The amount of times DIYframing has been called DIY farming would probably not be a massive surprise. An easy mistake to make. So it had to happen at some point that we managed to find a keen framer who is setting up their business in the farming community.
Alison Ridley is that person. Although her own career was in a slightly different field (you've got to allow a few puns), a dental practice manager for eighteen years, things have changed more recently. She lives on the family farm run by her husband and his father, where she has been very busy as mother and housewife for the last six years. Although one daughter is still pre-school age, Alison sees that it the ideal time to be building up her interest in framing, both as a hobby and new income.
Both of Alison's parents were professional artists. After her father died, she wanted to celebrate the legacy of her parents' art by exhibiting their work at a local gallery whilst at the same time raising money for the local hospice, which had supported her father. The framing involved in that sort of exhibition would have been prohibitively expensive. Alison decided to explore the possibilities of doing it herself and took part in a DIYframing training weekend, November 2007, in Maidstone, Kent.
The step from there, to seeing the potential for a new career, was not massive. The farm has great assets to be exploited, such as Alison's husband's farm office, which was soon commandeered and turned into a workshop. (Well the extra income would help towards the school fees). The light in her new workshop is great and being sited next to the stable block, she can easily keep an eye on the horses.
Alison aims to continue selling more of her art work, possibly at art fairs, whilst starting to promote her framing business at the same time. However, at the moment the focus of her new business is 100% picture framing.
Situated on a farm, having enough space was never a massive problem; however, she rapidly realized how quickly you can build a stock of materials. In the end she bought the full professional framing kit from DIYframing which has all fitted well into her workshop. She now feels that everything is set up as she wants it.
Moving from hobby framing into a business set up does take some ground work. Alison has had an interesting approach to develop the confidence and skills to go her own way.
"I have spent the last year working for a local gallery which has given me the chance to hone my skills with a variety of framing jobs, but without having to see customers or help them make decisions," Alison explains.
Of course she has also done a lot of work for family and friends, which has given her the confidence without the pressure of advising complete strangers about choices of mouldings and mounts. They have always been delighted with the result. The majority of her own framing, outside of the gallery work, is now built on her reputation and the recommendations of happy customer. And that is always very satisfying and gives your confidence a real boost.
The future looks great for Alison. "I am just about to launch myself on the public, as I agreed to work exclusively for the gallery for 1 year. I will advertise locally to start with, but want to take it slowly as I still have one daughter pre-school age. I would like to build things up as I have more hours to work in the coming years."
A farm location has great advantages, not least being the space available. However, whilst AR - Bespoke framing will eventually allow customers to visit, insurance needs to be investigated thoroughly before working out the logistics of bringing the public into an already busy workplace. And of course it's muddy! So, for the moment the "home visit" approach is being planned.
Despite the current climate, people still want their pictures framing. As far as Alison is concerned her new lifestyle and business are great. She freely admits that it can be a bit nerve wracking handing over your first bit of framing to a customer. Her first was a small print with a single mount that had taken her 4 hours to complete. But it was also a very exciting and satisfying moment, not to be forgotten.
Does Alison have any advice for anyone considering a similar move?
"If you have no previous experience of running a small business - get advice from an expert to get you started. Apart from the obvious health and safety issues around the equipment - just don't get carried away buying equipment and sundries you may not need. See how things develop - you soon get to know how you like to work and what you use most of."
As far as changing the way she went about things, Alison's answer is very simply, "No!"