Friday, January 20, 2012

I Wuz Framed, I Tell Ya!

Right after the bank where I worked closed in December I went out and got a job in a frame shop. Overall it's not a bad place to work, but it's only part time and of course there are no benefits. Definitely not something I could live on long-term. But enough about those woes.

What I find interesting about the job is when people bring in their art to be framed and matted. I will pull out our samples of available mat colors and without fail at least 85% of the customers will choose a red mat.

Not just any red, mind you. They invariably pick out the brightest, most garish arterial spray crimson that's commercially available. Red that is so bright I instinctively hold it away from my privates because I suspect it may be radioactive. This overwhelming partiality toward red mats is fascinating to me.

When I was in art school it was hammered into my brain ad infinitum that mats should be somewhat subdued and focus attention on the art. Mats should make the art stand out; compliment it if you will. Red mats do not compliment the art. Red mats are the visual equivalent of a five year old child endlessly yelling, "Mom! MOM! MOMMA! HEY, MOM! Look at me, Mom! Are you looking? MOM!"

I honestly don't know why they even make red mat board. I can't think of a single instance in which a red mat would be appropriate. Maybe, just maybe if you had a photo of an awkward teen who wasn't easy to look at and you wanted to draw attention away from their greasy hair and clotted pores. Or perhaps it might look good around an original John Wayne Gacy clown painting hung in the torture pit of a serial killer's basement. Other than that, I got nothing.

When a customer proudly selects a red mat and then asks me what I think, I'm not coy. I tell them the truth. I tell them that if they pick a red mat then everyone in their bridge club is going to stare at that and ignore their artwork. Most of them instantly get it, as I see a wave of horrified realization pass across their face. I can then recommend something more subdued and tasteful to them, and they leave happy.

Every now and then though, there'll be a customer who's adamant about their choice and, knowing when I'm defeated, I shrug and cut their red mat for them. They then proudly leave the store, squinting and blinking as the full fury of their bright red mat stings their eyes.


  1. as the guy on CSI: Miami would say:

    it sounds like...*puts on sunglasses*'ve been framed.

  2. this is your chance to make an executive decision... HIDE THE RED MATS, so they are forever removed from the bad choice equation !


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