Let me tell you about the first large-scale important (to me) piece of art that I ever purchased.
I was 25, living in New York, bar-tending, dog-walking, working retail at Jonathan Adler and paying $1200 a month for rent which left me approximately $600 for other expenses. Art, or any large purchases, weren’t really an option. I was buying underwear at the dollar store and taking the subway home by myself at 4am after shifts because that $35 cab ride was expensive (remind me to never let my single blonde daughter live in New York when she is 24 – I mean, I was fine, but looking back, I was a bit “independent” – read ‘reckless’). Maybe I was assistant styling at that point, I’m not sure. All I know is that $400 wasn’t something I could swing for a piece of art, but I saw this weird painting and wanted it so hard:
It’s not for everyone, I realize. But it made me so happy and engaged. Its whimsical with a pulled back color palette. It’s roughly 30″x50″ – so its pretty big and I knew it could be ‘that piece’. The dealer told me that it was painted by soldiers around the Vietnam war, presumably on acid as this is clearly some sort of Beatles ‘Yellow Submarine’ homage.
I loved everything about it – the story, the scale, the composition, how it was graphic and yet handmade at the same time. It had so much nuance and energy. Plus there is that amazing eyeball. The whole thing was and is totally fantastic. But $400 wasn’t doable. So I left the flea market and didn’t stop thinking about it for weeks. I went back 3 weeks later and it was still there. The fact that someone hadn’t gobbled it up is insane to me because let me tell you something about art – good, original, large-scale art is EXPENSIVE. It’s a struggle with every client – it’s the hardest thing to find. But I wanted it so bad, so I offered $200 or $250 (I don’t remember) and the dealer said yes.
Here’s a tip for anyone looking to barter at the flea market – just show them how much you LOVE the piece, and that you’ll give it a good home and you’ll get a better deal. No dealer wants a dick to own something that they shopped for, purchased, carefully packed up, and schlepped around every sunday just to schlep it back home if the right buyer wasn’t there. I think the dealer could tell that the painting would make me happier than it would make most people, so while $250 was a big reduction, I like to think that he is proud of what he did. Hardcore flea market barterers annoy the hell out of me. Its uncomfortable and insulting for everyone involved.
Of course I had to schlep it home on the subway, which was a teensy bit dramatic since it was so big, but I got it home and it was mine. At the time it had no glass or plexi and it had a really broken wooden frame. Convinced I could fix the frame (and knowing that I couldn’t afford to have it properly framed) I decided to at least buy it some plexiglass to help elevate it ($80, I think). It didn’t work. It warped forward and fell out of the frame since it and the frame were so thin.
Then as we were planning on leaving New York and moving to LA and I debated selling it at our garage sale but it still really spoke to me and I still loved it. Every time I looked at it I got happy and I could picture its success in a space. I just didn’t have that space yet. So I packed it up and shipped it with the very few things I kept. It was probably like $100 to ship cross-country in that oversized box. Whoops. Man, it’s adding up.
photo by Teri Lyn Fisher
So, we get to LA and I found a spot in our tiny one room studio/guest house in Santa Monica that we rented from friends. I put it up (that’s the original frame, above) and shot it for a test shoot with Terilyn Fisher. Sorry, its blurry because I had to search on google for like 5 hours for this and finally I did, but it was low res. P.S. Can you believe how long I’ve had that vintage floral pillow? Since 2005!!! Thats insane. I still love it as much as I did the day that I sewed it from vintage yardage.
But then we realized that you don’t HAVE to live two people to a 1 room studio in LA, no matter how charming it was, so we packed up and moved – bringing Sir. Blimp, of course. Meanwhile 2 years later I ended up making over that studio in an episode of my show (RIP) Secrets From a Stylist. (Please ignore the lack of photo formatting – it was 2 blog platforms ago and it gets pretty ugly that long ago).
Anyway, we moved to Los Feliz and I attempted to ‘Blimp’ again. Broken frame and all – you just can’t tell in the photos. So here is was, 5 years post purchase:
Photo by Teri Lyn Fisher
It was fine, but kinda meh on that wall color and in that space. I mean, that whole space is ‘meh’. Then I left for DesignStar and when I returned, I insisted on painting all walls a CRAZY POP OF COLOR – COLOR! COLOR! COLOR!!!!!!
Most of you haven’t been on a design reality show I’m presuming but upon your return you are kinda messed up – unable to relate to anyone, life feels soooo boring, and every wall simply must be donned with a BRIGHT SATURATED COLOR!!!!! Read that post if you want to really make fun of me.
I appreciate my risk taking, but I could also use an advil just looking at it. Or a Zanex. Or a blindfold. Truth is it was actually kinda awesome in a way, but we had a small space and it was so jarring that I think I painted over it a couple of weeks weeks. Calm down, blue wall. Shhhhhh.
The saga continues: still awake?
In our next rental house I decided not to ‘Blimp’. We didn’t really have the large wall space and it started looking really dirty to me. When we moved into this house, 9 months ago, I kinda felt the same way. I remember thinking ‘maybe I can get an artist to trace it on pretty white paper’ because it was so dingy and brown.
When it came to design the living room in the new house I realized that I didn’t want a gallery wall in there – I wanted it to feel more quiet, simple and intentional; remember this was the art direction. I wanted a few well-appointed, large-scale pieces of art in the living room, then I’d do the gallery in the dining and family rooms. So I pulled the blimp out of storage and reassessed my love for it.
Thats me, actively assessing said love. It’s important that when one is assessing something that you wear no makeup and purse your lips in a way that makes you look like you wear dentures. I tried to blur out my face in photoshop as if I were a background person in a reality show that hadn’t signed the release forms, but alas I have no idea how to do that. Maybe that is something a fancy graphic designer could do (or literally anyone who graduated from college post 2005).
Here’s what I told myself – you either commit and invest, or its time to donate. Its been 10 years and it was a big hoard. Time to pony up or go home. I was torn, but Scott, Brady and Ginny reminded me of my love for it and we decided to give this weirdo the wall space (and importance) it deserved.
So, I took it to Tim at Curve Line Space in Eagle Rock. There are a lot of good framers out there, but Tim is good to me – he has good taste, can turn art around fast (don’t tell him I told you that, he might just do that for frequent shoppers) and if you are someone who frames pieces often with him, he’ll give you a good price. Plus he’s in the neighborhood and he’s not a big old chain full of poorly trained framers. He cares.
Here were the things I had to think about when framing Sir. Blimp:
1. Did I want him to try to restore it (which would be WAY more money)? I decided that I wanted it to look like a relic – that it was found. So while he did put a piece of cream paper behind that big rip, we didn’t try to get the tape marks out or anything. Why try to make it look new when it just isn’t?
2. Did I want it matted like a window where the art is behind the mat, or floating on top of the mat? I wanted to see the ripped/water marked edges so I chose the float. Also just generally floating is always more fun.
3. How many inches of matting? I wanted big, like 5″ all the way around. Tim was on the fence about that, but he agreed and then agreed that it looks really good when he was finished. I just figured that I had this huge wall to fill so I may as well make sure it feels proportioned to the wall. So we added 12″ in width and height (including the frame) so it ended up being like 72″ x 50″. HUGE.
4. Obviously I had to choose style and profile, but I wanted it to be a. cheap (It wasn’t, but you know, not Charlie’s freshmen college tuition) and b. simple and modern. Many people would have chosen a black frame to help bring out the black in the painting, but I wanted the painting to pop out on its own and not have a big black box distracting my eye. My eye gets VERY distracted VERY easily.
Photo by Brittany Ambridge, C/O Domino Magazine
So there he is, folks – commanding that wall, teasing me with his fantastical whimsy. Being perfect all the way around. (Of course now we’ve changed the living room a lot, but check out this post for resources and stay tuned for the new updated living room).
Ready for your close-up Mr. Blimpy?
The framing ended up being $800, which ain’t nothing, but frankly you have VERY few inexpensive options when framing something so big. You could DIY it, like Orlando and I did for this piece of art – but that was a canvas that didn’t really even need a frame. Blimpy was a thin piece of paper that had been spray mounted on a thin piece of foam core (by me – big mistake). So it needed a proper frame. Ready to do the math? (#killme). The piece was $250 (or $200), bad plexi was $80, shipping was $100 and reframing was $800 = $1230. Part of me is nauseous and part of me knows that clearly its a piece I care about. It reminds me of my 20’s in New York. It reminds me of some dudes, hopefully having fun painting it while in or recovering from Vietnam. It reminds me that sometimes my obsessions are deserved.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Whats the lesson here – spend $800 framing a $200 piece of art? Nay. I guess the lesson is (need there be a lesson?) that sometimes it takes years to properly invest and appreciate something you love, but when you love something so much, when you bring them with you as you move 5 times, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about splurging. Easier said than, done, I know. But in this case doing a cheap framing job would have been criminal. Remember the Oregon poster that I did in my guest room? Well that one was a print (many people have it) at $54, so it wasn’t something I wanted to spend too much on. GRANTED, I spent $300 on the framing, but I wouldn’t have spent $800. That wouldn’t have made sense.
But Sir. Chancellor Blimpy Von Henderson … now he deserves to be on that wall, looking like that.
Geez. That turned into quite the personal epic story. Thanks Tessa Neustadt for taking those pretty ‘after’ photos.
Do you approve? What is the most you spent on framing? Do you have a piece that you are really sentimental about? Do dish …