Monday, August 9, 2010

matting and framing book pages

My walls, tables, shelves, and cabinets are in a constant state of editing and reorganization. I do have a weakness for pretty knick-knacks, so on a monthly basis or so, a ceramic owl gets switched out for a little bud vase, or a picture loses its old friend the wood frame to another I've found at a yard sale. On our walls, I quickly tire of screenprints I've made, so it's a good thing I have a B-squad of framed prints stacked under our beds.

It's time for a new rotation, so I'm considering new pictures to hang on our walls. The silhouette prints by Mike Miller at West Elm have popped up everywhere lately, and I can't shake the feeling that I know them. I've finally realized what it is - they remind me vividly of the pages from a great instructional drawing book, Rendering with Pen and Ink, by Robert W. Gill.

This book has such warm connotations for me. As a kid, I used to sit in my dad's shag-carpeted home office and play with the models he built in architecture school, use his electric eraser like a lathe, trace his French curve set, and copy pictures out of this book. It's served me well since then, too; I consulted it just a week ago when trying to draw trees.

The drawings have such a precise, retro, instructorly quality, that I think many of them would look great on a wall. I had a thick, square wood frame lying around, and I cut a matte to fit.

Although matte cutting equipment can easily cost hundreds of dollars, I have an inexpensive set-up that works fine. I use a Logan Team System matte cutter that only cost me about $40, and I use it on top of a self-healing cutting mat.

The steps for cutting a matte are easy.
  • Buy or find a frame.
  • Buy matte board. I sometimes use four-ply museum board because it's bright white and acid-free.
  • Use a utility knife to cut the matte board to the size of the frame insert. Mine was 10" by 10".
  • Measure your image, and draw a square on the back of your matte board that represents the size of the hole you're going to cut. Draw the lines all the way to the edges of your board. My image was about 6" x 6", so I drew lines 2" away from the board's edges.
  • line up your guide rail against one of the lines, so that the high rim is facing toward the center of the board.
  • Place the bevel-cutter onto the rim of the guide rail, so that the blade is facing down and outward, toward the edge of the matte. Align the line on the bevel cutter with the line you've drawn on the board.
  • Press the blade down, and push the bevel cutter across the board, until the line on the cutter aligns with the line you've drawn on the other edge of the board. Repeat with all four sides.

This will give a nice angled edge to your cuts that you couldn't get with a utility knife.

Now tape your image to your matte, place in the frame, and done!


  1. I've always loved the idea of periodically changing out one's decor items. But where do you store your "extras" in waiting--where does the little owl live when it's the bud vase's turn? I've never been able to figure out a storage spot that's both accessible enough to motivate me to make the switch, and out of the way enough not to displace stuff I need more often. Care to share your tricks?

  2. I will definitely use this for future reference. I don't have the tools right now, but I have a few book pages in mind.

  3. Sarah,
    Unfortunately, I don't have any tricks. I have vases, frames, and candle holders stashed everywhere. Nearly every piece of furniture in our house, besides sofas and chairs, have built-in storage - our dining room table, the dresser we use for a TV stand, the chest we use as a coffee table - and those drawers are crammed with stuff. I wrap big frames in fabric, lay them flat and stack them, and store those under the bed. It's one of the unfortunate side effects of liking "stuff" - having it hiding everywhere. On the other hand, it works out great, because whenever I get bored with the stuff on the walls (or tables, or shelves ...), I can just go shopping in my own house.

  4. This looks great! I'll have to give this a try myself.