By Allison Bruce (Contact)
Saturday, June 2, 2007
Local artist Tom Fritz does color corrections before making prints of his art at Museum Quality Framing.
The art of printing and framing has been around for centuries, but at Museum Quality Framing in Camarillo that craft is supported by a lot of technology.
Rather than just imagining what a frame would look like around a family portrait, customers can see how the finished product would look with the store's virtual framing program.
A digital camera mounted to the ceiling above the store's front counter takes an image of the artwork and of a corner of frame. With a few tweaks, a computer shows how the full frame would look around the artwork. The virtual picture can even be "hung" on the wall in a picture of the person's room, said Jim Brent, owner of Museum Quality Framing.
The store doubles as a small art gallery with framed paintings hanging throughout. Frame corners hang on walls around the counter, and a table is available for interior designers who want to sit down with clients and look at prints, mats and frames.
It's a small operation, with Brent and two employees on staff. Family dog Kozmo is a fixture at the store, following Brent around. As business has grown, Brent has expanded the store off of Ponderosa Drive from the original 800 square feet to 2,600 square feet.
The shop is known for having occasional art shows with wine, cheese and featured artists, hosted by Brent and his wife, Jeanette. A daughter in elementary school and a 6-month-old baby also keep them busy.
Brent is now moving some aspects of the gallery beyond the rich-hued walls of the shop to the Internet.
Museum Quality Framing has started two Web sites one for area artists and one for photographers.
The sites give artists and photographers a way to show their work to a broader audience and build interest and name recognition for the store, which provides giclee print services, an inkjet technology to make high-quality reproductions of photos and paintings.
Brent said he wanted to start the sites as a service for his customers. The new vcArtFarm.com offers a place where artists can show their work with prices and contact information. On VCphotobase.com, photographers can post photos and participate in forum discussions, from how best to hold a camera steady to debates over Canon versus Nikon.
Both sites are free to local residents.
Brent is advertising the sites through his store's Web site, as well as direct mail print ads. Beginning this month, the company will have a photo lottery where people with pictures posted on VCphotobase.com will be randomly chosen in mid-July to win a large canvas print.
"We'll promote the site and advertise for them," Brent said. "In turn, we hope they come to us for services."
Meli Calkins of Granada Hills started posting her pastel paintings on the Art Farm site after Brent told her about it.
"It's a great way for people who don't have financial means or don't have their own Web site to show off their work," said Calkins, who doesn't have her own Web site.
Calkins found Brent while looking for someone to make giclee prints of her paintings. He impressed her with his honesty and desire to help local artists.
When he started making prints of her paintings, they went through several proofs to keep the integrity of the originals.
"It represents his work, too," she said. "It's his work going in to make my work look good."
Brent started Museum Quality Framing about nine years ago. As a young artist, the thought of working in a frame shop appealed to him. He started framing when he was 18.
Though originally from Camarillo, his family moved to Seattle when he was a teenager. Brent had a framing store there for more than six years, but decided it was time to return to Camarillo. It's a lot easier to move artwork in and out of a store when you're not constantly fighting Seattle rain, the 37-year-old said.
Brent focuses on the artists he works with instead of his own art these days. His customers recognize his artistic eye in the way he selects frames to highlight just the right aspects of a painting and his painstaking attention to detail to get the colors in a print as true to the original as possible.
Toni Johnston, an artist and an interior designer, was referred to Brent years ago.
"He immediately captivated me because he's so talented," she said. "He's so good at the art of selecting a frame."
She said he's always sharing new ideas such as stacking frames to make them more dramatic and give the framed art more depth.
"Because of his confidence, the client reads his confidence and feels very comfortable with what he recommends," Johnston said.
Johnston posts her artwork on the Art Farm site. She said there's something people like about collecting works from local artists.
"It has more meaning for them," she said.
Behind a swing door, the hands-on labor of Museum Quality Framing takes place. The walls are forested in different styles and widths of moulding, leaning against a machine that can cut even the widest of them. Metal containers of colored putty are mounted on the wall, offering quick access for filling in the corners where the frame pieces meet.
Through the short hallway is the back printing room where two massive printers wait to spit out orders that range from a single print for a family who wants a copy of grandma's portrait to thousands of prints for a painter or photographer.
Brent picks up a canvas print and shows how painted swirls of texture over a yellow-orange sun give it the appearance of being an original painting.
The store averages about 250 prints a month. Brent has been in the printing business since 1998. He saw it as a natural complement to framing.
That diversification draws customers through the door for one service and keeps them coming back for others.
"Some people come in for printing they walk in and go, Whoa, wait a minute,'" Brent said. "Normally, we gain their framing services as well."
Computers wait nearby for adjusting colors as each proof is printed.
On a recent morning, artist Tom Fritz was sitting in the back room working on a print from one of his own paintings.
He started using the store for stretching his canvases. Soon, the store was handling his framing. Then his printing.
He likes being part of the proofing and final print process.
Many artists hand over their originals to Brent and he handles getting the print right. Fritz worked 23 years in the defense industry as a staff artist and has plenty of computer graphics experience. So he takes his own turn at the computer.
"Jim really gives you quite a lot of latitude that way," Fritz said.
There are many shops that wouldn't even think of letting a customer into the back room, but for Brent it is all part of doing business and making sure he has happy customers.
"We really like to make sure, when people walk out of here, they're happy," Brent said.