2.28.2015

Picture framing

I have been a picture framer since the early 1980's. I first learned the trade in Ann Arbor, when I moved there with my little sister. I had been working at Grand Rapids Metropolitan Hospital for a few years. I was 25. I had a friend encourage me to go somewhere, get a change of scene. "Use your potential" he said. My sister had just graduated from college and we were both ready for a change of scene, an adventure!

 I found a job at a fine art framing shop. The owner oversaw all production, including chopping and building the frames. He was a perfectionist and expected the same from all his employees. I didn't have any experience, except for the knowledge about art and creativity that I absorbed by being the daughter of an artist, and my short year at Kendall here in GR. My friend helped me with my resumé and accompanied me in buying just the right pinstripe suit and shoes to give myself that professional edge.

Along with the owner and his sister who did the books, there were two women, who did the mat and glass cutting, fitting and layout. They were both artists, and very interesting. 

IFor once in my life I looked forward to going to work in the morning and the days flew by. NPR was on the radio. I was usually stationed at the mat cutter  Which was right in front of a window that looked out into an alley. People who had just visited the party store next door would sit out there and take swigs out of bottles covered with brown paper bags. The stores backdoor was next to the window so I could see approaching customers. After working in an environment without windows for years, I liked my little station by the door and window just fine.

Despite the trendy name, Megaframes brought in a lot of expensive, original art work. I loved working with the customers in deciding just how to frame their pictures. I can still remember my boss, and how exasperated he got with people who could not make up their minds. He did not have a lot of patience and preferred to work behind his high counter, building his frames and watching, rather than actually interacting with people. He was a craftsman, not a people person so much. I knew when to lay low when his face began to get red. His anxiety was palpable sometimes and I marveled at the people who were totally oblivious to this fact. Growing up with a father such as mine, I had to be perceptive to the extreme for survival, or at least  to avoid being growled at. When he was irritated or annoyed, I would either lay low or fix whatever it was that was bothering him. We got along well.

I was not a student while living in Ann Arbor. We first lived in the Hill street, U of M part of town for the summer. We lived in a huge old Victorian house on the third floor. We had outdoor steps to climb to get to our cozy attic apartment. It was hot but the view was great and we had a lot of fans whirring away.  When the school year began, we moved to a funny little house right off of Liberty Street, only a couple of blocks from the shop. I almost never used my car while living in Ann Arbor. It was great.

The shop was located on North Main Street west of Liberty, not far from Kerrytown if you know Ann Arbor. Bob Seger wrote the song "Down on Main Street. He was talking about this main street in this Ann Arbor town!

On Saturday mornings the street would be bumper to bumper cars heading east to the stadium. Late in the afternoon they would be going the other way. It was great being a part of such an exciting college town but not actually involved in the whole student gig. I had already been a college student living in a dorm at a college in Pennsylvania. That didn't really go so well, but that is another story.

Learning the art of picture framing got under my skin and stayed there. Being able to work with my hands along with creative design felt so good. I was grateful to my friend for lighting a fire underneath my butt.

I stayed in Ann Arbor for a little over a year. Although I loved my life, and living with my sister, it was difficult for each of us to make ends meet. I had tried adding other jobs, such as waiting tables and bar tending at a popular hole in the wall blues bar, but I wasn't motivated to spend my whole life working.

My friend from Grand Rapids, announced to me that she was planning on becoming a nurse. She was going back to school and getting her degree. I thought to myself that maybe I could do that too.  After all, hadn't I worked in a hospital for the past several years and liked and felt comfortable in the environment?

My mother had always wanted me to go into nursing. I felt the time was right for me to go out and get educated so I could finally be an "adult". I would use my potential! I enrolled in Junior College for all the required classes need to enter Blodgett School of Nursing. Mine was the last class of the old hospital model nursing programs available in Grand Rapids.

I moved back home and lived with my parents and my sister headed to Detroit to check out her options. I missed her and being at home again was somewhat of an adjustment. I got my old job back at the hospital, and began my life as a college student once again.

I never forgot how much I loved picture framing and in '94, after working as an RN at many different places and never finding my niché, I checked out an ad for a framer in Grand Rapids. I was hired and was once again happy with my life.

I maintained my nursing license and worked part time for an agency which usually placed me in nursing homes or home healthcare, but I eventually became the manager of the framing shop and decided that I was getting burned out from being on call for the agencies. 

After I married, I began my in home framing business, All Around Art. It worked out well as it was during that time that I began to spend more time with my parents. My dad was deemed legally blind in the mid 1980's and my mother had quit teaching to drive him around. I took over the chauffeuring which gave my mom a break. I became my dads assistant on a regular basis and continued in that roll for close to 15 years. The rest of his life. 


I was able to use both my nursing skills and my framing skills at that time and I enjoyed the flexibility of working on my own. I have maintained that love to this day and have no plans to work for anyone else again. It is hard work and I can never leave my work at work, as it is always on my mind, but the gratification is endless.

2 comments:

  1. I never knew you worked at those places when you were in A2! How fun to know about! Thank goodness for all of us that your framing seeds were planted!!!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Leah. I had my editor read this and therefore changed it a great deal. Let me know what you think.

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