I have worked at the same retail establishment for almost 40 years. Ostensibly we are "picture framers" but over the years we have grown tremendously and we do far more than that. Unlike most retail businesses where someone walks in and purchases something off a shelf, this is a much more 'intimate' situation. Someone is bringing us something they value. It could be anything from a snapshot of their baby or dog to some valuable work of art to some memento--a coin collection, a snake skin, a broken wine glass from a Jewish wedding--we've framed all these and much, much more.
For us "framing" is not just making it look nice. Aesthetics are one component, for sure. But the other component is *preservation*. We operate from the assumption that anyone framing something (it ain't cheap) wants to *preserve* what they are framing. Moreover, although many things are readily framable (images on paper, paintings on canvas, etc.) *many* of the things (as mentioned) are not. How do you "frame" a bottle of scotch or a pair of cowboy boots or a 200 year old lace table cloth that is 6 feet in diameter and so fragile it is literally breaking apart as it is being handled?
All that to just get it across that what we do isn't just dealing with customers purchasing something off a shelf. We are trained in our trade to solve complicated problems that will give a customer not only a well designed presentation but a means for displaying it that will continue to preserve the item displayed.
Most of the work we do is "custom" work; each piece hand crafted (more or less). BUT our business also has a do-it-yourself component. The customer places the order, we cut the materials, join the frame and help them put it all together using our space and equipment. This is not recommended for complex items but the average 'picture' can be done this way. It saves people a bit of money (custom labor starting at around $80 an hour).
Get the picture?
Alright, now, so add to this that our business is located in Berkeley, California. AKA *Buzzerly* aka *The People's Republic of Berkeley*. That is, a truly bizarre mix of 'mostly' fairly well educated people. I'd say 99% of them are rational--what we're interested in here is that *other* 1%
Here's just one example: It was in the evening and only two of us were in the shop. I happened to be working on a project in the custom area (a mezzanine overlooking the downstairs sales and DIY work area). I heard my fellow employee greet a customer who walked in the door: "Hello, how can I help you this evening?" "Hi!" a older woman's voice replied, "I have something *very special* to frame, *an original Monet!*
Well, that caught my attention so I look over the edge of the mezzanine to see what is going on. There I see an 'elderly' woman with a canvas rolled up in her arms and my fellow employee looking understandably surprised. "Oh, really?! … Well, I've never seen *an original Monet before!*" WIth this, the woman unrolls the canvas onto the design table with a bit of a flourish, obviously delighted and very proud of it (however not handling it at all the way any canvas of any value should be handled). What I saw shocked me as much as it shocked my coworker whose jaw was now hanging half way to the floor. What we were looking at was a *very, very* badly painted--I'd say 'god-awful'--still life of a vase with some flowers in it. (Monet is best known for his impressionist landscapes, still lifes didn't become a part of his oeuvre until later in life.)
"Well," my somewhat exasperated coworker said, "I must say, I've *never* seen a Monet like *that* before!"
"Yes," the customer gushed, "Isn't it remarkable!"
"Indeed! How on earth did you acquire it?"
"Well," she continued almost breathlessly, "I was down in Brazil visiting friends who have many wonderful works of art. I asked where they got them all and they told me about this medium they knew. You go to his seance parlor and he *channels* dead artists! You sit down at a table where he has canvas and paints, he puts himself into a trance, the lights go off and then “Voila!”
the lights come on and THERE IT WAS! This beautiful original Monet!"
(I mean, you know this is for real, right, nobody could make this shit up!)
With this explanation now as fully on the table as this god-aweful painting, my coworker, renowned salesman that he was, immediately reaches for the sample of THE biggest most equally god-aweful AND EXPENSIVE GOLD FRAME in the shop, exclaiming: "Well, have *I* got the perfect frame for *you*!"