It’s A Lady! (Our First Big Art Purchase Ever)

That’s what Clara said when she woke up and saw our freshly hung real art in the kitchen. It was cute. And we laughed. And then she squealed “She’s swimming! Look, fishies!” which are most definitely not in there, but the girl has quite an imagination. So hooray for imaginary fishies.

I described this gal as “real art” because it’s actually our first big art purchase ever. It’s a large print of an original oil painting by an amazing Etsy artist that we just couldn’t get out of our mind. And at $195 it was definitely a splurge for folks like us who usually frame free art that we make ourselves or hunt thrift stores and garage sales for cheapo options, but we figure that we’ve done a lot of things to save a really significant amount of money on our kitchen (like reusing our cabinets/sink/faucet, getting pendant lights from an outlet and a range hood on craigslist, reselling things like our old granite and over-the-range microwave on craigslist, building our own fridge surround/hood cover/open shelving, getting on-sale tile and clearanced out cork and installing it ourselves, buying inexpensive lab stools from a school supply shop, etc).

So yeah, it took a bit of rationalizing with ourselves and saying “dude, you have saved money in so many other places, and you love this art and don’t have any real art in the entire house yet- just take the plunge already!” So we did. And it feels good. In the words of Katy Perry: No regrets. Just love.

So yes, we’re calling it our V-day gift to each other (and our beloved kitchen). And it was icing on the cake when Clara got excited about it too. Burger has yet to react but we’ll keep you posted.

Doesn’t our lady swimming with imaginary fish look especially cheerful with two pink tulips leftover from book shoots (yup, those are still going on – they wrap this Friday and today we’re actually shooting cover stuff – ahhhhhh). As for framing our lady, I’m sure one day we’ll man up and pay to have her professionally framed (they always seem to have those 50% coupons at Michael’s) but sometimes it’s a better balance for us when we spend in one area and then work a bit harder to save in another. So for now we have framed it really inexpensively ourselves, just by getting a simple black frame for $21 at Target and a $4 sheet of archival-quality mat-board at Michael’s (they sell it in their framing department for anyone else who wants to try DIYing it).

This entire framing job was just $25 (for a 31″ x 25″ finished piece!) thanks to already having some white Rustoleum Universal spray paint (the kind with the built-in primer). Yup, I’m completely predictable. You know I spray painted the heck outta that frame (after removing the pane and the backing and laying it out on a piece of cardboard outside). Then I just cut down the archival mat-board to fit the frame and placed the print centered in front of it.

So unlike a pro framing job, this mat isn’t a cut-out window that you look through to view the print – the print just floats right in front of it in the middle, with an equal amount of mat around it to beef it up and fit the frame. The luckiest accident of the whole thing is that the mat-board has subtle gray undertones while the print and the frame are bright-bright-bright white. It actually makes for a nice balance since the soft gray-ish coloring in the mat relates to other softly-gray things in the room (the penny tile, the appliances, etc) and the bright white of the print and the freshly sprayed frame ties into the glossy white molding/trim, our counters, and the dishware on the open shelves.

We love that our print (on archival paper with an archival mat, no less) can always be upgraded with a proper frame down the line, but for now it slips right into the room. And it’s refreshing. Like a big ol’ glass of lemonade. Or a dip in the pool. This is actually how we frame a ton of stuff (like all of the things in our hallway of frames, for example) so although it’s not the fancy way, it works for us. Art is definitely one of those highly personal things though, so this method might be heresy for some folks out there! Just do whatever works for you and your house and cover your walls with stuff that makes you smile.

We have to admit that real art is definitely addictive. Our little swimmer lady confirms that sometimes a wall splurge can make you pretty dang giddy. So we’re definitely hoping that the occurrence of saving up for art that we love isn’t just a one time thing! What have you guys been framing lately? Do you have a favorite framing method? Do your children see imaginary fish? Let’s talk.


  1. caroline says

    How awesome!! I just spent oh… only 400 of my tax return (what? its my birthday!) on etsy art. mostly prints of water colors for about 20-50 each but it added up. Its been slowly arriving over a week and its so exciting! It’s my first real art since all we had before was photography- which is fine but I was craving another medium.

    Heres to etsy artists!

  2. says

    What a great piece! Sometimes you have to splurge. We have this piece we got in Hawaii with a tax credit a president ago and it was $600. But because it was “free money” we didn’t mind it and honestly, everytime we look at it, it makes us swoon which is the whole point.

    Thanks for the framing tip, I’ll be using that soon!

  3. says

    It is a gorgeous piece and I wholly support the support of artists. Hubby & I both come from families of artists and are lucky enough to have been given many pieces we treasure. And we’ve DIY’d a LOT of the art in our home:


    Art really makes a space.

    We’ve also framed a lot so I wanted to comment because I have found that, even with a 50% off coupon, Michael’s is more expensive, and of less quality, than ANY locally owned framing shop. Many local galleries offer framing, also. I would shop around, first, because I think that Michael’s just hikes the price.

    From one budget-conscious DIY-er to another.

    • says

      I’m with Tanya! Even when Michael’s had a 60% off special running, by the time you take 60% off their regular prices it still ended up costing us a small fortune! I haven’t found a local frame shop I like yet, so we ended up using Michael’s. However, that will be the last time. Definitely feels like a scam!

      There used to be a store in Maryland called Aaron Brothers that was like a framing mecca! I was so sad when they closed.

    • Alison says

      I completely agree with Tanya. While Michael’s is great for crafty stuff, I haven’t found them to be very good at framing items. My feeling is that I’d rather support a small business that really knows what they’re doing and can give you feedback on framing types and what is best for the item you are framing. Sometimes even small businesses will send out coupons for framing so try getting on a few mailing lists. A local place that I like to go to in NJ just sent out $50 coupons on framing so you never know. Happy framing, and I hope you guys are starting to feel better!!

    • says

      I also do not reccomend going to Michaels. I too thought it would be a “deal” and ended up costing more and the quality just wasn’t there.

    • says

      I found the same thing! For Christmas a couple years ago I framed a campaign sign from the campaign my bf managed. Even with their 60% off special, Michael’s quoted me a price about $70 higher than the price I paid at a local framing shop (under $100), and that was just for the most basic of frames. They also tried to tell me I should use a larger mat than was really necessary, which jacked up the price even more. The local shop was also able to turn the job around faster and seemed to have a better eye for what would look good. And this was in northern VA where all services normally seem crazy expensive. I definitely recommend the local framing shop route!

    • MJ says

      I have to echo Tanya’s sentiments because this is REALLY important for people who love coupons. I’ve commented before here on custom framing (my parents are independent framers — 30 years in business), but Michael’s is absolutely more expensive than a good independent — even with the coupon. The largest mark-up is on the glazing (i.e. glass). Many years ago, Michael’s stopped offering regular, no-frills glass and only offer certain grades of conservation and archival glass. The glass is of excellent quality, but you’re trapped into something you may not need for the space in which you’re framing. You will have more selection (which means wider price range on materials — if something tends high, they’ll help you find a cost-conscious alternative), more transparency in pricing and a framer that should stand behind their work.

    • Ashley says

      Agreed! At Christmas I bought our first piece of “real art” for my fiance and took it to Michaels to get framed. It was going to be over $200 (after a 60% off coupon) and no promise to have it done by Christmas which was over 3 weeks away (but their policy was to have it done in 2 weeks). Called Hobby Lobby and they did it for me while I waited and the total cost was $30 after a half off coupon! I do like using local folks when I can but I was happy to save a HUGE chunk of change after my art splurge.

      The Etsy artist that I bought from is AMAZING!! She did a custom painting of our 3 calves!! Very similar to this one:×40-inch-original-oil?ref=sr_gallery_24&sref=&ga_search_submit=&ga_search_query=roz+art&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_search_type=handmade&ga_facet=handmade

    • Linda says

      I also agree that it’s well worth visiting a local framing shop. I’ve done it both ways, and found that the local framer ended up either less expensive, or same price, with the Michaels/Hobby Lobbies, and the result from the framer was far more satisfying to me.

    • says

      Thanks to all the commenters — it confirms something I’d been suspicious of (how can Michael’s make a profit on framing if they have a coupon every week?) and after getting a quote there ($170, no glass) I will for sure be checking out other options.

    • Michelle says

      In RVA – Try Ben Franklin before they become AC Moore. I’ve heard nothing but good things about their prices and quality of framing!

    • says

      Have to agree with this Michael’s comment. I own my own custom framing shop – and we ALWAYS beat the big box prices (even with their 50% off coupons). And when we offer a discount it is a REAL discount – not something we raised the price on just to mark it down.

      And I can’t speak for all custom frame shops, but we’re always happy to cut custom archival mats for people that have their own frames. So that’s an easy (very budget friendly) way to get a custom looking job with a frame you already own.

    • says

      We used Michael’s once and they scratched our print and claimed it was scratched when we gave it to them… still annoyed ten years later!

    • Mary A says

      I know Hobby Lobby always runs a 50% off “sale”, so it’s really their everyday price. I suspect Michael’s does the same thing.

    • says

      Ditto. Michael’s= way overpriced on custom framing, even with the coupons. I love your new art. And that you love it! That’s the most important thing.

    • Jen says

      Add another voice to chorus against Michael’s. We were sucked in by the 60% off coupon, and took a very large print in to be framed. They did a horrible job, and we had to take it back 2 more times before they finally did it somewhat correctly (the glass kept popping out of the frame). The first time we brought it back, they accused us of mishandling it and causing the glass to pop out (not true). By the third go-round, however, they were muuuuch more contrite. It was a colossal waste of time; even with the 60% off coupon and a very simple frame it was super expensive; and honestly, if we ever have enough money one day, we want to get the print re-framed because the workmanship isn’t great.

      Re spending some substantial coin on art, I am of the opinion that it’s always worth the indulgence. Years ago I splurged on two original oil paintings by local artists and have never, not even for a microsecond regretted the money I spent. Those paintings make me so happy, and even though I’ll probably never be able to afford to own my own place, they make any rental feel like home to me. Enjoy your art!

    • Aimee says

      Many moons ago, I worked at Michaels. It was a PT Xmas gig that turned into them offering to work around my real job schedule, probably because I am a whiz at cleaning up other people’s messes (I don’t know what’s up with some customers that they think they can walk into a store and trash an aisle; I’m lookin’ at you, jewelry-makers and art students) and my register drawer was rarely short more than a penny or two. No, this did not make me any extra money because, well, it’s Michaels, and hello, employee discount.

      Framing is their bread and butter dept, and it absolutely exploded when archival mats and non-glare glass became the expected norm rather than the odd splurge. I had several prints *done* there and they’ve held up very well.

      But then, even the mgr and asst mgrs were trained in framing at my store and, like floral, it was the other dept where they were interested in retaining FT employees who knew what they were doing. It’s not just simple techniques one learns in art classes to properly frame something and there was a lot of time and training invested for this dept’s employees and its mgmt backups. Quality control was definitely not an issue at the Michaels in which I worked. So either they’ve gone downhill, or some Michaels mgmt aren’t on top of retention and attention when it comes to their framing dept.

      My store mgr would bend over backward to make sure a customer left that framing counter happy. If you weren’t happy, how is he or any other mgmt supposed to know that if all you do is complain anonymously in blog comments after the fact?

      Michaels WILL price-match other stores’ framing specials and/or materials costs, for one. All you do is bring in the competition’s ad and you’re already spending less. There’s always the *negotiation* period before you commit to say *Is that your best price?* or *That’s more than I expected to pay, what can we do to bring the cost down?*. They want satisfied REPEAT business, so even if the kid on the counter hasn’t got the power to give you a discount, mgmt can. And looking at alternatives rather than lunging for something pricey usually ends up with something nicer than you would’ve had in the first place.

      You can also collect your materials elsewhere and just bring them in to have them do the cutting/assembly. Not everything NEEDS a custom frame and archival magic like people seem to think nowadays. I’ve got plenty of large-scale prints that went into standard frames (read: cheap clearance crap or home improvement store moldings/wood embellishments and the magic of spray paint and/or some dry brushing). None of them fit *perfectly* without creative matting and/or trimming of that annoying white border so many prints have. You can do quite well without *custom* work and come in very low on cost. Really, no one can tell that *mat* is a piece of colored poster board or foam board once it’s assembled behind glass and gussied up with paint/stencils/decoupaged paper.

      If what you want framed is small, you can also ask to have a rummage through the scrap mat bin at Michaels. I scored an 8″ x 10″ bit of textured library red for $1. It was perfect for a same-size frame with broken glass into which I wanted to ModPodge and showcase a little Mary Engelbreit puzzle. Someone else had the same size print done in a large frame and this was center cut from that. Never hurts to inquire.

      You also ALWAYS have whomever is waiting on you grab a sheet of paper and jot down the condition of what you’ve brought in. Then you take that with you so that some employee can’t tell you it was *damaged* in some way if it wasn’t. Whip out your phone and take a pic of it on the framing counter as well to show the condition it was in when you dropped it off. Call it framing insurance.

      Finally, if Michaels stuck you with bad quality work, the framing counter (or random blogs) is not the place to complain about it. How many of you asked to see a mgr when returning with less-than-stellar framing work? In my store, I guarantee you would’ve gotten your original price trimmed and refunded just for the inconvenience.

      You don’t just pay out the nose for crappy work and then shrug and accept it! And remember, you’re not just paying for materials; you’re paying for EXPERTISE. Otherwise you’d be home building your own custom frame and bevel-edging your own mat. If it ends up looking like a bad DIY job – which it should not as all Michaels framing dept personnel plus mgmt are trained – demand to see a mgr, because that’s NOT what you paid for. A good store mgr will recognize that and want to pacify you so that you will come back.

      If s/he doesn’t or just tries to offer a coupon for *next time*, then demand corporate contact info. I guarantee the district mgr isn’t going to be happy to be bothered with a problem that should’ve been solved in-store. And that demand will often spur a reluctant mgr into ponying up a discount for a re-do of shoddy work without taking it higher.

      Just some tips for anyone deciding to go the craft store route when framing art.

      As far as Hobby Lobby, you couldn’t pay me to go in there. The owners think because they’re Christians that entitles them to cut women’s reproductive care from the health insurance they offer their few FT employees (Michaels offers it to PT employees and has no crazy restrictions) and have taken their case to court. They lost and are appealing. I won’t hand them my money for the legal fees they’re incurring with this attitude that their predominantly female employees have no say over their own uterus.

    • angel p says

      Oh, I hope it finds it’s way back into your life someday too. I fell in love with a painting in Las Vegas but it was way out of my budget. 8 years later I stumbled across a gallery that was closing and they just so happened to have the exact same painting but now it was 75% off. After I nearly pee’d myself I snatched it right up. It was meant to be!! Here’s hoping yours is meant to be as well.

  4. Sarah says

    Ah man, this is the perfect segue to your “lady is pooping” post. And gotta say the orange in it looks kind of like goldfish at a distance. Very cool image though…fits so nicely.

  5. Jessica says

    Love it, what a great piece and it fits perfectly in that space! I think a framed out chalkboard would look great next to it on the side wall of the fridge too. And did you guys ever think of paneling the side of the pantry and/or fridge? We replaced the cabinets in our kitchen a few years ago and it came with side panels for a finished off look, but i’m sure you guys could make them on your own!

    • says

      Oh yes, those are definitely options we talk about a lot! Just waiting for the cork to go down to see what we think then (since that’ll change the whole room). Should be fun to see where we end up!


  6. Anya says

    Your sweet swimming lady makes me want to get some of my art up on the walls. I have a bunch of art that I need to frame, so your framing suggestions are great. A year or two ago I found a whole stash of US maps that were from the 1700s and 1800s and reprinted in the 1970s (thanks grandparents!). So I need to find some creative way of framing them, especially since the sizes are a bit awkward for normal frames.. Thanks for the inspiration!

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