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Obtaining mats at wholesale prices: Most photo stores and many large retailers will carry a few sizes and very limited colors, but don’t supply volume. They are also expensive. Larger Art supply stores may have very limited selections of mats in volumes of 25 or so at some discount. To get a true wholesale price, scour Internet for companies that cater to smaller vendor. Expect to buy in some volume in order to get best price possible. Fifty or more identical mats will get you into price range that will keep your product competitive. A regular 11 x 14 double mat in a local store will cost $4.50 to $6.00. In volumes less that 200, you should pay $2.50 or less. Be careful of highly discounted mats that are not by major manufacturers such as Crescent and Bainbridge. Some of these are not of equivalent quality, and may warp or discolor quickly or otherwise harm image.
Final note on mats: KEEP IT SIMPLE. Do not try to match every image with a different color combination. A color combination that fits several images quite well will meet your needs much more efficiently. One opening size is better than several. Your cost will be reduced, and those images that do not sell will not saddle you with high or useless inventories of mats.
Backings: You will need a backing for mat and image. The backing completes package and protects image. For regular mats, we recommend manila board or heavier non-corrugated cardboard (for mats 11 x 14 and smaller), and foam core for larger mats. If you use conservation quality mat, your backing MUST be acid-free. Use acid-free mat or acid-free foam core.
To frame or not to frame: In general, do not get heavily into framing for “drop by” market. The customer can pick a frame of their choice if mat is a standard size. Consider having a few framed pieces so customer can see a finished result, and can buy your framed piece if they like. Aluminum “backloader” frames are inexpensive, and very easy to load, as are clip frames. A thorough search of internet will find some high quality wood frames at reasonable prices, and custom sizes are often not much more.
Thin plexi glass (1 mm.) is becoming very popular as a replacement for glass. It is much lighter and being very durable is a big plus. It also provides some solar radiation protection for outdoor events or florescent lighting.
Packaging: A covering of some sort is a necessity. A product made for this purpose is a re-sealable polybag. It protects mat package from elements and dirty fingers, and also gives a very professional appearance. Some ultraviolet protection is built in to all plastics. These bags can sometimes be found in Art supply stores but frequently Internet is only choice.
Shrink-wrapping also works, but requires time and equipment, and is finicky. Shrink-wrapped matted art often has a tendency to bow in hot weather.
Assembly: Tape image to back of mat on one long side only. This allows picture to “breath” under differing atmospheric conditions. Use magic (scotch) tape or something similar. For conservation matting, an acid free tape is mandatory. Photo corners are good, but time consuming. Attaching back to mat is not necessary.
Displays: It should not be necessary to have wire racks or other expensive methods of display your product. A white cardboard box neatly cut can be sufficient if presented well. Many larger communities will have stores specializing in acrylic displays, and you may find ready made ones of right size and shape. Large stationary stores often carry these or may have other cardboard displays to fit your needs. Foam core (3/16”) may be purchased at Art supply stores, and a good utility knife, a glue gun and some imagination can create impressive displays.
How much to charge? A general rule is to add up cost of your mat, image, bag and backing. Add some for labor. If you are going into a show, add a proportional cost for this. Multiply total by 2 to get a ballpark figure. If you sell through a retailer, “norm” is for them to double whatever they pay you to get minimum retail price.
Summary: Selling images in this market is competitive. If your presentation is as good or better than your competitors, then quality and uniqueness of your image will determine outcome. There is a large appetite for well-done photos, artwork and crafts. Keep it simple, keep your costs to a minimum, don’t expect to get rich, and most importantly, enjoy experience.
MatShop has been supplying mat & framing supplies to photo retailers for 10 years & through the WEB for six. Its customers are artists, photographers, crafters & others who require volume purchases of these products. The purpose of the MatShop.com page is to supply information on all products & to suggest how mats & frames can benefit the specific needs of its customers.
In USA visit: www.matshop.com In Canada visit: www.matshop.ca 1-800-663-7501