Some random thoughts I had at work today:
For, even when considered as art, framing is a craft that is both art and a commodity. While framing demands a steady hand and a sensitive eye for design, the final demands belong to the customer. The frame shop is a space delineated expressly for the efficiency and accuracy of a careful art. The frame desk, on the other hand, is a rampart set against the invasion of bad taste and common ignorance.
(Negotiating with the public bites ass)
Genuine, local art tends to receive an equally artistic and idiosyncratic framing. The wider bulk of business, however, comes in the form of poster-print reproductions or watercolors painted by the young children of rich, idle housewives.
The Wizard is a computerized mat-cutter; a machine that alleviates the framer from expending time and thought. The machine is so effective that only a handful especially detailed projects still require hand cutting. Frame shops without the Wizard are necessarily less competitive. It spells for framing a significant change in the means-of-production.
There is such a thing as a “Master Framer.” Years of experience in the craft do engender real results. A master can acquire a reputation for careful work, versatility, and bold design-work. Given time and a good environment, masters can develop a circle of dedicated patrons with special projects. The situation breaches the normal impersonality of the commodity system.
Frames are ordered to specific measurements and are then shipped to the frame shop, chopped or joined, from a plant. The framer mediates the process, translating the arbitrary dimensions of natural objects into machine units and rational proportions. Artistic choices are made, and then human hands finish and fine-tune the assembly of mass-produced materials. Framers translate the industrial process back into human terms.
The industrial process in framing is often two-fold. The conventions of standard frame sizes can intersect with a variety of logistics – centimeters vs. inches, preferences in photo-development, resolutions on different industrial inkjets, etc. When confronted with an art-reproduction Rembrandt, the framer must translate the language of one machine, the printer, into the language of another, the frame plant. The Rembrandt has already experienced the commodity transformation.
The framer becomes the connecting midwife between as-of-yet incompatible industrial processes. We are among the last biological components necessary to an art-commodity machine.