Thursday, June 19, 2008

Episode 19: How to Cut a Picture Mat

I used to work part-time at a picture frame shop. Three bossy ladies ran the place, though I suppose they were all nice enough. They listened to NPR constantly, so much so that I almost voted Republican just to spite them. When I say "bossy," what I mean is they hired me and basically threw me downstairs where the frame stuff was and said "go to it!" without much training. So I'd turn the saw on and off and chop little pieces of wood and make hammering noises to make it sound like I was doing something but what I was really doing was reading Jude the Obscure. I'd keep one frame in the right angle clamps at all times so if they clomped downstairs, I'd look like I was doing something. Then at the end of the day I'd say "lawzy! I'm exhausted!" and come upstairs and make stretching gestures, clock out and leave. It wasn't a fun job and one time my bike got stolen from right out in front even though the three bossy ladies were up there right in front of the window gabbing nonstop about whatever the hell it was that NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg was in a tizzy about.

I do like to cut mats, though. I learned how in art school and made a little bit of money on the side cutting them for people who didn't like to do it, which was practically everybody. I mention that you can get a mat cutter for around $125 at an art supply store, and I do recommend it. If you've ever gotten mats cut at a frame shop, you'll see that it pays for itself pretty quickly. When your neighbor brings over that picture of a chicken wearing a wig that they picked up at the flea market, you can say "why I'll mat that for you for twenty-five dollars!" And then later, you can silently and mercilessly judge them while you're in your studio, swiping the exacto blades down the metal guides of your new mat cutter.

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