Ever wonder where our frames come from? Did you know that part of our job is visiting foreign frame makers to bring you the best picture frames in the whole wide world?
The team is recently returned from our Grand Tour of European manufacturers. We suffered through two long weeks of amazing hospitality, friendship, food, and even more food. (Remember, we do this for YOU, our customers.)
In Spain, we saw bulls and stuffed ourselves silly with paella. In Italy, we strolled medieval lanes and sipped wine under the Tuscan sun. But most importantly, we toured nine picture frame manufacturing facilities; each varying in size and level of craftsmanship. In this blog we share with you an insider's look at the amount of craft that goes into making the frame on your wall.
It all starts out with the raw wood - lots and lots of raw wood. These giant stacks are all finger-joined pine grown in Scandinavia and responsibly forested.
Here’s one of those blocks of finger-joined pine going through a milling machine to be turned into a moulding profile. Special knives and blades are used to create each different profile shape. (Sorry for the shaking at the end!)
Here's the finished stack of the milled profile waiting to be painted and finished.
Each raw piece of wood goes through a machine fitted with lots of wheels specially adjusted to move the shape along the line. This one is getting a coat of glue before a very thin layer of maple wood veneer is applied to the face.
The wheels on the machines come in a variety of sizes and shapes to work with many different kinds of frame profiles. It can take a few hours to set up the machine between operations.
Lengths of moulding are stacked for drying and then moved around the factory between steps and machines on these large carts.
This is a fine example of a compo wheel. The ornate design will be stamped into a layer of wood composition as the wood rolls through the machine.
Some factories are fully automated but others still use some very old school techniques. These are jugs full of gesso and clay bole which will be applied by hand as a foundation before gold leafing. Looks like they’ve been using the same jugs since the Renaissance!
This worker is brushing rabbit skin glue on in small sections before applying gold leaf by hand. She will walk miles and miles each day traveling up and down the sticks of frame moulding.
No machinery in sight. Some of our richest and most special finishes are achieved through many coats of leaf, paint and lacquers - all done completely by hand. These guys have been making frames like this for generations.
Some of the frames we source on our adventures are only found stateside in our Chicago locations. Come in and see our exclusive selections. We love frames and we love offering you well-made and well-designed extraordinary options. That's no bull!
Gertrude is a loving, inquisitive and intelligent pup, but she's in the dog house now!
When not chasing squirrels, enjoying long tummy rubs or licking her chow bowl clean, Gertrude's favorite hobby is dragging special items to her under-the-bed laboratory and chewing them to bits. A recent evenings peace was disrupted when Laythen's girlfriend shrieked "Get out from under there!!". Seems Gertrude had found the one and only copy of a precious photo and in a matter of seconds had shredded it into a dozen pieces.
Laythen's girlfriend was devastated. The photo is a rare childhood image of her and her brother. Laythen was smart enough to collect all the pieces and bring them to us for a digital restoration. Luckily, everything was there except one corner which may or may not have been ingested! Gertrude isn't telling.
We were able to scan all the pieces and fit the puzzle back together again. All of the damage from bite marks, cracks and missing areas was painstakingly repaired, refilled and recreated.
Laythen surprised his girlfriend with the newly restored photo print in a lovely desk frame - which will now be stored on a shelf well above dog height! Gertrude is still allowed to visit the apartment, but has to follow new strict guidelines. She's a keeper despite her taste for mischief!
Maybe we can help you be a hero and digitally restore something you thought was a goner. We're up for a challenge and are happy to help! Learn more about our digital services!
Chicago has such a rich and interesting past and we truly love seeing and framing bits and pieces of that history. The original Playboy Club opened at 116 E. Walton in 1960. Within a year it was listed as the world's busiest club. Members of the exclusive club had to adhere to a strict dress code and present their bunny-logo key at the door for access to the lush and lascivious world within.
Our customer's father was a key carrying member and lifelong fan of Hef and his bunnies. The pieces they brought to us for framing are an addition to an already large room of Playboy memorabilia. The items are a small brass plaque from the club and a little working doorbell. The challenge is to frame them along with a hidden working speaker that plays a little risque jazz number when the doorbell is pushed.
We had to use our special bunny-eared thinking caps for this one! The speaker had to be hidden behind the fabric but with the mechanics in the right place so it would function when the doorbell is pressed. And the back needed to be accessible for changing the batteries from time to time. The project was completed with red plush velvet fabric and a mirrored finish frame to replicate the swank Playboy Club 60's decor.
I think we have another thrilled customer! Take a closer look at the finished piece.....