Behind the Scenes: Lauren Hirsh Custom Framing
We visited Lauren, of Lauren Hirsh Custom Framing in Naples, on a chilly Sunday afternoon in early March. We were met outside the door by the greeting committee, Poppy, one of the most adorable dogs we’ve ever met. Lauren was working on framing up a personal piece- a self-portrait her daughter created at school- while her son and daughter used the space for projects of their own.
Lauren’s workspace is bright and open, with a diverse range of artwork displayed on the walls and plenty of room for creative design. Columns of frame samples line the walls between sections of paintings, photographs, drawings, and even mirrors. Among the stacks of uncut wood for future frames and neatly arranged piles of matboard are remnants of a few other projects- signs of a Makerspace Lauren recently hosted for local elementary students. She explained that this was just one way she hoped to contribute to the community, as one of her main goals as a business owner is to give back.
Lauren’s generous spirit is only one of the reasons we chose to showcase her on our blog. Last fall she framed several large prints from our wedding, and we completely fell in love with her work. She worked with us to carefully select the right colors and frames to create an eye-catching little gallery, even taking the time to try a few different types of woods and stains until everything was just right. We’ve known Lauren for quite a while- her daughter took swim lessons with Larkin a few years back- and she’s the type of person we eagerly recommend everyone stop in and visit!
Describe the history of the business. What inspired you to get started?
Well, I had done framing in the past. Starting when I was about 20, I worked in three frame shops in three states. When it came time to figure out what I wanted to do again, when the kids were getting older, I started looking for equipment I could buy, and ended up really finding more than I needed. I met this older couple, in their 80s, who had been doing it for about 30 years and were selling their supplies. There was so much inventory: I got at least 100 boxes of moulding, all of the equipment, plus thousands of prints, empty frames and hundreds of already framed pieces. I’ve been selling some of that off and putting things on E-Bay, but I like working with artists and people on framing their treasures the most.
What are your favorite things about creating frames and doing this work?
Some of my favorite things are shadowboxes, especially if people bring me special family heirlooms to frame. I’ve done a Christening gown, a KISS guitar, a grandmother’s charm bracelet…the granddaughter didn’t want to wear it all of the time or lose it, so we made a box she could open and take it out and wear it sometimes, and hang it back in there.
Once I framed an eye doctor’s spectacle collection, all antique eye glasses. I had to figure out how to mount them nearly invisibly, and most things I do are archival too. Those things are fun because they’re a challenge. I’ve also created a line of local hard wood moulding, your wedding photos were my inspiration actually, that I have a Mennonite in Penn Yan make for me. I get 10 foot lengths of walnut, cherry and maple in a few different profiles from him, that I cut sand and finish with oil myself. They are a little more labor intensive than the pre-fabricated moulding but I really enjoy the wood working process and love the natural look. Doing all of this stuff is interesting and it’s different all the time and keeps it fun.
What is the most creative or unique project you’ve ever done?
I think the antique collection of eyeglasses always stands out in my head. Also, recently here in town, a man wanted to create a shadowbox with some special things of his wife’s grandmother… a little bottle of her ashes, a poem she had written, a picture of her. He was so sweet because he didn’t want his wife to know this stuff was gone, so he wanted to get it done pretty quickly. I didn’t know them before that, but I ran into the woman later and when she found out I was the one who had framed it she gave me a huge hug. It’s so nice that I can do things that are that meaningful, especially in this community that has been so supportive to me. It’s important to me to be able to give back, and over time I’m starting to feel like maybe I really can make a difference in little ways through donating my time and services.
You’ve already touched on this a little, but how did you learn how to do all of this?
Well, when I was 19 or 20, I was waitressing when I was home from college, and a woman I worked with started a frame shop and photography studio. I actually helped her with the photography too, but the front of the store was a frame shop, and she taught me everything she knew. I took that and kept learning.
I moved to Colorado to finish college, and I walked into a print shop in Crested Butte. The owner had moved half of her late father’s print shop from NYC to the tiny town mountain town. Her mother had actually been Salvador Dali’s original lithographer in the US. She had a storefront with drawers and drawers of old maps and old prints, like Audobon prints and quite a few original Salvador Dali lithographs, and one or two original oil paintings that I eventually framed for her. When I walked in the door she was still setting up, and I asked if she needed a framer. I helped design the space and worked there through college. It was perfect because I actually got my degree in art and was able to work on my own framing too.
I also worked in a frame shop in Taos, New Mexico for a few years. It was an artist community so I worked mostly with artists and galleries. Each place I worked was very different from the next so I got a lot of different experiences.
What would you say sets you apart from other framers?
I feel like my strong suit is color, and knowing how big something should be. I have my own visual of how things should be and the aesthetic of a finished piece has always been something that I’ve cared a lot about. Also, because I work from home and have less overhead, I tend to be more affordable than others in the area.