My husband and I are about to end our 34th year in business together as owners of our gallery and custom framing studio. We have experienced every economic upturn and downturn though the years, as well as the many different trends in styles and colors that changed through the decades.
We have also experienced the changing demographic of our clients, starting relationships with many of them when their children were toddlers and primary school age, and seeing those children grow into adults who have finished college and started their own families.
It is kind of astonishing to work in a field that you love for more than three decades, but there is one aspect that is especially rewarding.
As a framer, you get to see many different kinds of projects.
There are the “routine” prints and paintings…”regular” artwork that is often wonderful, and we are happy to design solutions to enhance and protect them so they can be enjoyed.
What has always tugged at my heartstrings have been the more unusual projects that have NO intrinsic value, but great meaning for those who want to save them.
I have favorite stories.
One day in a very hot Brooklyn summer, a very pregnant and clearly overwhelmed new client came to visit the gallery to look at art for her husband. It was a significant anniversary and she was clearly frazzled.
What she admitted was that he had everything he wanted and didn’t NEED anything, which makes the process of trying to find something very difficult.
As she cooled down, I asked her a question: How did they meet?
I never expected her to say, “In a lunch line.”
They had both gone to Harvard, and there was a local spot where they met in line.
I started asking more questions, and soon I learned that this particular place functioned with tickets; you bought tickets, and used them as currency.
I asked what the name of the place was, and if the place still existed, but before she even answered, I saw the future. I jumped up and started getting directory information for Cambridge (We have been in business since before home and small business computers were ubiquitous, so no Googling!).
I got the phone number for the restaurant and phoned, right then and there. When someone answered, I asked whether they still used meal tickets. They said that they did. I told the sweet story, and asked if they would be able to mail us two meal tickets. They said that they would be delighted.
Our client was quite stunned at how a rabbit had been pulled out of a hat right before her eyes. She was VERY happy.
The meal tickets arrived, we framed them, and her husband, who was remarkably successful and needed nothing, was very, very moved. It brought everything back to their beginning together.
And to think, custom framing did that!
Another favorite was an expired passport that held all of the places that a couple had been on their honeymoon…before the EU stopped stamping passports between countries. Our assistant hand painted drawings of Paris, Big Ben, animals from a visit to Africa… and the different modes of transportation between cities and countries on their trip. We used map tacks to mount the accordion-like pages and a shadowbox allowed them to have dimension as though you could fly, drive, or take the train from one to another.
We have done many family treasures. Christening gowns going back to the 1880s…hand knit baby sweater sets, often including other elements like jewelry or rattles, or sometimes photographs of the garments being worn by an ancestor.
One of my absolute favorite projects have been to frame a baby’s hospital footprints…those teeny tiny little monkey feet inked on a paper with the baby’s name! Sometimes we add the hospital bracelet or an image. The footprints are so remarkable for the children as they grow up. They simply NEVER believe that they could have ever been that small.
One client brought us a nearly dead vintage poster. He said that it had hung in every dorm room and apartment he’d ever lived in, and he knew that he would always want it in his life. The corners had so many thumbtack holes, it was like Swiss cheese, but we were able to save it and protect it so that he could enjoy it forever.
There was the menu from a special dinner signed by a famous artist who was dining at the same restaurant. He was gracious to oblige the request for an autograph, and added a doodle in his signature style. Framing the first dear and sweet drawing that made it to a refrigerator door…ticket stubs from a concert that made someone’s heart sing…these are just a few of the projects that without spending a fortune on artwork, or buying prints at a big box store, you can build a very personal history of your time on the planet that is entirely unique.
There really is no downside to saving and protecting beloved things, regardless of intrinsic value.