Framing art on the cheap

Framing art has gotten incredibly expensive. I was overjoyed when Cheap Pete’s first opened in San Francisco and for many years that was my go-to, but even that’s pricey now.

But I’ve found a few cool sites and solutions that I think are worth sharing.

First, I’ve decided that I love small multiples – postcards,  photos, or small drawings grouped together. It is much less expensive to frame these yourself than to have them framed and framing elevates anything.

Vintage postcards are cool and inexpensive – I scoured eBay for vintage Russian River postcards and got some really great ones for between $1 and $5 each.

vintage pin-up postcards
"The Girls"

I also stumbled on a series of 12 hand tinted black and white postcards of pin-up girls, all very conservatively dressed by today’s standards but in funny provocative cheesecake poses.

Lois holding a framed postcard
Our framing factory. A black frame and white mat can elevate anything, even a cheesecake postcard

And I found a series of vintage black and white photographs on a site called SmugMug for $.99 each. They are really amazing photos of Russian River towns like Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Cazadero and events like the ground breaking for the Monte Rio bridge.

Ground breaking at Monte Rio bridge

The best price I’ve found on 5×7 and 8×10 frames was at GetSmart Products. Seriously, 5×7 black wood (real) frames (with glass) were $3.25 each. The 8x10s were just a bit more. And if you are collecting something, like postcards, you can buy in bulk and save on shipping. They are out of 5x7s right now because apparently I bought them all but they are supposed to come in soon.

box of frames
Box o' frames

I found the best mats at Documounts. This is a really cool business based in Oregon that sells custom cut mats. A 5×7 mat is less than $2 and they have tons of colors (I always go with artique chalk white, but that’s just me). And they are super helpful – you can call them and talk to them and they will walk you through what you need and if you can’t remember what color you bought last time they can tell you that too. Most mats come with standard windows but for old postcards for example you want a 3 3/4 x 5 3/4 window so you can “float” the postcard within the window (mounted on an uncut mat) and Documounts will custom cut any size window. Don’t forget the linen tape!

Of course, I forgot the linen tape but our dear friend Lois brought us some!

If you’re framing something bigger, Frames by Mail is a good choice.

9 framed vintage postcards
Vintage postcards of the Russian River, framed
"The Girls" - perfect bathroom art!
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