I worked as a Stage Manager for many years in theatre touring both the UK and abroad. Several years after getting married I chose to leave this career as I was constantly away from home. I then started working as a PA in the (horse) racing and bloodstock industry in the Lambourn area.
Needing a creative outlet after leaving the theatre I started painting as a hobby. After getting some of my work framed I realised how expensive it was. I wondered whether it was possible to frame your own art and started looking on the internet for ideas and up popped the DIYframing website. I did the first two courses the Basics Of Framing and the Mount Cutting Course and invested in simple home hobby framing equipment. Suddenly my friends and family started asking me to frame things for them. The business grew very quickly from the start and I re-invested everything I earned in upgrading to professional equipment and doing all the courses available at DIYframing.
We converted the garage at home into a well insulated, brightly lit bespoke workshop. However as we live in a residential area I arrange for all deliveries to be made to my husband’s work where I collect them. This avoids large lorries disturbing the neighbours.
I still work full time as a PA in the racing and bloodstock industry. My current employer, along with others in the racing industry, has given me a lot of work framing pictures of horses winning races etc. I have also had to hone calligraphy skills for this type of work which is luckily very frequent. At the moment, 100% of my business is framing. However, there is so much room for growth and I am hoping to offer framed artwork on my website in the future.
Building up your own skill levels can be quite easy, but it does take time; and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no substitute for practise and being very strict with your own quality control. For the first few months I framed everything at cost, which meant I got a lot of work from family and friends. I was also a complete pest at DIYframing. The advice helpline is fantastic. There were many times I told people, “Yes of course I can frame that.” Then I ran to the phone to find out how to!!!!
Letting people know you do framing is the essential first step in marketing. I started with hand flyers which I posted locally. This is great because you can control how fast work is coming in and test the water. The pamphlets paid for themselves within two weeks. I then invested in a website www.cherryorchardframers.co.uk.
The business launch was quite low-key: I started very quietly. I wanted to develop skills and confidence, upgrade equipment and be sure I was able to give a top quality service before shouting about it. So I now have the usual range of professional toolkit: professional mount cutting system; foot operated mitre chopper; foot operated underpinner etc. These make it so easy to undertake orders of all sizes. So business is great and, at the moment, I have all the work I can cope with, whilst still working full time.
I did my first framing course at DIY Framing on 18th February 2006. I have covered all my costs, put aside money for the tax man and, this spring, Cherry Orchard Framers is paying for my husband and I to go to Rome for a holiday.
I was so proud of the first frame I put together a frame at DIY Framing. I couldn’t believe that I had done it. Now I am working as a trainer for DIYframing I think that’s the best bit about teaching students - seeing their faces and remembering how I felt making my first frame – it’s magic!
No two people or situations are the same, so telling people how best to go about starting a business isn’t easy. However, a basic thing is simply, “Go for it!” Use the advice available at DIYframing to tailor your business. If, like me, you’re not quite brave enough YET to give up guaranteed, well paid, full-time employment, you can still make it work and fine-tune your business to suit your needs.
Finally, there will always be problems and difficulties when starting something new like this. Could probably write a book about them. But would I have done anything differently? Yes, just the one thing: I should have started sooner.
Naturally enough it is not an easy level to achieve and will take some practice of skills and experience of working with customers before you may be ready to have a go. However, as DIYframing is now just turned 5 years old, it is not a surprise that some of our first students are at that point. What is involved in the assessment and how does it feel to be put through the examination process? Fortunately we have somebody within the business to tell all. Jan Doyle, one of our first students and now a trainer with UK School of Framing, gives you the low down.
As for the exam itself well I think it was the most nerve wracking thing I have ever done. I suddenly realised I hadn't done an exam for over 20 years and it was incredible how those ‘O' Level nerves came back! The exam is done on a one to one basis and takes just under two hours.
I had to prepare three framed images to take with me to the test centre. The first was a piece of art in a double mount, framed to commended level. The second was a piece framed to conservation level with a set of double lines ruled around the mount (using a ruling pen, no cheating allowed). The third piece was art on canvas stretched and framed. The examiner scrutinised then dismantled the framed pieces I had taken with me and quizzed me on how I had done them and why I had chosen the various materials. She then asked questions to make sure I understood exactly what the different levels of framing are:
The next stage was the practical section. I was handed a piece of paper that had a description of how I should frame an A4 picture. It turned out to be conservation level, double mount with a weighted bottom boarder. All materials were provided along with a choice of equipment and I was given 45 minutes to frame the work. During the task the timer was set and steadily ticked away on the counter . . . .
Finally there was a multiple choice set paper for which I was allowed about 30 minutes. During the tasks the timer was set and steadily ticked away on the counter . . . . I swear I can still hear that clock.
Anyone thinking of taking this exam needs to buy the FATG Commended Framer Study Guide which is very informative and clearly sets out their guidelines and expectations.