The Art Of Framing

With a floral printed shirt, white pants, and bauble earrings topped off with Prada sun glasses, Corinne Schieman is as bright as the clothes she wears.

Sitting at Blackwater Coffee, she enjoys her usual morning routine of a latte and greetings with all her favourite downtown people before heading to her shop across the street, Artopia Gallery & Framing.

Known for it’s eclectic selection of art and ceramics, Artopia is also one of the few remaining custom framing locations in Lambton County.

With nearly 20 years in the business, all kinds of art has moved through Artopia’s doors including more recent pieces by local artists Samantha Pickard, Tracey Bultje, and Julie Bell.

As a job that relies heavily on mathematical skills and artistic design, the role of framers is often now replaced by big box stores like Michael’s, where frames are mass produced for a lower cost.

But even with the push against custom frames, Corinne’s shop is still riddled with paintings, diplomas, and the odd antique clock that keep her busy.

“Every single piece that comes in the store I always ask where it’s from, give me a little bit of background on it.  I got to get a feel for it, put myself right into it and then I can choose. And I don’t give up until it speaks to me,” says Corinne.

Most people can guess what Corinne does in her studio surrounded by sheets of glass and frame wedges. But what got her here?

Currently you can take a course to become a certified framer, but for Corinne, and many others, the art was passed down through friends.

“I learned from the best,” she says with a smile.

“I was a stay at home mom, but then my friend opened a gift shop in Point Edward and she did framing. I needed to get out the house once a week, and I used to go in and help her and she taught me to frame,” explains Corinne.

Once she had developed her skill set, Corinne opened her own shop in 1999 on Wellington Street with the help of a partner. After an amicable separation, Corrine moved to her current location on Christina Street.

“Nine years I’ve been on my own. I’ve had employees, a lot of great employees. But being the owner, in times you can’t always afford to have help,” says Corinne.

On her own, her business has established a reputation from the art community to attorneys.

“I have clients from all across Sarnia, not any certain age group or profession,” Corinne explains.

Yet cost is always a factor in the game of framing.

“Framing is very expensive. When it comes to artists I always encourage them to learn how to make their own frames. Because if they’re having an exhibit how do you afford to do all of that?” explains Corinne.

Why so expensive? The associated costs to framing vary from piece to piece. Large simple projects are time consuming, while other things like shadow boxes and jerseys require a lot of materials. Then on top of that you’re paying labour for someone who knows the difference.

“I’ll never sacrifice quality for money,” says Corinne.

The love Corinne feels for framing is evident in her work ethic. The more work she has the happier she is. Yet, there is one thing missing from her business. Someone to pass it on to.

“I need to find someone who has an interest. I have to phase out eventually, my husband’s retired, my kids are all grown, I love to travel. I have a sailboat. And I work every day of my life,” Corinne explains.

And the art of framing isn’t something that can be taught in a day.

“There is so much involved in framing. I need to find someone that is serious,” explains Corinne.

But Corinne isn’t seeking an established framer to take over her business. She’s not looking for a skill set, she’s looking for the right person.

“Personality is number one. Good with clients. Good on the computer. Tidy. Organized. I like to be organized. Particular. Efficient. What goes on in the store stays in the store. Positive,” she lists off describing her ideal successor.

“I want to mold them. Bottom up. Trying to undo established habits and ways is so hard. I’d rather find someone and teach them,” she says with a laugh.

By the end of our interview it’s nearing 10am, and Corinne needs to head over and open Artopia for another day in the business. Finishing her latte she leaves me with a promise to meet later for photos and a few choice parting words.

“It’s a dying art, sis.”