19th Century Auction Find Meets a New Fine Art Frame
We just had an amazing experience finding a fine art framing resource that we wanted to share with the antiques and art collecting community. Our journey started when we recently acquired a really nice 19th century oil painting at an auction in CT. It needed restoration work and it needed to be placed in a period styled frame. The restoration work was done by a high quality firm in Oxford, CT (I will cover this in a later post).
Locating a “proper” fine art framing resource
Never having to re-frame any 19th century oil paintings, we needed to start searching for resources from scratch. Making inquiries for “framers” with local art-museums and with the restoration companies we knew of, seemed like a good place to begin. We also checked with a few area antique-dealers and shop owners that we know. Some pointed us to low quality, local resources and others gave us resources that were located near to NYC. Wanting to try to stay close (easily drivable), we expanded our search to Google and the internet.
The on-line searches were yielding a crazy number of eBay framing shops and some really marginal-looking sites that showed little or no example of “period work”. It was nearly impossible to make contact with most of the shops that came to us from the search engines. They were either a bad fit or just some crazy link to a link with no substance. Continuing our on-line search for a few weeks, left us coming up short on credible framing resources.
Almost ready to give up, we went back to pick up our finished work from the restoration company and were provided a new recommendation. They suggested to us that we try a company called “Motyka Art & Frame” in Central Falls, RI. Interestingly, never once were we led to a link to this site with any of our related search terms. Trying later it did come up using “fine art framing in Rhode Island” – how random!
Making contact and vetting the framing resources
After following the link to Motyka Art & Frame, we spent some time looking at the frame selections. I have to say we were not initially impressed with the website and were going to move to another resource. Because it was a referral, we decided instead to to make a phone call directly to Motyka.
Because the shop is so old school, our first attempt was a miss. There is no dedicated reception queue, no polished phone answering system, just a random guy who picked up the phone from a very noisy location. It was so bad that we actually hung up the phone (it was a bad day so don’t judge). About 10 minutes later we got a call back from the owner Stephen Motyka who left us a voice mail message.
Our First Contact was disappointing
Stephen was apologetic and very professional. His voice was calm and patient and he really sounded like an interesting character. He left us his cell phone number so we could reach him directly. We decided to call him back later in the day.
During our (brief) first call, Stephen asked us a few questions about the piece and what we wanted to do with it. I emailed him a quick note to memorialize the conversation and to give him a reference email address. Almost immediately, we got an email back from Stephen. He suggested we look at a few molding styles on-line that he thought might go nicely with our new acquisition. They were all great choices and any one of them would have fit the piece well.
Finding the right style was easy
After we looked at all of the suggested styles and did some google searches for 19th century American art, we selected a style that most likely represented a good “period fit”. To finalize our order, we sent Stephen an email with the precise dimensions of the picture (length, width and depth).
We measured top across, bottom across, bottom up to top left, bottom up to top right and depth from all four sides to get us a proper variety of measurements. Google measuring for a frame if you want to do it right.
Stephen got a price to us and we could have had the finished frame shipped ending this post. It was a relatively short drive so we decided to go to the RI shop and have them place our treasured 19th century painting in the frame.
The location was rough but very safe
Living a very protected life in the rural parts of CT makes a trip to Central Falls, RI a bit of a culture shock. The drive about a ninety minutes from door to door with most of the trip on interstate 95. The the last 10 minutes were spent crawling through the outskirts of Providence, RI. Not something we do everyday, so it was a bit “different”.
Getting to the shop brought us past some unbelievable 19th century brick buildings, many run down factories, exquisite churches, many walk up multi-family and single family homes. RI has some amazing post-industrial-revolution eye candy (and unfortunately a large amount of modern blight). According to the owner, the building was an old machine factory that he converted into a (wonderful) frame shop over 25 years ago.
Parking was off the street and ample for our SUV. We climbed a old metal, outdoor staircase to the second floor and walked into the most amazing gallery and wood shop I have seen in ages. It was like something out of 1970’s downtown NYC before the real estate boom forced out small manufacturing businesses.
Entering a time warp and being in a 1970s NYC workshop
All in, we spent about an hour looking at the framed-art Stephen has in his gallery. I spent much of the visit looking at the various finishing stations where the frames are made. A gold leaf frame was what we bought, so I wanted to watch how the gold leaf was applied. Happily, it is still done the old fashioned way, sheet by sheet using a brush and size.
Elsewhere in the shop, there were two carvers working on new (reproduction) frames. Each armed with chisels at workbenches that looked to be made for them decades ago. These guys were both making some pretty intricate patterns on some freshly glued frames.
If you are in the need of fine art framing you really need to check out Motyka Art & Frame in Central Falls, RI. The web site does not do justice to the high quality craftsmanship going on there. You can get a great idea of what they sell on-line, but if you want to experience a true blast from the past go visit them. They are located at 79 Chestnut Street, Central Falls, RI 02863
Call or make a trip – you will not be disappointed!