Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Can Mat (Almost), Can You?

Not too long ago I attended a camera club session on how to mat photos. The process was fairly straightforward: Measure the photo or picture, measure the size of the frame, cut the mat to fit the frame, then cut the opening to frame the centered photo. The instructors told me they'd only have to show me once, and I'd have the knowledge of the process forever. (Note: I now believe they were all physicists with extremely nimble brains and spatial memory/understanding that gave them the ability to twirl imagined objects inside their heads; but I digress).

Simple enough: Buy a mat cutter, get some mats, and start framing all the stuff I have stockpiled in the guest room closet. I set up a charming workspace with a sunny view of my backyard chickens at play. I soon learned that my table wasn't big enough, my straightedges were all too short, and that I still suffer from the same old spatial disorganization that showed up in my early elementary school standardized tests.

It took me a good part of a day and a lot of really spectacular language to produce the framed work above. I ruined the other half of the mat by getting the measurements wrong more times than I'd like to admit. Who knew that sweet little quilted measuring tape from Etsy was so, well, inaccurate--at least in my hands and for this purpose. You see, the mat curved when dangling over the edge of the inadequate (but really nicely refinished) antique table, making for wildly varying measurements. I figure that this is something those physicists know all about--curved planes being a different length from straight ones, or something like that. I measured twice and three times, indeed, with all sorts of results.

With the last piece of nearly-correct sized mat available, I then aligned the angled cutter in the wrong direction for the correct bevel of the interior mat cut, because I was cutting from the back side and couldn't rearrange the thing in my mind to make the angled cut correctly. I still used the mat, secret underneath bevel and all.

So, there you have it. A flawed piece, for sure, but I'm still pretty proud of it. The picture is the cover of a Tahitian-themed restaurant menu from Texas back in the 1940s or 1950s, which I bought at an estate sale for 50 cents. The frame was from a charity resale shop and cost $1.00. I brushed on some leftover semi-gloss paint in a nice shade of blue; unhappily, the desert wind was blowing hard that day, so the frame has a colorful but distressed finish. The mat was the most expensive part (as long as we don't discuss the cost of the mat cutter) at $7.99, because I assumed it was still 40% off at the hobby store and it wasn't.

And that's how I learned a little about how to mat and a lot about expressive language and the physics of space and time, all in one day.


Jean (aka Auntie Bucksnort) said...

It looks beautiful to me! We're always our worst critics. I think you were very brave. In no time at all it'll be second nature.

Will you teach me? I have a zillion things to be matted. Do they sell small pieces of matte board or just the full sheets?

Jean (aka Auntie Bucksnort) said...

p.s. What a beautiful photograph on your homepage!

clairz said...

I'm glad you like the header photo, Auntie. I have a print of it now and plan to mat it, too. "Mat" is how you spell the word for this application, by the way. It doesn't seem right, but there you have it.

Yes, they do sell smaller pieces of mat board, usually all precut, including the opening. But come on down - I am producing mat board scraps at an alarming rate!

JC said...

You got a talent there.
I pay people to do that stuff. lol
Maybe you can start a mini business.


Sylvia K said...

Looks terrific to me, too, Clairz!! Surely better than I could do!! Hope your week is going well!!

Joyful said...

I think your matting looks pretty good. It's the cropping of the photo that isn't straight (JK). All kidding aside, I also don't like to cutting things as I often (accidentally) move the measuring tool I am using and cut a crooked piece. So I go very carefully (and still make mistakes). I hope you continue to do your matting and get enjoyment out of it. It is always nice to learn new skills. But don't be too hard on yourself because you did great!

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Could I send you some of my photos to be matted? ;>)!!

clairz said...

Ha ha, Sallie, so funny. I actually made two cuts this morning that were just where I wanted them, but then I had to rest.

Kate said...

Claire, you have many talents and I just discovered the latest...comedy. Great post!

becky said...

Nice job Clair. I could use this skill. I have a print still rolled up & no mat/no frame to put it in. Hmmm.... I think I'll have someone else do it!