Tuesday, 05 July 2016 04:13

Fancy, Fun and on the Money

Written by DAVID O'NEILL

Creative framers will tell you executing a mat design that shows true flair and originality is one of the best ways to combat framing fatigue syndrome. But where does one look for fresh ideas? Some excellent examples of such flair and originality, shown on the following pages, are the creative handiwork of Suzanne Prevatt and Angela Christ, co-owners of Pandora's Gallery Inc. in Calgary, Alberta. The two say they have carved a unique niche in their framing market with several kinds of hand painted mat embellishments.


Says Prevatt, “We were inspired to begin painting mats because we saw this was an ignored niche in the market.” Customers, she says, sometimes asked for decorative matting to complement their home decor, but the mat colors she offered didn't always jibe with their requests. Soon, Prevatt had a solution. She asked customers to bring in accessories from their homes, such as cushions or cushion covers, so she and Christ could custom match the accessories.

matsthatsingTo create the often intricate designs, Prevatt uses a variety USA Mat Magic" paints; finishing techniques include color washing, sponging, dry brushing and antiquing.

Customer response has been overwhelming. “People are using handpainted mats for framing varied projects—heirlooms, prints, original artwork and tapestries,” Prevatt says. Here, Prevatt reveals her techniques, which may be simpler than you'd think. Since these techniques involve freehand painting, Prevatt's art background comes in handy, but artistic genius is optional.

How to Make Those Mats Sing

Prevatt usually paints the designs on mats that have at least 3" to 4" margins, working within a panel that's 3/8" to "1/2" wide. Before she even cuts the mat opening, she covers the entire matboard with 2"strips of Scotch Magic Plus" removable tape. Prevatt says the tape is advantageous because it's easy to pull off once it's down on the matboard and won't tear the technique is what Prevatt calls a “barn board” effect. In the example shown at the top of the previous page. Prevatt says she “chose to use the color of the horses and of the grass to provide a more rustic feel to the painting.” To achieve this color effect, she used walnut, terracotta and bronze shades of paint. To create mats like the one in the bottom example shown on the previous page, Prevatt starts with crumpled cellophane wrap. She dips it into the paint and applies the desired colors with a random, circular hand movement. In this case, she created an inner panel with an art nouveau, European top layer of matboard.

After cutting the mat opening, Prevatt scores the top layer of matboard where the edges of the painted panel will appear. To do this, she uses a blade retracted just to the point at which it will cut through the tape and lightly score the top of the mat. Doing so helps prevent paint from seeping under the tape and onto the mat.

Once the tape has been gently removed to expose the panel that will be painted, she burnishes the remaining tape down to the mat. This also prevents any seepage during painting. After painting the exposed panel of matboard, she removes the rest of the tape.

matsthatsing 1To create samples, she does not remove the tape from the scored panel. Instead, using an X-acto knife, she lightly scores into the tape and removes sections of the design in which she wants color to be applied—in effect, creating a stencil from the tape.

Once the stencil is complete, Prevatt uses a natural sponge to apply the paint. She employs a random circling technique, combining various colors to achieve the desired effect. After she applies the paint, she allows it to dry for a few minutes, and then removes the rest of the tape.

Another technique Prevatt creates by painting mats shown in the two examples on this page. She calls this design a “wrapped" bevel, even though the bevel is actually painted, not wrapped. To achieve this effect, she uses a dry, fan-bristled artist's brush and Mat Magic paints. “This gives the illusion of a double mat,” she says.

A commonly requested “finish” with this feel to complement the vintage-look artwork. To further complement the art and dress up the outer portion of the mat, Prevatt used rubber stamps from a craft store and stamped over the mat with paint. Shown on this page is an ethnic-inspired pattern Prevatt created freehand to mimic the artwork. Again, when designing this pattern, she used Mat Magic paint and Scotch tape to seal off the unpainted areas.

This technique, says Prevatt, is her most successful so far. “The difficulty in it arises from having to match the colors and the design,” she says. Although she doesn't sketch the patterns herself before taking brush to matboard, doing so beforehand might be helpful for beginners, she says. When creating this type of mat, she advises, “draw out an element in the artwork for the handpainted panel. Then use a simple frame to keep the attention focused on the artwork and on the hand painting itself.”

Selling with Samples

matsthatsing 2To give those customers something to see and feel, she keeps on hand an array of samples in several colors and effects.

“We show various samples next to the piece of art and drawing out specific colors to emphasize the artwork and frame or to highlight a room's decor.”

Prevatt says. Matboard isn't cheap, so Prevatt and Christ use leftover matboard to create samples such as the ones shown on these pages. Prevatt says that when customers visit the gallery, they enjoy looking at the samples. “We remind them that whatever design they're looking at is available in whatever color they prefer. We usually show customers four or five options, depending on what they're having framed,” she says.

She even has created samples while customers wait. “We show people that everything is designed so that the frame and artwork coincide with the mat,” Prevatt says. “It doesn't take a lot of convincing once you educate them on the quality of the design they're getting. The quality of the work speaks for itself.”


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Creative framers will tell you executing a mat design that shows true flair and originality is one of the best ways to combat framing fatigue syndrome. But where does one...

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Pandora’s Gallery Custom Framing and Art is located in Calgary’s northwest Crowfoot Crossing shopping centre. Pandora’s framing designers bring over 40 years of art and framing experience to every consultation.


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