Think back to kindergarten and your first picture frame, proudly put together out of glued Popsicle sticks, some yarn and maybe a splash of glitter.
Voila! Functional art.
DIY picture frames — whether by adults or children — are still the bedrock of meaningful crafts projects. Printing out a photo of a loved one or landscape and displaying it in a frame elevates that image above the ocean of others that we post online or keep tucked away on cell phones and laptops.
Here are some tips on how to make a picture frame out of wood and other materials, from book covers and fabric to those always popular Popsicle sticks.
Ideas and inspirations
New Orleans-based Alyse Rodriguez, 32, began making frames and home decor as a hobby while working as an accountant, but transitioned her Etsy.com store into a full-time studio and business last year.
"I start with inspiration, from travel, my home and my clothes to playing the piano, and amalgamate all that into ideas, the color palettes and pattern design," she said.
Her Color Collection, made of two or three thick pieces of birch plywood glued side-by-side and hand-painted with acrylic paint in lime green, coral and other unusual colors, with the photo secured on top, reflects her bohemian style.
Her new Mali Collection features right-angled frames made of smooth poplar, with a stained finish. Geometric patterns — squiggles, arrows, dots — inspired by African, handmade cotton fabric dyed with fermented mud, called mud cloth, are then screen-printed on the surface.
"The way that I approach wood is like the way an artist approaches a blank canvas," Rodriguez said.
If you're interested in making a right-angled wooden frame — four pieces of wood glued together at the joints and secured with nails or staples — Rodriguez recommends sticking to poplar. It's smooth, lightweight, easy to sand down, and has a fine texture.
Timothy Holton, 58, of Berkeley, Calif., who founded the shop Holton Studio Frame-Makers in 1993, suggests investing in high-quality hardwoods such as cherry, oak and maple.
A table saw is one way to cut the wood; you can buy one at a local woodshop, he said. Or Rodriguez suggests having pieces cut for you at chain stores such as Lowe's and Home Depot that have cutting machines.
Rodriguez, who also quilts, used to make frames out of plywood wrapped in fabric and glued in the back with fabric adhesive, like a fabric-covered book, with the photo on top.
Holding it together
"The simplest frame, if it's really made well, feels compelling and has integrity to it," said Holton.
That makes the process of fitting, gluing and nailing the pieces together important. First use a strong wood glue, such as Titebond, and wait for it to dry.
To hold two pieces together at a perfect right angle to dry, use a miter clamp or other type of frame clamp. A picture frame stapler gun or nail gun are helpful when securing the frame in the back, after gluing.