Thursday, December 29, 2011
why i frame
"What made you get into framing?"
I have been asked that question a lot lately--probably over a dozen times in the last two weeks--so I thought I'd broadcast my answer.
It is totally by accident that I became a framer.
I was working at some other place, some huge retailer, and very literally I received a phone call from a friend who asked me to join him as a custom framer. He had just signed up with a startup picture framing superstore, and was in charge of recruiting a staff for a new location a few miles from my North Jersey apartment. This friend and I had worked together for many years previously, so he knew I wasn't a total flake. This startup company offered a decent salary and unprecedented benefits.
But my response was something like..."You mean I'd be cutting glass and stuff? Ummm, let me think about that... NO."
I couldn't imagine anything for which I was less suited.
But you know what, I took a weekend and thought about it. I talked a lot to Mr. Fatale about it. And I decided that I really didn't like where I was with my other job, and at least I wouldn't be losing anything by trying something new. I called my friend and accepted the position as an entry level framer.
My first day on the job I was trained to do the finishing on fitted pieces by an old-timey framer. He showed me how to properly put the wire on the back of the finished frame. I learned the placement of the hardware, securing the knot, and how to wrap the wire from this seasoned senior. "Make sure to not to leave any space between the coils when you wrap the wire--make it nice and tight. You need to go beyond what the customer even expects. And I don't just mean that about framing. I mean that about all things in life."
So I learned to swell with pride in the product I was producing--something of a shift in attitude from just trying to get through the day at my previous job.
And then I learned to cut glass, mats, wood + metal frames, while simultaneously getting a crash course in conservation, art handling, and most importantly, design.
And I will tell you, in my first month I was totally hooked. Obsessed. I began dreaming about framing (still to this day I often solve framing problems in dreams). I loved every part of it. I loved the math! The layout! Using T-squares and splitting fractions! And the design aspect was exciting to me, too! fillets + raised mats + painted bevels + rice paper--there was so much to learn and I was devouring it all! I borrowed trade magazines from work and read them at home. I examined framing everywhere I went: restaurants, hotels, museums, dinner parties (sorry friends).
It was a joy to come to work. I'd spring out of bed in the morning excited to tackle the challenging projects that waited for me. No joke.
But you know what I liked most of all? That I saw people every day who brought me their most cherished possessions. I saw their amazing art, heard their wonderful stories, and made real and important connections with people through the things that they value enough to preserve and display.
Now I've been framing for 13 years. I have framed everything from a taxidermy bat to a letter handwritten by George Washington. Last week I framed everything from a vintage matchbook to a memorial shadowbox for a fallen WWII soldier. It. never. gets. old.
There you have it.
Posted by Elaine Johnson at 12:24 PM