Picture Framer

The Job and What's Involved

Picture framers make frames that help to protect and enhance the appearance of a wide range of objects such as paintings, prints, photographs, certificates, tapestries and mirrors. They may also frame three-dimensional objects, such as dried flowers, medals and trophies.

A small number of picture framers work as production framers, manufacturing frames that are retailed to customers through shops, mail order and the internet. However, the majority are craft framers who design and assemble frames for individual customers. This is known as bespoke framing.

Typical duties may include:

  • Discussing the design of the frame with the customer.
  • Designing and advising on materials, e.g. wood, metal or plastic.
  • Working out costs in advance, providing a quote for each piece of work.
  • Cutting the frame, mount, moulding, glass and mount board.
  • Assembling the frame.
  • Fixing the object into the frame.
  • Packaging the finished product.

Picture framers use a range of mounting and laminating machines, as well as hand tools like tenon and mitre saws, small hammers and fixings, such as pins, staples, tapes and glue.

Picture framers use a variety of techniques to fix objects in place:

  • Paper-based items are pasted, dry mounted or taped to a board to prevent them slipping within the frame.
  • Tapestries and embroideries are stretched over a backing.
  • Painted canvas is stretched evenly and tightly over a stretcher frame.

They may also attach hooks or stands for display purposes.

In some cases, framers may also have to consider whether an item requires conservation framing to help protect and preserve it from sunlight, moisture or other damaging elements.

Many combine their technical and craft skills with running a retail shop selling items such as prints and cards.

Picture framers who work in art shops, galleries or museums, for a specialist photographer or in a workshop generally work around 40 hours a week. Weekend work is common and overtime may be necessary during busy periods.

Self-employed framers may be more flexible and base their working hours on their workload. They may also work in an art shop, a gallery or a market to supplement their income. This may involve travelling to clients, markets or craft fairs.

Many picture framers work part time.

They usually work in well-lit studios or workshops. Many self-employed framers work from home. It may be necessary to wear protective overalls, gloves and masks, especially when applying strong adhesives. The work may not be suitable for people with dust allergies.

Starting salaries for framers are around £12,000 a year. With experience, picture framers may earn around between £15,000 and £20,000 a year.

Those working in a specialist area in a museum or art gallery may earn more than £25,000 a year.

Earnings for self-employed framers vary, depending on the success of their business.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The Fine Art Trade Guild has around 3,000 members. Most picture framers are self-employed, working with different museums, photographers or art organisations on short-term contracts or a project basis. Alternatively, they run small specialist businesses, employing one or two people.

The number of full-time vacancies is limited. Some framers are employed by public and private museums, art galleries and photography agencies to work on site, creating frames for new and existing works of art and special exhibitions. Organisations such as the National Trust employ picture framers. Framers may also work for large specialist frame makers that sell items to retailers both in the UK and overseas.

Vacancies may be advertised in the local or national press or in Art Business Today.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry qualifications, but professional picture framing is a skilled and technical career and many people enter it after taking a private picture-framing course or gaining experience in a related craft industry. Courses are offered by local colleges and community education services across the UK. They are usually part time, and last between eight weeks and one year.

Some entrants have trained in design work. It is helpful to have skills in woodwork, textiles or other crafts.

Other relevant qualifications may include:

  • GCSE's, particularly in art and craft subjects.
  • Vocational qualifications in art, craft and design subjects at various levels, including certificates, diplomas and NVQ's.
  • The Diploma in creative and media.
  • Foundation degrees and degrees in relevant subjects such as design, creative arts and crafts making.

The minimum requirements for entry to a foundation degree are usually one A level and three to four GCSE's (A*-C). For a degree course, the minimum requirement is normally two A levels and five GCSE's (A*-C), usually to include English and maths. A portfolio of art work will usually also be required.

Entry requirements vary so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job, working with an experienced framer. Framers can work towards the internationally recognised Fine Art Trade Guild Commended Framer (GCF) qualification. In order to qualify, they have to complete practical assessments to professional standards. A badge and certificate are awarded and framers are listed on the Fine Art Trade Guild website. Framers may develop their skills further by working towards the Advanced GCF.

To work with high value, limited edition prints or items that need conserving, a framer should be trained professionally to conservation standards. One-to-one tuition is available through accredited Fine Art Trade Guild member trainers. A list is available on its website.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Picture framers need to:

  • Be artistic and creative.
  • Work accurately, with an eye for detail.
  • Be practical and good with their hands.
  • Be methodical and precise.
  • Respect the personal value of the items they handle.
  • Be able to cost projects.
  • Have good communication skills and be happy talking to customers.
  • Be safety conscious when using sharp tools and machinery.
  • Be self-motivated and able to work well unsupervised.
  • Have normal colour vision.
  • Have good business skills, with the ability to promote their work and maintain financial records, especially if self-employed.

Your Long Term Prospects

Success for a self-employed framer depends on securing regular work and establishing a strong reputation. Having relevant qualifications may attract a wider range of clients. GCF-recognised framers may supplement their income by training others.

Picture framers may be able to open a shop or buy a franchise.

With the necessary qualifications, there may also be opportunities to teach on a part-time basis.

Within a larger organisation, progression to a supervisory or managerial role may be possible. However, promotion opportunities are limited and it may be necessary to change employers in order to progress.

Get Further Information

Creative & Cultural Skills, Lafone House,
The Leathermarket, Weston Street, London SE1 3HN
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Websites: www.creative-choices.co.uk
and www.ccskills.org.uk

Fine Art Trade Guild,
16-18 Empress Place,
London SW6 1TT
Tel: 020 7831 6616
Website: www.fineart.co.uk

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