But Wait, There’s More to this Market?
Okay. I did my research, I determined the kind of Magic art I wanted to buy, I found a sale post I was comfortable with, a price I thought was fair based on the context of what I was buying and the emotions I experienced when looking at the piece. The seller and I agreed on a price, I paid, and at last the art was delivered to my doorstep.
That’s all there is to it, right?
That depends. Some collectors and resellers may be content to leave their new purchase somewhere tucked away where it won’t be damaged by the sun or other environmental factors. Me, on the other hand? I wanted to frame my newly acquired art! This way I could hang it on my wall, proudly displayed for any visitors to see, while also being a design enhancement to the living room. That meant I had to bring my painting to a framer.
I won’t be too extensive here because I admittedly didn’t research framers all that much. I live near a Michaels, a craft store known for selling all sorts of art and craft supplies. They also have an extensive and respectable custom framing department. Since I had worked with Michaels for a custom frame in the past, I was confident they would do a fine job on my new Magic art.
A quick Google search for “custom framing” returned a handful of other possible options: Framebridge, Frame It Easy, Simply Framed, and Hobby Lobby all came up in the search. I suspect most any reputable store would do a fine job, but for this article I will focus on my experience with Michaels. The same principles will apply no matter where you go.
No matter where one shops for custom frames, the options from which to choose are virtually limitless in combination. First, there’s the style of the frame itself. Michaels boasts multiple options in this department.
Within each type of frame, there will be many different color options. When I shopped for my frame, I tried to pick something that flowed well with the artwork. Since Lukamina, Moon Druid is green and themed around nature, I tried to select a naturally looking frame. Therefore, I chose a brownish, natural-wood looking frame. This choice is truly up to the eye of the beholder, and anyone with a savvy eye for design can help select the best match for a given piece of art.
Next, there’s the matte, which is a sheet of cardboard placed on the back of a framed picture, either as a mount or to form a border. I’ve seen some people get really creative with matte colors; the Demolish art that’s currently for sale in the MtG Art Market Facebook group uses a textured, metallic-looking “matte” that really pops.
Others prefer a colorless (white or off-white matte) so as not to conflict with the colors of the piece. It really depends on the art in question and the owner’s personal opinion. Personally, I went with an off-white matte for Lukamina so that the colors of the piece would not have to compete with the matte. It also worked well with the muted color of the wall I was planning to hang the painting on.
It’s also worth noting that if one is framing a black and white sketch, then a little color from the matte may be a worthwhile consideration. The owner of the Kithkin Billyrider and Urborg Scavengers sketches recently shared their final, framed pieces, and the colors really add a nice touch to the art!
Between matte and frame, there must be millions of possible combinations.
After I received the package containing the Lukamina art, I excitedly opened it up to view the contents and marvel at my first ever piece of Magic art. Also enclosed with the art itself was a nice little thank you card written by the artist.
When I opened up the thank you card, I discovered yet another consideration I had not understood up until that moment:
As someone who has never owned a painting before, I admittedly had no clue what this meant. Did I have to varnish my piece in order to preserve it? If I have to apply varnish, do I have to wait 9 months? Does this mean I can’t frame the piece until then? What is Gamvar?!
While in the midst of this micro-crisis, I reached out to a Twitter contact I had been talking with about art: Phil Li (@ThePheylop). He had helped answer dozens of questions I had about Magic art up until this point, and he was quick to alleviate my stress with this new development.
Phil instructed me that varnish tends to brighten colors and add gloss to a painting, while also serving as a protective coat for the paint surface. I asked if I needed to varnish my Lukamina painting, and if Michaels would know it’s not varnished and would treat it accordingly. Phil reassured me that they will be able to tell it’s not varnished, and since it’s going behind glass it doesn’t change much. Michaels did offer three different kinds of glass (yet another choice to make!) so I used that opportunity to ask for one that would protect the painting from sunlight.
With all my decisions made, I handed over my credit card and eagerly waited for the frame to be ready…
…and waited…and waited some more. It turns out, the custom framing process can be a lengthy one! After paying, Michaels quoted four weeks for turnaround time and it took every day of that time for them to call me. I asked Phil about the slow timeline, and he reassured me that custom frames can indeed take this long. Apparently art timelines are long!
Then I was faced with yet another decision. After handing over the receipt, the Michaels store clerk instructed me to leave the painting with him while I waited for the custom frame to be completed.
What?! I have to leave this valuable, unvarnished, and vulnerable piece of artwork with a random Michaels employee for four weeks? That idea did not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, and I voiced as much. Maybe a collector who owns a dozen pieces is used to this kind of workflow, but I worked hard to find and purchase a piece! I didn’t want to receive the painting in the mail only to hand it over to someone else for a month!
Luckily, the clerk was willing to compromise. He informed me that I would be allowed to take the painting back home with me as long as I was prompt with returning it to Michaels when the custom frame was ready. I’d also have to wait 30 minutes in the store while they installed the painting in the frame and closed it up. I consented to this offer, and everything progressed smoothly from there.
I had no idea that framing a piece of original Magic art would be such an elaborate process. In hindsight, it makes sense that all these decisions would require consideration—choosing the right frame, matte color, and wall to hang the painting all brings out the best in the artwork. The process should not be taken lightly.
What surprised me even more were the other aspects of the framing process I could not have anticipated: the varnish question and the timeline. After going through the custom framing process once, I’ll be better prepared for these steps and more confident in my decisions. For those who are brand new to the framing process, however, hopefully my experiences will provide a little preparation for what to expect.
Like all aspects of the Magic art market, this custom framing process is not nearly as simple as it seems.