What’s the best gift you’ve ever given?

You’ve been at the mall for hours now, mindlessly strolling through the merchandise trying to find a gift that actually means something for someone you truly care about. You’re constantly second guessing yourself and the whirl and bustle of preoccupied shoppers with bags overflowing with gifts is starting to make your head spin. You don’t want to be underwhelming but you also don’t have thousands of dollars to burn. Last year was a total bust, what seemed to be right wasn’t, the half smiles and luke warm hugs are still fresh in your memory. You stagger for the doors, lost in a maze of Holiday SALE banners and the stench of over priced perfume clings to your nostrils and the back of your throat. You hit the exit doors like a drunk at last call, the cold air shocking your clammy face. That was your third try, still no luck.  What are you going to do?

Have you ever felt like this? I know I have, buying the right gift for someone special during the holidays can be a lot of pressure. You want to be thoughtful, cost conscious, and make yourself and that special person happy. Have you ever considered the gift of custom framing? Not only does it meet all the criteria of a great gift,  it’s also something that creates a bond between the gift giver and the recipient. Maybe its a collection of treasured family photos for mom, preserved and displayed for a lifetime. A shadow box of grandmas keepsakes from years ago. Concert ticket stubs from that first date with the love of your life. A collection of photos and tiny fuzzy reminders of that day you brought your new baby home from the hospital. The possibilities are endless. The end result is much more than a gift, its a preserved memory, a moment in time that can be revisited over and over, proudly and prominently displayed for all to see.

Here at Anthology Fine Art we want to help you give the best gift you’ve ever given. With years of experience, expert design advise, reasonable prices, and a lifetime warranty on your framing, we promise that this year your gift will make the impression that you want it to. Leave your worries behind, we can make it happen.  For more inspiration:  anthologyfineart.com.

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Small Business is the American Dream

We all know that we live in difficult times. So many factors we can’t control have such a bearing on our day-to-day lives. The housing market is down, the economy seems to always be on the brink, and the federal government can’t  get anything done. All we have to do is turn on TV, go on-line, or listen to the radio and we are reminded of the dreary state of things. With all of this negativity surrounding us it’s hard to keep a positive attitude. Just five years ago the American Dream was alive and well but today it seems as though it is dead. I’m here to tell you that this is not true. The American Dream is alive and well.

A few short years ago my wife, Kendra, and I were busy creating a business plan to open our own Custom Picture Framing and Portrait Photography business. The housing bubble had just burst like a ripe pimple and the economy was in a death spiral. We knew the risk but were undaunted, if we weren’t moving forward we were in a free fall of fear.  It was something that we both always wanted to do and part of why I love her so much; she always pushes me to “dream big” and “take chances”. This was our time and we were confident we could make it work together. To make along story short we found a store front  at 635 Santa Fe Drive, in the heart of the ArtDistrict in our beautiful Mile High City. We opened the doors in August of 2010 with our  hearts full of hope and a drive for success that burned white-hot. Every foot through the door was a reason to celebrate and every new client was a new friend. The roller-coaster had just begun and we were happy to be in the first car with our hands high. We have had the chance to get to know the other small business owners around us riding that roller-coaster as well and quickly realized that we all shared a similar vision of the American Dream. We also realized how fragile that dream can be on every slow day when the phone doesn’t ring and the door doesn’t open. We know that without the support and nurturing of the community our American Dream will die. I would like to give you all some reasons why you should support the small businesses in your community and keep the American Dream alive.

1. Keep your money in your neighborhood. Studies have proven that locally owned small businesses put up to 70% more money  back into their local communities than chain stores do, per square foot occupied.

2. Make you neighborhood unique. The places that we shop, the places we eat and hang-out define our neighborhoods. The character of our neighborhoods change when chain stores set up shop. It makes us less unique and more like everywhere else.

3. Get the best service. You know your neighbors behind the counter at your local small businesses, and they know you. They take the time to get to know your needs, have a deep knowledge and understanding of the products they are selling so that they can serve you better.

4. Create and keep good jobs. Your locally owned small businesses are the largest source of employment nationally, and are responsible for the vast majority of job growth. Small businesses are less likely to out-source jobs or to leave their communities and take jobs with them.

5. Promote Diversity and healthy competition.  A healthy population of small businesses all selecting products based on the needs of their customers and not a national sales plan, creates a broader range of choices for local consumers.

6. Help protect the environment. Locally owned businesses are more likely to buy locally which requires less transportation. They are also more likely to set up shop in commercial corridors rather than the fringes of communities. This means less sprawl, congestion, habitat loss, and pollution.

7. Support local charities. Local community groups and non-profits receive an average of 350% more support for the locally owned businesses compared to non-locally owned businesses.

8. Better use of tax dollars. Small neighborhood businesses make better use of public services and require a substantially smaller infrastructure investment than huge nationally owned stores entering the community.

9. Stimulate the local economy. If every household in your community redirected just $50-100 dollars of their planned holiday spending to locally owned merchants the positive impact on the local economy would be in the millions. Washington isn’t going to get that done but you can.

10. Invest in your community. Local small business owners and their employees live and work in your community. They are invested with much more than just their dollars.

With the holidays approaching and preparations being made to give thanks and celebrate with our loved ones, I ask you; what will you do to help keep the American Dream alive. On behalf of the small business community in your neighborhood I thank you for your support. Small Business Saturday is November 26th.

Zach Custer.


60% off what?

Have you ever wondered about the 60% off framing sales you see running all the time at the big framing and craft stores? I know I have, as a small business framer I often wonder how can you afford to discount your product 60% so often and still be profitable? The answer is simple – you mark everything up by 60%! I did a little undercover work the other day and found out some interesting things.

I glued on my fake mustache and slid on my spy glasses to go and see what was up.  I took along a print that I really like and had the folks at the big stores give me some prices.  I knew what I wanted – a simple double mat with a nice contemporary black frame so I figured it would
be pretty easy for the sales person to walk me through the design process.  I explained to the gentleman that the print was valuable and I wanted it well-preserved.  He looked at the print and said to me; “blue… black… red… should be an easy kill”.  Now, I know the blue, black and red part was in reference to the colors in the composition but the “easy kill” part kind of threw me off. Was that a Steven Seagal reference?  Does he know I’m a spy?.  He proceeded to walk me to the ready-made frame section.  I asked him if these frames would keep my art well-preserved.  ”Oh so you want custom ” he said and walked me back to the counter.  He pulled out a blue top mat and red suede bottom mat and made a quick gesture to the wall where the black frames hung.  I told him I would prefer a crisp white top mat and an 1/8 of an inch or so of the red bottom mat, it didn’t need to be the red suede mat that he had pulled because it would be so small.  He grabbed another red mat from the sample bin and a random white mat for the top realizing that this might not be an “easy kill” after all.  I walked over to the black frame samples and pulled a couple that I thought would be appropriate. I set one on the top of  the samples and asked for his opinion.  ”Looks pretty good”, he says as he starts to measure the art. I told him that I measured the art at home and wanted an 11×14 opening with three inches of mat so that I could cover some of the graph paper at the top and bottom, but still show as much of the pattern as possible.  He told me that he thought an 11×13 window with 5 inches of mat was needed. I started my framing career at a similar store some 10 years ago and I know this isn’t his fault; he is just up selling me, which is what he was trained to do.  I grabbed another tape measure and proceeded to show him what I meant.  He said that was fine if that’s what I wanted and adjusted the measurements in his computer.  After a few more minutes of hammering away at the key board and clicking the mouse periodically he turns to me and says “$179.06″.  I asked if that reflected the 60% off  discount he said that it did. “$447.65 is the price before the discount”.  I told him that I needed some time to think it over and asked for a quote which he printed for me.  I thanked him for his time and walked away. I went on to a couple more places and had similar experiences, under trained staff rushing me through the design process, little explanation as to what I was getting, and in the end a huge discount off a huge price.

Now I get it.  $179.06 is a reasonable (full) price but $447.65 is HIGH, REALY HIGH!  Keep in mind that this piece (finished) was around 16×20 inches and I wasn’t asking for any bells and whistles just that I would like it to be well-preserved.  I didn’t get much more than a, “Yes it will be,” for an explanation but I will admit I didn’t force the issue.  I assume that meant archival mounting and I did ask if the glass was U.V. protecting and he said that it was. I think that if you are about to drop nearly $200 dollars on something you should know what it is you’re getting.  I do not fault the sales associate, he was probably just seasonal help, and I could tell he wasn’t trying to make this his career but, for me it is a career and I am passionate about it.  I think that it is misleading to consumers to advertise 60% off of such an inflated price.  I assume when someone gets there receipt and it says that they just saved $268.59 they feel pretty good about the purchase, and might even treat themselves to a nice lunch with all the money saved.  In reality, they didn’t save anything. I priced out a comparable design here at Anthology Fine Art and the full price was $170.30 with our Holiday Sale the price was $143.37.

Here at Anthology Fine Art we promise expert design and top shelf customer service.  We care about the framing we do for our customers because it defines us as a business. We may not always be able to beat 60% off prices but we promise not to mislead you.

Clyfford Still Museum

It’s a rare opportunity when someone asks you to construct and stretch a twelve by eight foot canvas.  We were fortunate enough to be challenged and to now be on the other side of it.

It’s also not everyday that you have a chance to paint on something that big.  They looked like they were having a great time.  Hmm, maybe we should do it again.

The new Clyfford Still Museum opens next week!  We can’t wait to see the work that inspired this enormity.

Framed Wedding Invitation

Some wedding invitations are too pretty to throw away.  If it’s your own or you saw first hand how much they cost or what it took to find “the perfect one” it’s even more understandable that a girl might want to keep it on her wall for eternity.

The custom mat cut on this was a great way to dress up a classic invite.  It was finished with a Larson Juhl frame from their Mantilla collection

It’s a great gift that she never thought to register for.  And as an added bonus, picture framing their wedding invitation giver her husband a constant reminder of their anniversary.


Public Recognition


It’s always nice to get recognized for doing the things you love, especially by a really popular Denver Magazine.  Multi opening mat boards can present a challenge in that they often leave odd gaps in the mat.  Problem solved, with our computerized mat cutter we were able to add the restaurant logo and a french line to tie everything together.  Congratulations Il Posto!  Custom framing your accolades to hang inside your business is a great way to remind your customers of why they keep returning.

The Graduate

If you went to preschool, on to elementary, middle and high school, you’ve already spent a good chunk of time committed to learning.  Tack on a bachelors and graduate school and even if you live to be ninety, you’ve spent nearly a third of your life in school.  When it’s all said and done, you’re left with a diploma, or four, that may or may not ever see the light of day.  Custom framing your diploma is a great way to display your achievements .

This diploma is a law degree, framed in a contemporary metallic wood frame and elegant silk mat.  The great thing about custom framing a diploma is that you can choose nearly any style and color scheme you like.  This customer choose to have the piece incorporate to her personal style, rather than that of the University of Denver.

She sells sea shells….

Most people have to buy sand dollars to have one this beautiful.  A client did actually find this and decided to frame it to commemorate the vacation and the incredible luck.  It’s a small piece, for extra pop and to make sure no reflections would distract, Tru Vue Museum Glass was used.  Through an anti-reflection glazing, Museum Glass provides a nearly invisible finish and is ideal for preserving one-of-kind items or shadowboxes like this one where the art is set back.

Framed Paintings Just Look Better


A client brought us this amazing commissioned painting. He needed it to be a little larger to fit the space he and his wife wanted to put it in. We chose a frame from Larson Juhl’s Catalina line and a nice crisp white liner to create some separation from the art and the frame. The results are obvious. Not only did we achieve the desired size but we also created an elegant presentation that highlights the paintings warmth. Next time you purchase a painting remember that a well framed painting is much better than just a naked canvas.

Wall Album


After my son was born, I swore I would make an album every year with my favorite photos to commemorate all the milestones.  I made one and now he’s four.  I still plan to get there, but I am a picture framer to my core so somehow I mange to get framed photos on the wall.  As much as I enjoy dragging out the albums several times a year and looking at them with the family, I get daily pleasure from the family photos on the wall.

This piece was done for a couple that have been married for 40 years and now have five grandchildren.  The families live all over the country but manage to get together once a year.  The photos were compiled from those meetings as well as from the day to day.  Multi openings such as these have a tendency to get big, which is part of the appeal, and therefor can seem cluttered.  A natural solution is to have all your photos printed in black and white or sepia tone.  The design was laid out and cut on the Wizard 9000 which was also used to add the kids’ names and birthdays.  I chose to make some of the windows rounded and some rectangular to customize it a bit more.

The beauty of a multi opening like this is that the pictures could easily be swapped out in a few years to resemble the changes in the family.  My guess is that grandma will choose to just make another one.