with myself for nearly 30 minutes.You can�t see, but my piece has several rips on its brown paper backing from errant screws that flew out of the power drill. DIY woes!Cleaning the glass was the first step of the DIY framing, which was closely guided by another patient employee.
From Flax Art & Frame, $109Museum-quality glass, $8 extra on a piece this small, delivers less glare and protects the artwork from light damage.One of the framing assistants at Flax instantly knew which of the hundreds of mats in the store would look perfect with my piece, pulling out this shade (inexplicably dubbed mimosa).When I said I wanted a vintage-looking frame, the Flax employee found this in about 30 seconds. The whole decision process on mat, frame and glass took five minutes, tops.

The Lakeview location of DIY chain the Great Frame Up isn’t off to a great start. I arrive geared up to frame a cartoon of a flying pig. Unfortunately, I have to wait a week while the shop orders the right-sized glass. I go back after work on a Wednesday and find a dark store: It closed at 7:30pm. The next day, a full hour of DIY “fun” involves strips of double-sided tape that stick to my skin, a stubborn sander, sharp wire and a power drill that refuses to cooperate with a novice.

At full-service Flax Art & Frame (32 E Adams St, 312-431-9588), I pick out a frame and mat, leave, and return two weeks later to pick up the finished product. Easy as pie.

So why am I endorsing the Great Frame Up? Because the Flax frame cost $109, versus GFU’s $43 for the same size piece and similar materials—and my mother would kill me if I advocated paying an extra $66 to avoid a little work.