Thursday, April 27, 2006

Personalizing a Photo Mat

By Christina VanGinkel

My grandson was over yesterday and it has become routine for him to want to look at the pictures of him self and the rest of the family that are in the computer. We will sit together at the computer and I will open any new photo files that I might have. His mother recently gave me a CD filled with older photos of when they were doing a fair amount of travel for work last year. Included in these snapshots was several of my grandson dressed up like a cowboy. His outfit consisted of a big, old cowboy hat and a toy vest with plastic badge and sheriff's rifle. The rifle was a plastic cap gun. When he saw these pictures, he got all excited and started telling me about when his dad bought him the toy play set. He then realized he no longer had it, and he looked somewhat sad. Keep in mind that he is two years old, so I asked him if we should print one of the pictures. As soon as I asked, I realized none of the pictures was really worth printing. Not a one of them was clear, you could not see his face, and they were your typical bad snapshots that you usually just passed over. However, I had asked, and he answered with a big yes. He then informed me that not only should we print one we should frame it!

He had just watched me a few days before frame several pictures, so in his opinion, that was what we needed to do with his picture. I could have just printed it, stuck it into a frame, and left it at that, but I figured if we were going to print and frame it, we might as well do it right. I had a couple of small frames left over from when I just did some framing, and I knew I had a five by seven frame. I decided we would print it as a four by six and make a mat befitting the grandeur of the picture.

With a plan in mind, we printed it and set it aside to dry. I have a common problem when I print pictures. I want to stick them into frames or albums too quickly, and if they are not dry enough, the surface sticks and become damaged. I figured it would take us a bit of time to make our mat all it could be, so we had better print the picture first to allow adequate drying time.

Once the picture was drying, we pulled out the frame and mat, which was a plain wooden affair with a cream-colored mat; perfect for the idea I had forming. I also dug through some scrapbook materials I had bought specifically for pictures of my grandson, but could not find what I was looking for. I decided to run to town to see if I could find what I wanted. First, I stopped in the shed to see if my husband had any rope I could borrow a piece of, and I did find a short piece of regular brown twine, which once I saw it, I knew it would be perfect. I had shared what we were going to do with my grandson and he seemed excited, so off we went.

After our quick shopping expedition, we arrived back at the house and laid the picture under the mat. Then we used several squares of foam in the corners of the mat to make sure that when we placed the mat and picture back into the frame, there would be a bit of space between the two. We needed it to accommodate our decorations. We used the bit of twine to wrap around the mat, making it look like a lasso, but across the bottom of the mat, we made the twine spell his name out, so there would be no questioning who it was in the photographs. (This was perfect because while we all knew who it was in the picture, it was not composed well enough for anyone else to really know). We also had bought a pack of silver sheriff stars (we found them in the aisle by the birthday party supplies) which we used one to place in one corner of the mat. My grandson latched onto the rest of the pack and proclaimed that he was the sheriff. We finished assembling the mat and frame with picture, and when my daughter and son-in-law arrived to pick him up they both loved the picture when he gave it to them.

Decorating a mat in such a manner is a fun way for adults or kids to liven up an otherwise plain mat. We might have been able to shop for a mat and frame that would exemplify the picture, but making it ourselves made it perfect. We were able to personalize it like no purchased frame and mat could ever have done.

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