Fledgling Framer wanting to learn


Mar 8, 2004
Anniston, Alabama, "The Heart of Dixie"
Okay, this is my very first post, please be kind....oh boy, here goes (big sigh)....

I am a "wantabe" framer. I am fascinated with the art and want to learn the craft. My goal is to work in a frame shop as a framer and to someday earn the CPF certification. I have NO interest in having my own business or in being a "homebased framer". I just want to acquire the skill, become really good at it and work for someone in their frame shop....so here is my question:

If you were to consider hiring a framer for your shop and the ONLY experience this person had in framing was reading some books and attending a school, which school would you consider gives this person the best credentials?

Now, before you think I am totally off my rocker, I am not crazy enough to think you can learn this craft without working in it, but I have to get started somewhere and I don't want to waste my time and money by attending the wrong school. I am in my early 50's and have been retired for the past year...I am now in a position where I can learn a new skill in an area that truly interests me.

My plans are to study as much written material as possible and attend one of the framing schools offered around the country. Then, I want to approach a local shop owner about serving an upaid apprenticeship for as long as it takes for me to master the appropriate skills to be of real use to that shop owner.

One of your Grumble members said you all are very nice and willing to help....so I thought I would take him up on his invitation to post and go straight to the experts.

Thanks for taking the time to read my post........DixieLee
If I could take a class I would study with Hugh Phibbs at the Smithsonian:

You can learn more about him by searching the Grumble, searching the Internet or look for his articles in Picture Framing Magazine.
Have Fun!

DON'T work for free. There are companies that will hire novices, and it should only take a few days to become "useful."
Tabula Erasa
What I wouldn't give to have an eager worker with a mind untainted towards this business.

Would you consider moving to Florida?

Seriously. No single school is going to offer all that you will need to know. and the framer you work for may not use the same techniques or equipment at all (and none of us like being told we've been doing something wrong the last 20 years :D ).
An alternate route would be to go to work for someone in your community that has the best reputation for quality work and get them to pay your way to the trade shows for workshops and classes in excahnge for apprenticeship. Or have them pay you a modest salary and use that to pay your own way.
Join the PPFA (introduction at $25/year I think), subscribe to the trade journals; you could even do some crossover studies in woodworking, joining, carving and finishing.
DixieLee--Taking Hugh's course would be great, but if that is out of the budget (it would be a long commute)why don't you look for a great local framer in your area, tell him/her about what you said above, and see if you can get a trainee job. I'd ask for minimum wage, though. People who tell me they will work for free make me think they are simply looking for a spot to hang out and play with my tools.
With all the prep work you intend to invest in before seeking employment... trust me... don't even gyp yourself with the unpaid apprentice idea... a frameshop owner in need of help will be PSYCHED for you walk through their door. I went the same route your considering and man, I got hired real fast... at a great starting rate of pay.

Although I'd rather have someone who's at least gone through an introductory framing course walk through my door, as long as someone has a good work ethic, an eye for design, dedication to preservation/"doing no harm" and is either annal retentative or has OCD (the perfect people for quality joins and mat cutting!) I'd train 'em.

Good luck!
Some employers actually prefer to hire people who have no real framing experience - fewer bad habits to untrain.

They are probably looking for someone with a positive attitude who would be pleasant to work with. Simple math skills and the ability to read close measurements are greatly valued in our trade.

A great sense of design and good attention to fine detail are rarely found in a single individual. If you happen to possess both, you could work almost anywhere.

I wouldn't expect such a person to come to me pre-trained. I'd expect to hire her and pay for her training.

Don't discount the possibility that you'll eventually get hooked and want your own shop. It happens to almost everybody if they stick with it a while.
Y'all are great! You have given me some really good ideas......it sounds like there is hope and that I am not pipe dreaming! I never thought about being willing to be unpaid would be a red-flag, I will keep that in mind when approaching shop owners.

I am fortunate enough to possess those AR and OCD "qualities" (some of you mentioned)....sometimes to a fault, but I think that maybe one of the reasons I am drawn to this skill.

It sounds like I need to do some research in my area and see if there is anyone willing to even consider a trainee. I live in a pretty small town and there only a few frame shops in the area.

I got good advice from your other Grumble member, y'all are pretty nice and helpful! Thank you all for your time!
Have you ever thought about moving north to Tennessee? (I never thought I'd use the words "north" and "Tennessee" in the same sentence!) :eek:

I looked at your profile and saw that you do basketry as well. Have you ever tried caning? We do both and market it as Art & Antiques.

Check out our website www.newmanvalley.com

Welcome from me as well. I was your exact clone thirteen years ago when changing vocations in my work life. You would be a shopowner's dream if, as you've been urged, you tell them just what you told us above. I had no experience in framing but was so excited about learning it that I read everything I could find, subscribed to trade mags, studied manuals, and went to work at minimum wage for a very pleasant and helpful shop owner with her complete knowledge that I had done no framing before.

The biggest quality you have is enthusiasm---and probably a very good work ethic. The OCD part is a big help also. You'll do fine.

And don't be so very sure that you don't ever want to own your own business. It's what I thought and I was dead wrong. That was twelve years ago and I've been my own successful boss for all these years.
You're in for a lot of fun in this business.
Quote from DixieLee:

I got good advice from your other Grumble member, y'all are pretty nice and helpful! Thank you all for your time!

OK, Bev, now I need to qualify that statement, it's true, Grumblers are pretty nice and helpful.

But, Ron grumbles way too much (he's gettin' along in years, ya know),

Wally wears a tiara to work,

Betty has to stand on an orange crate to do framing,

MerpsMom is much too pretty to be an actual framer, (none of us ever believed THAT tale, Cathie!!),

Jerry Ervin dresses in colonial attire and rides through the countryside each weekend screaming "The British are coming, the British are coming!!",

and katman actually has whiskers.

Now, if you want to take advice from a bunch like this, you need to know what you are getting yourself into!

And that old fart who I suspect lured you onto the Grumble is actually a Grumbler stalker who preys on all the "newbies" and fills their heads with visions of grandeur about how cool framing is and how rich you will become in no time at all!

Take some sage advice from one of the few sane and rational framers ever to grace the cyber-pages of the Grumble and be careful what you take for good advice here. I would suggest asking for a current blood pressure reading, glossy 8x10 photo of the "advice giver", and possibly a current physical makeup and psychological profile first.

Some of us don't even know for sure that we really exist!! :cool:


(Nobody's gonna make me believe that the Titanic hit an oversized ice cube and SANK!!!)
Okay, Tom............I was trying to not to name you so you wouldn't be embarrassed about the fact you actually "talked" to a newbie!

The mental images you having given me about each of these wonderful grumblers will last for a long time.

Y'all don't listen to him.....I appreciate any and all the advice I can get, even if it might be virtual and from non-existing people.... ;)
You are obviously a "forward thinker". That's gonna be your key to your success!

I've just got to know, what are you retired FROM?
(If you don't mind sharing.)

By the way, any chance we are related??
First of all, no chance we are related....my real name is Beverly Howard. I live in Alabama and but am originally from California....when I moved here I thought, well, "when in Rome...", so I took on the nickname DixieLee.......

I don't mind sharing at all. I retired from the Air Force Reserve in 1996 (12 years active duty, 10 years reserve time). My active duty time was as an Air Force Recruiter and my reserve time as a hospital administrator. Last year, I retired from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta where I worked as an Associate Director for Management and Operations for one of CDC's divisions. I am very lucky to be retired and still in my early 50's. It gives me the opportunity to learn a new skill in a completely different line of work and I am excited about it.

As you can see, when I said I didn't have any framing I meant it! I am truly a "never ever" framer who wants to be one.
it is nice to have posts like these to read every once in a while instead of bad posts. i like it when it is nice and cheerful, people in here can be so great and supportive.
welcome dixielee and you should not have a problem finding a place to work at. heck maybe there is a grumbler out your way looking for some help? could happen, good luck.
DixieLee, I have a framer friend near here who's retired military. At first, I thought I'd better be nice to her in case she still had some connections and might call in an air strike on my shop, but then I decided I really like her and we've gotten to be friends.

With your background, any shop would be lucky to have you.
Welcome to the Grumble, DixieLee. That's the best first step you could have taken. The rest is to sort out all the good advice so that you do what best fits your situation.
Originally posted by DixieLee:

If you were to consider hiring a framer for your shop . . ."
with no framing experience?
For me, when hiring, for shop positions, I prefer no experience. I look for a good employee, not a good framer. Everything framing related can be learned/taught (it's not roecket science). I can't teach how to be a good preson or employee. That you need to come in the door with.

I have a 10 question math test sheet. (need to get all ten correct). It's not hard. But it covers the main things needed for framing, and therefore the area of most loss from error of bat math is avoided. Three of my employees were formerly accountants (hence they passed the test easily).

Can you take direction when needed?

Can you improvise, self-start, or self-motivate when needed?

Have you filled out applications at any local shops yet?

Have you gotten any framing done in town? One of our employees is a former customer. No framing experience, but a great eye for framing, and a nice person. Start with the (nicer) shops you have frequented.
Marc, you said something I have believed and practiced for many years....you can teach the technical stuff, but you can't teach someone to have a strong work ethic and a good attitude! That is the philosphy I used when I hired staff and I never regreted any of my decisions.

Y'all have been so generous and helpful. After hearing from all of you, I am more excited than ever to get started in this new venture. It sounds like my next step would be to talk to some frame shops to see how they would feel about taking in a novice......but I want to wait for at least another few weeks.

Last Sept my husband was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow and we have been working toward a bone marrow transplant. If we are lucky enough to have one (it is the only cure) it will take us away from home for 4 months. We will finally get a definitive answer to that question in 3 weeks. Because of this, I don't want to approach a shop owner until I am absolutely sure about this situation. I pride myself on being a highly responsibile individual who is both reliable and dependable....it wouldn't be fair to a shop owner for me to give them anything less. So, in the meantime, I am trying to gather as much info as I can so I will be well prepared. (I actually practice what I preach in my signature line!

Anyway, that is why I am not running right out to begin knocking doors....but believe me, when the time is right.....lookout frame shops, because here I come!!

Thanks, everyone

p.s. Wally, do you really wear a tiara at work? :confused:
I tried, but the d@mned thing was too small and kept falling into the dry mount press. Hallmark was after me for copyright infringement with all those little crowns embossed on the artwork.

You're off to a very good start here. Most newbies manage to raise someone's cockles in their first few posts. Congratulations.

Here's free advice, and I promise it's worth the price:

1. Don't work for free. If you do, your mentor/employer may not be concerned about making the most of your time. Demand a fair wage, and make sure you earn it by your good work. Also, in some places (Ohio, for example) it is illegal for anyone to work without receiving payment of an agreed wage, which goes way back to issues of slavery. We may not think much about it today, but 125 years ago that was a big deal.

2. There are several good schools for beginners, and you are right to attend at least one of them. However, after you get acquainted with the bare fundamentals, go to trade shows at every opportunity and take all the classes you can schedule. These days, the best framing-related learning experiences are to be found at the trade shows. The East Coast Art & Frame show is coming up next, in May, and the Atlanta show in September is our industry's biggest. Meanwhile, you might find suppliers or PPFA chapters offering a few classes.

3. Subscribe, beg, borrow, or steal Picture Framing magazine, Decor Magazine, and Framing Business News. Join PPFA, and check out FACTS (www.ArtFACTS.org).

4. Understand that the more you learn about this business, the more you'll realize how much more there is to learn. It's an ongoing process.

Happy Framing!
HI! I'm back again. Like a Yo Yo to this site. Just can't keep away. Must be all your magnetic charm...

Anyhow. I was VERY! enthused reading this article. Perhaps due to the nature of The USA being many times larger than The UK, opportunities like this are more in abundance?

I am in reading of Framing books & magazines. I'd hoped to come to USA either WC show @ Vegas or NY in Feb, but cash denied me the chance. However, I will be crossing over the pond in April to see a friend in CT & am hoping I may make contct with APFA in Southington for course enquiries.

I had posted here some time back for any such opportunities & realise hiring UK employment is not as forward as US. (Likewise for you to be working here with regards to Visas), but & am clutching at straws here, would any opportunities exist such as this for a UK employee in USA?

I shan't cotinue preaching my work ethics etc or persuasions on me being your perfect employee as this is neither time nor place, but after being out in USA over New Year & coming back to my job realise I need new directions & challenges & like I said, continue to come back to this site for inspiration & info. So there must be some kind of a Picture Framing bug inside me.

I have read & am EXTREMELY grateful to those who posted to my previous query not too disimilar to this request, but just couldn't bypass an opportunity to reply to this post.

You know how it goes: 'Nothing ventured..."

Thanks again for all the info.