Category Archives: Thoughts & reviews…

Antlers do it again!

It’s been a while, sorry no images…oops

I’ve been to a few Antlers shows in the last couple of years but their latest offering “Spatial” has to be my favourite so far!  In their blurb it introduces the show as bringing together five artists that explore ideas of architecture and space with their practice.

For starters, Antlers Nomadic Gallery are just great at finding quirky spaces to show in.  This time, we were led to a disused industrial unit near Temple Meads Station (the description of which, does not do the space justice).  The space is unfinished with wires hanging about but still has a beauty all of it’s own.  What I admire about Antlers is the vision.

The winning combination of finding great artists and spaces just gets better and better for me.

There was something really peaceful and spacey about wondering around (helped by the appropriate music).  Just hanging some of the works on chains, suspended from the ceiling, gave it such a hugely different feel.  It just changed the whole experience for me. Yes, something as simple as that!  The simplicity is also the genius of it though.  In contrast, the artworks have so much going on, sometimes complex and the level of detail and depth just takes your breath away.

Having seen some photos of the private view, they didn’t do the Shard 1 & 2, (made using Mild Sheet Steel & Glass) pieces (by Josie Irvine) any justice at all, Seeing it in the flesh was a must and I loved how it merged into and reflected the buildings around as well as the harsh interior, it felt like it lived there.

As ever the artworks and artists chosen, worked brilliantly with each other.  Jonny Byles, Starscape(s) are amazing but I can’t pick out any one  artist over the other.

With a brief touch on the framing side, as is quite normal, most were simple black or white frames, all of which suited and were executed very well in the main.  My only advice on this side would be that one of the bigger pieces suspended, in particular, suffered from light pollution which obscured your vision from almost all angles.  Perhaps an investigation into the different types of Art Glass which have more of a true view than you get with plain glass and would have “less” reflection.  It’s a difficult one, as it means more monetary investment in framing, but in my opinion is worth it.  Using non reflective would have killed the piece, so well done for not using that!

This show is over now but you can see images and catch up on the conversation buzz at

Congratulations on another fab show!  What will they do next?  Would be a pleasure to entice them up to the new exhibitions space I manage just outside Bristol?  We’ll see!

Artists were: Josie Irvine, Jonny Byles, Geoff Diego Litherland, Matthieu Leger and Sarah Jeffs.


End of year thoughts…

Haven’t had time to blog for a little while.  So, one year after moving to our new framing premises, from Cleeve to Chelvey, where has the time gone?

Every year it’s important to look over your business with fresh eyes and try new things, see what’s working and what isn’t and build on what you already have.  Take a look at your surroundings, see what you can do to inspire your customers in terms of what can be done.  Be creative, give information and give them a visual guide of materials and ideas.

Next year though, I’m going to do something that we all forget to do.  Take a look at yourself, see if you are getting the best out of your business and are you getting what you need?

Without dwelling, this year I’ve lost a family member, a dear friend and fellow red wine drinker and various other minor disasters.  It’s said all too often that life is too short and health is so precious.

If you are happy and fulfilled then that also shows in your surroundings and the way you come across.  This year, I continued to be a voluntary committee member for an Arts organisation in my spare time, something I did for myself and because I have a passion for promoting the Arts.  I’ve gained experience in running all sorts of art events and have become responsible for their events and social media.

This gave me the confidence to make a decision to apply for a part time job (working around the business).  I did this for me, but it will have an impact on my business.  I start in January helping to manage a fantastic Arts Centre in the area.  This has actually given me more enthusiasm for the framing business and the outside influence of dealing with art on a daily basis, should get my creative juices going, and I can pass those ideas onto our Framer.

So, my advice to you all is, sometimes, just sit and look at your business and see how you sit within that business and see how you feel.  Do something for you and it might just inject some extra passion into your work.

Have a lovely Christmas and New Year!

Bristol Guild Gallery-Through Another’s Eyes Review

Well, I have to say, straight in here with a wow!   What a good quality exhibition by these collection of Artists.

Most of us in this area would have been to the Bristol Guild Gallery on Park Street at one point or another.  It’s a really nice space at the top of the building.  It’s got good light and a nice feel to it.

I thought the exhibition was really well laid out and it made for a lot to look at.  The group complimented each other’s work beautifully with a good number of bits to buy to suit all budgets.  From gorgeous one off original artworks to wonderful handmade broaches.

I went along after an invite from Customer, Textile Artist and fellow North Somerset Arts Committee Member, Debbie Pawle.  It’s always lovely to see new works and also see some our own framing work in situ.  Debbie’s work is contemporary.  Her highly desirable pieces of textile art would add a touch of class to any home.  I loved the way she laid and hung some of the collection on pieces of driftwood, showing them off to the full.  (the Framing wasn’t bad either!).

Apart from the scrumptious wearable pieces such as scarf style necklaces and broaches (which I particularly fell in love with), there are a set of works, set in acrylic cases.  These were really different and if I’d had the money, I’d have brought a piece like shot, absolutely stunning.  As were the monochrome fabric vessels.

I have to be honest and say that all the framing in the exhibition was of tip top quality.  I’m very pleased to say that for a change!  Liz Hewitt’s work had been framed beautifully and the block mounted photographs by Dominic Hewitt were of excellent quality (along with the work) with the sides finished off just prefectly.

Overall, it was really nice to see a whole exhibition of good quality and not one artist’s work let down the others.

Fabulous guys, well done and well worth seeing!

You can still catch this exhibition until the 7th of July, you can see more information here along with a list of who is exhibiting.

Black is the new black …

Black mounts … Ooooo scary!

We get this quite a lot; people seem to have a phobia about black mounts.  They are too heavy, unfashionable and not neutral enough.  The customer will cry “Black? Yuk!” and look at it as if you really don’t know what you are talking about.  Next time this happens, if you are confident that Black would be the right choice for the picture, quietly put it down with the other choices.  Quite often, you’ll hear “oh actually…”

It all depends on your picture of course and what frame you decide on.  Sometimes choosing a mount just because you think it’s neutral can make it look wishy washy, dead or worse still …  just OK.

Black can look stunning and make a picture really jump out.  It can be that extra punch it needs.  It can go with a contemporary look or a more traditional look.

Set of family black & white photo’s. Oak frame provides a nice contrast to the black mount. Used white core mountboard to give a crisp white edge on the two outer pictures. It’s a nice contemporary look which makes the photo’s jump forward rather than merging into the mount.

If the picture is dark in nature, say like a black and white photograph, choose a black mount that has a White core to give a crisp edge.  If you want it to blend in or the picture is light, you could choose a black core.

Note: the core is the colour you see on the inside of the mount when you cut through it.  For example, you can get a white mount with a black core running through it, like the picture below.  Try to avoid anything with a cream core (although this can work with a very old picture) as the core will tend to yellow over time.  Most Framers tend not to stock cream core anymore as it’s not of conservation quality.  Anyway, I digress.

So, there’s not a lot else to say really but all I’m saying is … don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

More examples below …


With the medals mounted initially on a neutral board and the script on white paper. Once again the black mount provides a contrast with the squares and the frame.

Close up of the same frame


Certificate, black draws you in and pulls out the greeny/olive colouring in the certificate and frame.










Sometimes a little subtlety is required!

Memorabilia works well with black, used white edging to emphasize

“letter box” type black mount with white core. Blends with frame and then the outer part of the frame compliments the photo.

Similar colouring and same frame

Lloyd Gill Gallery – Weston Super Mare

One place I don’t get to very often is Weston Super Mare, so after coming across a new exhibition being launched at the Lloyd Gill Gallery, I suddenly felt ashamed that I hadn’t been in a long while!

The Lloyd Gill Gallery is a little gem, tucked away in the lovely back streets, full of beautiful old Victorian buildings.  Set up in an old house, this long established space is wonderful.  It has stripped floor boards and big light windows.  The exhibition space is mainly situated in the two large front rooms and the hallway.  Director, Lloyd Gill, told me that the gallery exhibits Artists from all over the world, not just the local area.

With a warm Saturday night welcome and a nice glass of red wine on offer, I started to meander through the rooms.

The space is filled with an eclectic mix of pieces from various artists under the collective title of “Undo the Tangible”.  A full essay on the exhibition as a whole and the artists taking part is available to download from their website and has been extensively written by Lloyd.  I’m not much of one for essays, I like to just see and feel my own way around.

All the Artists are listed at the end and full details can be found on the Lloyd Gill Gallery’s website.

As with all my reviews, my curious interest is mainly in the way artwork is presented to the public.  It’s just my thing (and my business!).  In writing up these experiences, I hope to reach out to artists.  I want them not only to think about their wonderful creations but also about how they package and present these to potential buyers.  This also applies to the hosts of exhibitions such as galleries.

I really liked the way one of the artists had displayed their photographic pieces.  Photographs were mounted onto board (looked like foam board but could have been a mount board).  It had no frame but was presented simply and I thought that this was perfectly fine and suited the work.  The subject matter had a lot to say, so didn’t really need any added complications to the surround.

Julien Guibreteau’s pieces were really very clever and I probably enjoyed viewing these the most.  Kasia Turajczyk’s collection drew me in, I couldn’t work out whether it was the sometimes dramatic brush stroke backgrounds or that I’m just terrified at the thought of a set of puppets and toys smiling back at me!  Which probably says more about my brain than hers!

As with most exhibitions (even Museums!), I’m afraid that some of the pieces could have benefited from either; some professional framing or just a little more attention to detail from the artist.  Some of the frames had black bits inside & glass was slightly unclean.  Sorry!  This is not supposed to be a criticism, more of a bug bear.  I personally wouldn’t pay over £300 for a piece of work that hadn’t been presented as well as it could have been, even if I loved the work.

By this I mean, not that you should have to pay for expensive framing but if you are fitting the work yourself, take a little more time to get out those bits of fluff or clean the glass properly.  Yes, it does take longer but it will make a difference to your work!  At some price levels, you could easily build it into the cost.  Actually I think you could probably charge more if it looks really well presented & compliments your piece.  Before anyone shouts at me and if you are a first time reader of this blog, please see one of my early pieces on the subject, I hope it will help you see where I’m coming from.

Having spoken to lots of art buyers in my game over the years, it can put some people off buying, more than you think, especially if they think they are going to have to spend money out on re-framing the piece.

To sum up then.  It’s really worth a visit to this exhibition and it ends on the 11th of May 2012.  The space is lovely and there are lots of new exhibitions planned for this year.  I urge you to spend a bit of time getting lost in the work and the knowledgeable and friendly owners will no doubt be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

I look forward to the next one!


Louise McNaught
Joe Webb
Julien Guibreteau
Irene de Buffieres
Kasia Turajczyk
Alissa Cohen Solal
Chris Barnickel

Gallery details:

The Lloyd Gill Gallery, 13 Beaconsfield Road, Weston Super Mare, BS23 1YE

Open: Mon-Sat 10am-4.30pm

Let there be frames…

A very short, sweet and basic introduction to the history of frames, stolen from various sources (cited at the end before I get lynched)!

In the beginning there was life, then religion, then religious icons, then picture frames! (This isn’t the BBC, don’t write in please, I know it didn’t really go like that … no, I’m well aware, it’s more like, life, chocolate, and then picture frames)!

When I first started becoming part of the world of picture framing, I never even considered it beyond, getting a piece framed in the best possible way.

But as the years have gone on, it’s a subject that I have become hungrier and hungrier to know about and just can’t get enough of the depth of knowledge there is about art and framing out there.

So, last year I decided to start reading up on the subject (especially after I took a Gilding course, which I much enjoyed but was useless at!)

Apparently, picture frames as we are familiar with now, were first housed in ecclesiastical settings but its origins go back further.  It’s believed that frames derived from borders way back 3-4,000 years ago!  Borders appeared on such things as vases and tombs.  They “framed” narrative scenes and decorative panels.

What Came First the Art or the Frame?

According to a piece written on the website of Statens Museum of Kunst in Denmark:  The surface of the painting was often provided with a frame before the artist even started the work.  Sometimes,  painting and frame were carved out of the same piece of wood. This is known as an integral frame.  This would have been around the 1300’s.

Example of an Integral Frame
Lorenzo Monaco (c.1370-1425), Coronation of the Virgin, 15th century, Tempera, gold-leaf on panel, integral frame gabled top
Height: 195 cm; width: 154.7 cm, The Courtauld Gallery, London

It’s thought that early Christian art adapted the use of borders and amongst other things used them on altarpieces.  The frame as we know it today then started to form.  These were not just as a nice decorative border but with the purpose of protecting the artwork as well as emphasising, complementing or enhancing a piece.  In the 14th and 15th century, altarpieces were becoming more elaborate replicating the Church surroundings.  The Tabernacle frame is basically a condensed form of a Church altarpiece.

Example of a Tabernacle Frame
Taken from

It struck me as I was writing this piece.  Thinking back, I remember being told off by my School Art Teacher for drawing borders on everything I did.  “Get beyond the boundaries and limitations” I can hear him say.  (Think he was a bit frustrated with me, since his former Pupil was my very talented Sister!)  Now, borders are part of my everyday job.

I’ve put some examples of what could be early decorative borders in relation to what I’ve talked about above.

An Italian Tomb

Image taken from Canterbury Galleries website. Royal Doulton pot with borders.

Dear picture with borders

I love Islamic Art (which is why when in London you’ll always find me at the British Museum) whether its brass works, ceramics or drawings and I’ve realised that there are lots decorative style borders in these patterns which also reflects in the architecture.  In fact, when you start looking around anywhere in the world, it’s ridiculous how much borders/frames actually do appear in our daily lives!  Anyway, I digress.

Decorative islamic Tiles

Pottery piece with borders

Frames develop over the centuries depending on period and country.  There is much written about this and with the sources below you can go on to discover from the experts.

Personally, I love the Renaissance period.  It’s elaborate and romantic.  I am in awe of the level of detail and the skill of the craft.  I keep promising myself to go to Italy and do a tour of the Churches to see the frames in all their finery.

I had no idea of the deep rich history attached to frames.  It amazes me how little people think about framing as a skill (and I was one of them).  In this country, we want to know about our food, where our clothes are made, who painted this and that, the processes and all about them, but yet one of the most beautiful everyday items, most of us have in our homes and which house our precious memories, gets very very overlooked.

Note: Sources apart from those above are and a great YouTube video by Michael Pacitt of Image Art Production and a great reference book by Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts “A History of European Picture Frames”.


Review of the Digerarti and the Glitterarti – Gallery@

After my long day at Interiors UK (see previous blog), I was up fairly early to get into Weston-Super-Mare for the launch of The Digerarti and The Glitterarti exhibition.

With the wind blowing hard and in the peeing rain, there I was standing on the Grand Pier, oh the glamour!  Here they were unveiling a 15ft banner to publicise the launch.  Thoroughly good fun.

A team of over 20 talented artists and digital creative’s  lined up in the wonderful West Country weather to show off examples of their work (on the banner).  This marked the launch a new digital community hub and the opening of a new art exhibition at the Gallery.

After the publicity event, I walked back (in the rain, are you feeling sorry for me yet?) to see what it was all about (oh and to get my breakfast of coffee & a pastry!).

Members of the ‘Digerarti’ and ‘Glitterarti’ are from Bristol and Somerset are and include both first-time exhibitors and renowned award winners.

The eclectic mix of services offered by the Digerarti include web design, app creation, photography, videography and more. Whilst the work of the Glitterarti include sculpture, collage, tattoo and street artistry as well as more traditional art mediums such as portraiture and seascapes.

On view were wonderful displays by Chris Harding of Mouse Proud and 3D Film Maker Neil Richards.  Quirky Photographs were also being shown including a set from Rupert Marlow.

Upstairs in the light and airy space that is the gallery, are a mix of Sculpture and Artwork from a range of Artists such as the always superb, Jane Cartney.

This exhibition is ongoing and will change on a regular basis to showcase new and exciting work.  Well worth a visit.

The Digerarti and the Glitterarti can be seen at The Gallery @ in the Digital Photo Studio, Locking Road, Weston-super-Mare, BS23 3BY – Twitter @oldmemories_new

Interiors UK Show-NEC

Interiors UK Show – Review


My first blog of 2012 and my first ever visit to Interiors UK, very apt! I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long, what with unfortunate family matters and a busy business to run over the Christmas period, this poor blog has been neglected! So I’m back to virtually stroke it (if such a thing can be done to a blog?! – I’m starting to worry about myself!).

So, I decided to visit the Interiors UK at the NEC Birmingham as I’ve been trying to find shows that really help me keep my finger on the pulse of home trends and styles. I think it’s important for us as a business to be aware of what our customers may be privy to when it comes to interiors even if we don’t end up directly using it day to day. The Framing world straddles interiors, art, furniture, design, crafts, restoration, conservation etc.

In our framing studio workshop, we have a bookcase with lots of beautiful home design, framing and art books to help us inspire our customers, they love it! I’m trying single handedly, with limited success, to get people to think about their frames both in the context of interior design and how a frame surround can complement or add interest to a room.

My visit was boosted (as some of you will know) by winning a Twitter competition run by Interiors UK for VIP travel and a day at the show (thank you!). I’ll get this bit out of the way, since when I entered it, I didn’t really think it through. You see, I live near Bristol and the VIP travel was a Champagne breakfast from London Euston at 9am on the Monday!

So, I ended up getting a coach from Bristol City Centre at 4.30am! Yes, yes I know … but it was Champagne after all and I have to say that the girls (and a boy) at Interiors UK looked after me very well from start to finish.

I didn’t know what to expect and had imaged a VIP trip on the Orient Express, sit down breakfast with scrambled eggs and toast but a Virgin Train carriage, Bucks Fizz and a bagel did me just fine and everyone was so friendly, it was worth it.


My main highlights of the show (apart from being in the VIP area) were The Birmingham University Student area and the New Design Britain section. Have to mention that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, so I can’t officially put anything up here, sorry!

The show’s theme overall was a twist on British Heritage. I loved the halls being divided into trend themes. The themes included were Classic Revival, Red Hot London, English Eccentric, Britannia Chic, Vintage Chic (is anyone else getting a little jaded with Vintage yet? It’s everywhere you look again this year) and Chintz with Attitude.

I usually do the Spring Fair at the NEC but the Interiors Show was more compact and concise.

Some of the people I had ear marked to search out, I found a bit hard to find. I didn’t even realise that I had already visited Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s set twice! It had a very understated LLB sign. Now, I’m all for a bit of subtlety but, I could have seen more of the show, if I hadn’t have wasted that time wondering around. I didn’t find the Mary Portas section.

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen

I was really interested in seeing Laurence’s sets, having watched him lots on TV. I get his cheeky, quirky style. I also get the drama and the glamour and I would choose that over minimalism anytime. (This film of him talking about his set is fascinating, take a look).

I really liked the “His Lordship’s Lair” room, it was what he said it was. Demonstrating a truly unique British feel of a stately home. Somewhere, you would pay to stay on a weekend away, steeped in history and pushing your thoughts of Monday mornings far away (mind you, I don’t mind my Monday mornings at all, since I made the decision not to open on a Monday to avoid them!).

Have to say though, I didn’t fall in love with the bedroom set (sorry don’t shoot me down). Probably more to do with my irrational fears than Laurence’s designs! My immediate thoughts were of ants crawling out of trees, my exhaustion at the sight of fairy lights (even though I do have a set & they can be very romantic actually but that’s by the by!) and doggie doo doo on the grass effect rug (it didn’t actually have any dog’s wotsit on it by the way, I’m just getting carried away now), for me it was the stuff of nightmares! I’m also not a massive fan of cheeky saucy comedy furniture either. So, I’m afraid it’s a no from me (as if I know anything anyway!!!).

Birmingham Students

I met some great people on this stand and they willingly talked to me about the up and coming trends, spent some time with me talking about design etc. I really liked their sets too.

Gemma Smith kindly let me video a short interview with her on what’s coming up, very knowledgeable young lady (thanks Gemma).

Design Village

I really spent a lot of time here. Remembering what I was there for (interiors in relation to picture framing hmmm mostly), the person I was most fascinated with was Jo Gibbs. From a professional point of view, specifically her etched mirrors with surrounds. I didn’t get to talk to her on the day but have been in contact via email, so will hopefully put up a short Q&A section later.

I really want to get to the bottom of the recycled and looking back theme’s and that’s what I want to talk to Jo about. We’ve always been asked to re-use frames or re-glaze existing frames etc. but in recent years with the “make do and mend” movement, it’s become more prevalent. I’m interested in people’s choices as there is a fine line between rescuing and seen better days. Watch this space.

I really enjoyed the work from The New English Company their ceramics are adorable. I’m quite a fan of the art plates. Overall their pieces are very quirky and very clever.

The B&B room design sets were quite fun. I preferred the House of Hackney set and once again, I noticed the etched mirrors. I’m now waiting to see how many etched mirrors we get into the framing workshop this year!

I also like the fabric around the mirrors, something I’ve been wanting to find time to do for a while is Fabric Frames.

My only overall problem was (as my regular readers will know) my pet hate is how little attention is paid to some of the presentation. By presentation, I’m mostly talking about the framing. I saw one particular set of work in white frames in the Design Village.

A beautiful piece, for me, was ruined by the huge gap where the frame corners had separated. They were clearly cheap readymade frames (which I have nothing against) but to present something in that way at a big show like this was just sloppy. This wasn’t anything to do with “make do and mend” or “shabby chic”. To me it shows a lack of consideration towards potential clients and buyers. Grrrr rant over.

Generally on Framing

On the whole, the frames were represented in Mirrors (they are all frames though). Once again, the theme seemed to be ornate and very elaborate. I only remember seeing one stall with plain wood mirror surrounds. The emphasis was on statement and drama.

One of our framing suppliers was also there with their Mirror section.

Free Seminars

I wasn’t interested in very many. Unfortunately, the one I couldn’t actually see was probably going to be the most relevant but hey ho! I got to attend a couple in the VIP Lounge. Jo Hamilton’s spot was very interesting. Mostly they were obviously geared towards Interior Designers or the like. How to make a room feel bigger etc. I really enjoyed the colour wheel talk.

Sian Astley was also very interesting but unfortunately I had to leave half way through to meet someone!

The Twitter for beginners was good, nothing that I didn’t already know but was good to get someone else’s take on it.

Colour Trends

So, from what I could make out. The big colour themes seem to be the 70’s inspired burnt Orange, bold and simple colours such as Red and deep Blues. The key terms that screamed to me were Ember and sea chanty.

What others said …

I spoke to a few people who said they really enjoyed it and would come again. One lady from the Middle East, was an Interior Designer back home and was finding the Seminars really useful. Some people found new suppliers for their businesses. Others were just there to see what was coming up for 2012 or to attend the seminars.

My Personal Conclusion

I would go again for sure. To me everything is relevant but I have to be very honest and say that I didn’t find any great revelations. There were things that made sense, beautiful things, talented people, craftsmanship etc. but nothing really fresh and new came out of it for me, sorry.

Look, I know this was all about a twist on British classic themes and it delivered on that front. This is no reflection on Interiors UK, they showed us what the trends are, where it’s all going and where to get it. A place to find new suppliers and a place to learn new interior skills or network with fellow designers.

I absolutely love homes, properties and spaces and I am in awe of creativity, design and craftsmanship. My own house is full of bits and bobs.  I like to grab things that appeal to me in an eclectic way. I mean, I don’t have an actual set style that I like for instance.

I like modern and I like old. I’m interested in a bit of everything I love Modern Art and I love a traditional Watercolourist’s work. I love a banging tune, Punk Rock and also love a touch of classical. I don’t fit into a box as such. So for me, I do like the mix of old and new in my own life.

However, what is it with all this looking back to the past? I mean psychologically, is it as straight forward as the world moving forward too fast, we crave some comfort, a more simple life or have we all run out of ideas?

Don’t get me wrong, and as I said, I really do love interiors and my own space at home is filled with things, old frames, new frames, glass, textiles, art, books, films- all the things I love.

I do believe that older things have better shape and form (oh, I so want that to be true in humans as I’m getting older!!). I’m just dying for someone to come up with something really fresh and new. Heck, even the idea of space age isn’t new anymore! I’m interested to see where it’s all going next but somehow, I think it’ll all be centred around reinvention for many a year to come yet.

Maybe it’s just the terminology I’m bored of. Vintage, Shabby Chic and Keep Calm and Carry On (if I hear that phrase or see another card with it on, I certainly won’t keep calm any more) have all been flogged to death and now are used to describe all manner of things.

I mean, yet another copy of Homes & Antiques seemed to be dedicated to Vintage. Isn’t that the point of the magazine anyway? Yes, yes, ok all you people shouting at me, telling me there’s a technical difference between an Antique and something Vintage. It’s the labelling of it all & pushing it to death for yet another year that’s boring me. It’s a contradiction really, I love poking around in reclamation yards and the like. I’m just fed up with it as a “style”.

On that note, I felt that the “Chintz with Attitude” theme at the show, was yet another twist on this age old trend. Please Sir, can we have something else?

Lastly, my specific needs were mostly met, apart from on the decoration side. I wanted to see stands from people such as Farrow & Ball and the Little Greene Paint Company. Is paint not a massive part of interiors? Maybe I need a specific show for that?

All in all, I really enjoyed the show, I will go again and I’ll be recommending it to others but I won’t be getting a 4.30am coach next year to get there! If I was to win VIP again, I’ll stay in London!

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

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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 …