Category Archives: Telling stories

Cardboard Frames!

A short and sweet entry today … an age old story in our game, but worth bringing up every now and then.  Artist comes in, panicking about some exhibition pieces which needed to be in that day.  She had brought black ready frames from a well known high street chain.

When she got to the exhibition hand in day, they told her that she had the wrong hanging system on the back and therefore they wouldn’t accept it.

She brought the pieces into us to get some d-rings and string for the back, replacing what was already on there.  The Frames she brought in were made of compressed cardboard (you’ll find this a lot with factory made ready frames), and so when we went to put the screws in, the frame was of such poor quality, that the hangings were just not going to be secure enough.   We basically got around the problem, but I wouldn’t bet my life on those pictures not falling off the wall any time soon!  (of course we did warn her of this).

In the end, I reckon the extra screws, d-rings and yards of picture cord ended up costing half as much again as the frames in the beginning!

For advice, ideas and options for how to save money (but still thinking about your buyer and presentation) or when to spend out on getting something framed professionally see some related blogs I’ve written previously:  Art Versus Budget or Better Framing Sells Work – Simples! 

Creating A Framing Monster!

I’ve had an interesting week this week.  We’ve had a school work experience lad in the workshop and it’s been great fun!

It really makes you see what you do in your business, how much there is to the day to day stuff and how the things you do automatically are hard to share!  I had times when I lost the plot myself!

The aim this week was to show all aspects of the business from the boring routine stuff to the some rather more exciting and practical stuff.  I hope we’ve achieved it between us!

So, we’ve spent all week showing how to cut and fit frames, cut mounts, clean glass, do some hand finishing & hand painting of frames, how to serve a customer, telephone work, picking out and matching frames to pictures, online work, I mean you name it, we’ve covered it!  He’s taken everything we’ve thrown at him, and I think I’ve made some parts of my job redundant!  Taxi!

At the end of the week, I thought it would be a good idea to take him out on a trip to Bristol.  The idea was that, taking into account everything he’s learnt about the process this week, it would be nice to see work in situ.  This would round off his experience.  So, off we went to visit a few galleries in Bristol with different types of Art.  The trip ended with the owner of Lime Tree Gallery, kindly taking some time out to explain how important frames are to artwork and how seriously as a seller of Art she takes it.  This was fabulous and even from my point of view it was fascinating.

Andy teaching Billz some finishing touches

As we walked around all the places, I was delighted at how much he’d take on board.  Even picking up on debris and dust inside the frames, over cuts on mounts, and even where he didn’t think the frame did the picture justice!

At the end of it all, he remarked “I’ll be doing that all the time now, everywhere I go”.  So, have we created a framing monster?!  Just so long as he doesn’t find anything wrong with ours eh!

I highly recommend taking on work experience, it’s an insight for both parties!  Thanks Billz, you’ve been a great pupil.

Cleaning some glass


Building Art Communities

Since I’ve been exposed to the online world of social media, I’ve discovered a fascination with building communities, actually, I think I’ve always had it.

My passion for building networks and communities transcends through all kinds of subjects, areas and businesses.

My role in my framing business, is all about the relationship I have with the customers, the knowledge I impart, the guidance and confidence given.  I love seeing people’s faces when they are guided to a decision, armed with knowledge and support.

As part of all this discovery I’ve been doing lately, last week saw me organise an ArtMeet.  This was born out of my part as a Committee Member for the North Somerset Arts organisation (NSA), my experience of recent TweetMeets I have attended, building relationships with customers and being part of a business network.

The idea was to get the Committee Members and the Artists (who have or want to participate in the North Somerset Arts Week) in the same room.

But this wasn’t a meeting, workshop or presentation.  No, this was a social…a social I hear you cry…whatever for?

Well, that was the kind of response I thought I would get for the very suggestion and it’s true to say, I’m not sure everyone got it or saw the point.  Trying out any new concept in an established organisation is always going to be tricky.  Nevertheless, the Committee were very kind and enthusiastic and willing to try it out.

A date was made and was communicated to the “NSA Community” via Newsletter, Facebook and Twitter.

The venue was The George Pub in Backwell and tickets were only £3 with some food on offer.  In the beginning the uptake was, well, slow.

Oh gawd what have I let myself in for, I thought.  Not only had I chosen a date on top of our business move but I was beginning to feel like the only girl at her own party.

After the deadline for tickets had passed, we had a sudden flurry of tickets sold and I was pleased with this, at least I won’t be on my own!

So, along comes Thursday evening in the pub.  I get there early in case of any arrivals.  I lay out my name labels, my pad, pens…get myself a drink and I wait…and I wait.

Finally, the first friendly face turned up and greeted by an empty area of the pub, they look slightly worried.  The next half an hour saw it get busier and my stress levels were slightly reduced (although my voice was rather high, fixed smile and greeting profusely – I get very clumsy when I’m nervous!).

Once the room started filling up, and I carried on booking people in, to my surprise, when I next turned around, the room was full of smiley faces and endless conversations.

The buffet arrived in all it’s glory and I swear a gasp came from the audience!  The food looked amazing (as you can hear me constantly saying in my film, like a Parrot.  No George, amazing is when someone with no head, no legs and no arms manages to climb a mountain, not a bunch of Chicken Wings & Mince Pies – I had a hard childhood).

On the spur of the moment, I decided it would be a good idea to film and interview people in full swing.  This turned out to be a good idea, although the film is very crudely done it does get the point across.

By the way, has anyone ever used Flip Share?  You can only set the music either not at all, loudly over the top or so quiet in the background you wouldn’t know it was on.  Still, as I say, it did the job.

After thinking that I actually was Dennis Pennis on the red carpet, I decided to get back to my role as host for the rest of the evening.

To my surprise, people were still there at the end (yes, I saw you take a doggie bag/serviette).

Everyone seemed enthused and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  BUT most of all, they got the point.  The point was to start building a community, you need a community in order to connect.  In order to connect, you have to meet.  For some people it’s online, for some face to face or both.  I enjoy both.

The consensus was that the Artists enjoyed it, putting names to faces, talking over the challenges each other face.  They welcomed getting out of their studios for a night of swapping stories and inspiration.

Also, by artists meeting the committee, we don’t become “faceless”.  People want to know who’s steering the organisation.  It was also great for the committee to interact, get feedback and opinions too.  Everyone learned something that night.

This, my friends, is the beginning of a beautiful community!

A community where people understand the challenges, a community where they are less resistant to change and more inclined to contribute, a community where people get to voice their opinions without fear of rejection, a community where people help each other out with problems and readily give solutions, a community where we can all tackle the future safe in the knowledge that the leading group have the organisations and artists best interests at heart.

Rumours are already circulating that the next one might be a barbecue on the beach!  So, it looks like there will be another at some point but we don’t want too much of a good thing eh?  We’ll leave it a wee while…

Take a look at the film … what better place to be on a cold winters night?  Okay, so there’s that … if you should be so lucky!

View the video here

Visit the NSA website or follow them on Twitter and Facebook


A day in the life of framing front of house

Today was one of those frantic days when all the lovely customers decide to come in at once!  The variety we get is amazing and I just thought that today I’d do a diary about the diverse day a framing shop can have.  Hope it gives you an insight …

10am opening: (no, we’re not lazy!  We do work before we open you know, when it’s quiet, we get more work done.  Usually the day starts around 7.30am).

Very quickly we get our first customer, one that’s been with us for years.  Pleasantries and catching up ensues.  We like to take our time rather than rush the customers; we take it all very personally!

So, this customer brings in a rather large print of a local landscape by a local Artist.  It’s already in a mount with wash lines.  We spend about 25 minutes going through the options and budgets (she always says she doesn’t want to spend much, but to her horror usually falls in love with something expensive!).  We end up going for a classic thick natural Oak frame to pick up on the colour of the sty in the forefront of the picture.  The age & style of the piece lends itself to this too.  I price up, she’s happy.  We finish by talking about the merits of natural woods (her Father was a Wood Turner).

There’s a customer waiting so I finish up, tidy away ready for the next one.  The phone has rung about a million times, but we’ve always made it our policy not to leave the person we are serving, to answer the phone.  They need our undivided attention!

A reasonable sized print, this time of a coastal scene, beautiful turquoise sea, crashing waves against dark rocks.  The customer wants a Turquoise frame to match the sea, but I can see something different in the picture.  We go both routes and I come up with a light grey with brush stroked edge it’s distressed with a subtle creamy gold on the inside.  It picks up on the rocks & sand rather than the sea.   I suggest that the sea is shouting out already so doesn’t need attention.  The frame pulls out the dramatic rocks bringing them to the front.  It complements rather than competes.  We decide to go for a white slip to keep the glass away from the paper.  This also gives it some depth & drama, whilst not overcrowding the piece with a mount.  Phew, another happy customer.   Totally different to what she had in mind.  That’s what we’re here for!  I love this job, I think to myself.

The Framer is rushing around in the background, hand staining and painting frames, leaving them to dry in the workshop and coming into the shop to “makeup” (finish) some other pictures to be collected today.  He looks harassed; the supplier didn’t deliver the right stuff yesterday and he is having to try and work around this or phone people to re-schedule work.  This is the stressful part of the job!  Some customers understand but some think we should have a huge warehouse full of every single frame that ever exists.  Part and parcel of the day to day.

Several people come in to collect and pay (hurray!).  We chat about our imminent move; it’s so lovely that our customers are interested and involved in the business.  They play with Frank the Framing dog for a while (I’m sure they come to see him and not us!).

In-between customers, I’m writing a blog, answering tweets, updating facebook, taking photos of the frames, dusting the shop, (takes a breath) re-arranging the crafts, answering emails, and generally doing the business admin stuff.

Right, it’s now about 12.45pm and we close at 1pm for half an hour to have something to eat, go to the loo (too much information!).  Before we can do this at about 12.55 a customer comes in to view some samples that we’ve hand done for her.

This takes all of our lunchtime, and we manage to arrive at just the right frame samples she wants.  Order to be done in a few weeks time.

Nearly 2pm now ….

Customer to collect, but we’ve got mixed up with the frame and put the wrong one on!  Well, we are only human.  Luckily, the customer was very understanding and we obviously have to re-do it and we offer to deliver it.

Next customer has some strange bug photos to frame!  Straight forward choice, as he only wanted black.  However, we went for a matt finish rather than a shiny one.  Can sometimes look a bit cheap in my personal opinion (does depend what it is though).

The Framer is serving someone who wants to match their picture to the last frame they had done with us.  We have it all on record so this is not a problem.

That customer being quick, another two come through the door, one has struggled in with a big frame, the glass has broken in a move and they need it replaced & re-fitted.

The other has come in to give Frank the Framing dog a chew and to see how the progress on her photo is coming along.  (She’s an elderly lady from down the road, whose husband died.  She wanted to copy a photo of him.  We don’t do this, but as favour we just scanned it in for her and asked my Dad to print it off for us on photographic paper since he’s a bit of a amateur photographer).  It’ll be ready tomorrow, we say.  We think she only came in to chat with the dog anyway!  He’s a valid part of the team!

We have another customer during all this that the Framer sees to.  They are a couple and they start arguing about the frame choices!  It’s not fisticuffs but it’s quite strained!  We get this a lot.  Did you know Framers also have to be counsellors?  People tell us things they wouldn’t tell their own family!

More background work carries on ….


A local Antiques Dealer and regular comes in with a huge mirror to re-frame, we help him carry it from the car.  Also wants lots of antique maps framed and for us to build a display cabinet for antique fairs (told you our days are diverse!).  This is a rather large order and takes some working out.  He wants aged glass too, so some sourcing will need to be done.  He doesn’t leave until nearly 5pm with the promise of a nice bottle of red wine for us on his next visit!

Whilst that consultation was going on we get another customer wanting a print framed.  She needs it for next week and it’s rather large so will need the workload re-jigging a bit.  We can just about squeeze it in.  It’s a landscape picture; we chose a traditional frame for the Watercolour.  Customer wants it to match the other frames in their room.

5.30pm closing time

It’s been a hectic day and we haven’t had time to do some of our routine jobs, like work schedules and looking at the next days’ workload.  Till logs need to be tallied and entered.  I spend most of the evening catching up on correspondence and looking at what is next on the list for the new workshop.  The Framer is working away still in the workshop.


We finally finish … what a strange day, shattered now … I go to bed, got a breakfast meeting early in the morning …

Real Life in the Frame

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Get something individual framed!

If I was asking me a question today, it would go something like this …

Dear Framing Fairy

When flicking through a major home magazine today, I came across a collection of new must have’s, what’s in and what’s out type section.  In it, there was a lovely set of Butterflies, displayed in a boring black frame.

Have you any suggestions to make my life and home more interesting?

Dear blog reader … funny you should say that!  I can’t help you with your life but I do have a suggestion that might make your home more interesting.  How about buying something very individual and getting it framed?  This could be anything, an antique find, piece of  jewellery or art, a treasured photograph, a child’s lock of hair, a picture they’ve painted or even a Butterfly!

In fact the possibilities are endless!  Then, take it to a reputable Framer. They could help you create an highly individualistic piece that no one else is likely to have hanging in their home!  Hey presto!

OK, so I’m being sarcastic and very possibly a tad grumpy today!

But it does amaze me how much some of these pieces cost at high street stores.  For not a lot more money (and in some cases, the same or cheaper), you could have something so much more special!  Sure, take ideas and designs from the magazines of course!  But also, make them your own.

If I had a penny for every time I’ve seen some really nice prints or posters, that have then been given the obligatory white mount, black frame whether it goes or not, well, let’s just say, my credit card bill would be healthier!

Ding dong, framing calling…

More a “Dear Diary” entry today really.

It makes such a refreshing change when you go out to a customer framing consultation on their home turf.  Learning about your potential customers in this way can be a valuable and rewarding experience.  Helping form strong relationships and trust.

The Framer and I went out to a rather enormous former Vicarage, turned boarding school, turned holiday business in the beautiful Somerset countryside yesterday.

We were there to discuss framing, re-framing, possibly restoration and cleaning of pictures.  After being in the family for a number of years, it would be nice to be given the opportunity to give these pieces a new lease of life.

What an absolute treat to spend a couple of hours in nice company, with an extremely friendly dog and a chicken living in the kitchen!

A wonderful array of pictures to quote for, some advice given to the owners and a nice tour around the grounds and outbuildings.

It’ll be a pleasure to go back with samples, ideas and costs and if nothing should come of it, the experience in itself was worth the journey.

It’s worth remembering that each visit will always give you something to take away with you.  Whether it’s new ideas or the chance to see a beautiful old property with a rich history.

I’ll keep you posted …

Tate Modern Visit – London

So, I had a couple of hours to kill on Monday morning in London.  What a treat to be able to spend it visiting the Tate Modern on Bankside.  I haven’t been there since I moved to the South West!  This time I went with my framing head on.

When I was at school and my Brother and Sister were living in London, the Tate was just, well, The Tate.  As far as I can remember it was one gallery, quite different from the way it’s split up now.   My Sister used to take me to such galleries, on my visits to her in the 80’s.  I still have a couple of postcards I had brought from the shop back then.

To my delight one in particular was on display and it brought floods of memories back.  I remember the times I had been there with her and the time a man told me to cheer up when I was sitting looking deep into a picture (I have no idea what I was looking at, I was probably just knackered!)

The painting by the way is by Fernand Léger and is called “Still Life with a Beer Mug” (typical that I like something with Beer in it!).  Actually, I have to confess that I thought it was by Picasso (philistine  that I am!)

Anyway, I really do digress as usual!  I didn’t get see the whole place of course, not in a couple of hours.


I loved walking around in geek mode though!  You don’t want to go to an art gallery with me, I tell you, I’m becoming a real bore!  I’m so in love with all things framing, it’s becoming an obsession!

It’s fascinating, as obviously some of the framing is done in-house by a team at the Tate and some have been brought in with the original frames kept.  I was able to recognise the type of museum grade glass used and it was a real eye opener to see how it works in such a vast space.  I took pride in thinking; we were using this glass on a picture the other day.

How on earth do they manage to fit the glass when it’s the size, literally, of a small house?!  The logistics are mind boggling to me.

There were some bits inside the frame.  When you run a business you wouldn’t be able to get away with this but at that size, there’s no way you could keep taking it apart, to get bits of dust out!

On very large pieces, there is a case for just doing your best (as far as humanly possible), but at times, you do have to realise, it is what it is I guess.  These are people at the very top of their game, sometimes the lessons you learn are not what you expect them to be!

Since I know we have a customer with a Lichtenstein print coming in soon, I also wanted to check out what frames they had on those huge canvases.  I was sorely disappointed; they were really standard light canvas tray frames, which I didn’t think went well at all!  I guess these were just brought in as they were though!

All in all, if you are a framer, an art or photography student or just interested in frames, there is such a fabulous array of eras and styles to look at, it’s fabulous!

It’s nice to see that some of the more recently framed work is done in the same way that we might do it.  There were some photographic works, which had been framed in a flat Oak and instead of a mount they had used an Oak Slip to match (to keep the glass away from the picture – basic conservation).  It was also great to see, that in the same frame, the lengths had differing grain and colourations.

This is the very thing that I and other wood lovers want to see.  Unfortunately, it’s very hard to point out to some customers that the plain woods are natural.  Sometimes, you will get a batch in that varies from inch to inch!  Someone actually said once “this is so unnatural; I can’t see how anyone would be happy with this”!

I suppose we are so used to seeing perfect looking oak in high street shops these days.  A lot of the them are actually either compressed cardboard with a veneer or plastic oak effect.  It’s like the X Factor generation saying that Simon LeBon can’t sing, it’s just not comparable!

In the Tate Modern shop, which is independent from the gallery, they had a poster section.  In that section you could choose to have a poster framed and delivered.  You had four choices, Black, White, Gold and Brown (from memory).

The cost was around the same-ish as a basic bespoke frame.  I thought, why the hell pay to have it done in unimaginative frames, when you could probably get something much better and more suited to your home and the print for just a little bit more?  Money for old rope that, I bet the profit is amazing! I mean the bigger ones were in the region of £90!  Not cheap!

So, what did I learn then?  Hmmm, there is good and bad in …… oh, no that’s a Paul McCartney, Steve Wonder collaboration!

I learnt that we know our stuff, you can’ t be perfect, just because you’ve got some of the best artwork in the world (arguably) doesn’t mean you’ve got a clue about framing and sometimes, just sometimes, I wouldn’t do it the same way as the “experts” (Shhhhh).

Telling Stories: frames for the memory!

Seeing an old photograph that I had taken yesterday, brought back all sorts of memories for me and it got me wondering.  What’s your favourite memory linked with a picture frame or mirror?

Mine relates to me studying photography, producing mounted images for an exam and my first proper picture framing experience.

After studying City & Guilds Photography in Somerset, I was very flattered to see one of my final (framed) images still on my best mate’s wall recently (below).

Photography was my first real go at anything remotely creative and little did I know, would later lead me into the picture framing world that I now frequent.

The shot was taken on a wintry January morning at the Watercress Line in Hampshire.  The buckets had thick ice on the top.  I loved the colours and the formation of the shot.  Shame I didn’t take a picture of the picture very well at the time!

“Ice Buckets”

At the end of my exams, I entered it alongside fellow student’s work to be displayed at the college’s open evening.  After this event, I took it to be framed.

I remember going into the frame shop in question and I didn’t have a clue what kind of frame I needed.  Basically, I was offered a solid black frame with a white mount.  At the time, I was really happy with this, and there is/was nothing wrong with the choice (although now, I might have chosen something different or experimented).

I remember it being a very quick process with not a lot of input from me, not a lot of consultation from them either.  When I picked it up, it had a large piece of dust floating about inside.  I should have taken it back, but I didn’t.

This experience actually formed the way I approached our business when it opened.  I came at it from a customer experience point of view and the Framer came at it; both from that view and the finished product.  Although this is my first business, my previous framing experience taught me how I didn’t want to do it.

When we first opened, we were mainly a photographic gallery and picture framers.  I focused on the gallery and the business side, and if someone came in to get a picture framed, the framer was called in to advise the customer.

After gaining more confidence, and over a two and half year period, the Framer taught me how to choose frames.  He taught me about colour, tones, techniques and art appreciation.  I’m still learning every single day!  Even though (below) this is an amateur picture, I think I might think about re-printing and framing this one too!  It was taken at a house that my Mum and Dad used own.

Writing this blog reminded me that maybe framing was in my blood after all.  My Sister, a very talented fine artist, was also a framing assistant briefly in the 1980’s.  I can still see the workshop now.  Maybe I caught the bug then!?  Shame she is in Australia now!

The family at my Open Day – lots of years ago!

I’d love to hear your stories linked to memories of picture frames…