Merion Art Blog
We’re shining a spotlight on some of our store’s unsung heroes: the Framing Department. Our framers do most of their hard work out of sight, in the frame shop, and we want to let everyone know how good they are! All of our skilled framers have the training and the talent to preserve and display your artwork, memorabilia, textiles, and documents to their best effect. Each frame that leaves Merion Art gets their personal attention and care. Below, you’ll find their biographies, as well as a special framed piece by each of our talented custom framers. Check out our front window this month to see their frames in person, and make sure to stop in and see our newly renovated framing counter!
Elaine is an artist, designer, crafts person, and creative problem solver. She received a BA from Moore College of Art and Design with a Major in Illustration. She has been custom framing professionally since 2012 and has been with Merion Art and Repro for three years, with two of those years as Framing Manager. Her favorite part of framing is getting to see so many different works of art, heirlooms, photos, and significant historical pieces throughout her day. She loves the creative process of working with her clients, listening to their needs and helping them create a truly unique and memorable design. She also specializes in preservation: not only will your art look great, it’ll be enjoyed for many years to come!
For her specialty piece Elaine chose to use a mirror in an unconventional way. She says “I came across the print I chose for the framing window during Women’s Month and enjoyed its simple sentiment of each day doing what you set yourself out to do. I always wanted to make a combo mirror and print frame and thought an inspirational quote would be perfect for that. I pictured a frame like this going in a women’s dorm, office, or in my own studio, and wanted the overall look to be playful, colorful, and just generally fun to look at. I chose two frames that picked up different the colors in the print that I thought complimented each other best. The small light blue inside moulding reflects the floral design around the print’s text, and the larger outside frame pops the bright green highlights in the print while adding it’s own fluidity and funky look with it’s wavy design. To make the print center focus and separate these two very different and special frames. I used a simple mirror to go in-between the mouldings and act as a matting, but the mirror is also a tool used to reflect the place it’s located and the person who’s reading the quote at the time. ”
Rebecca brings 40 years of combined framing and art experience to Merion, and has been with us for 6 years. She is a graduate from Drexel University with B.S. in graphic design and studied illustration at Hussian School of art. She has worked in custom framing for many years, constantly learning new techniques because it is something she truly loves to do. In her spare time, she does mixed media assemblage art, illustration, woodworking and is currently experimenting in costume design. A Francophone by birth, as her parents were born and raised in France, she has knowledge of European art coupled with the skill to design and frame high end works of art. She is more than happy to help you design, preserve and display your most treasured works.
From Rebecca: “Having been in the framing industry for many years, I have been fortunate to see many trends come and go, and come back again, which is the reason I chose the owl etching to frame. Owls were popular in the 70’s and seem to have made a comeback on Pinterest and in other sites. Even the bright colors of the 60’s and 70’s are popular again, so I really wanted to merge some traditional elements, like the wood frame into some of our newer brighter mats. A filet also always adds elegance to any design as well. We used the clearest non reflective glass available, which is museum glass, and since it is an older print, I wanted to use the highest quality acid free mats and backing material available.”
Rory is the newest framer to enter into the Merion Art Family. He has been framing for close to three years, and has learned a lot going into this career path. His framing style makes sure to factor in the style of the piece and the opinions of the client, and he always seeks to inject a little bit of something into the design to make each piece feel unique and one of a kind.
About his specialty piece, Rory says “I chose the mat combination to mirror the forest environment. The bottom dark green for the foliage of the trees, the more moss colored green for Yoda’s skin and the grass, the gray and brown mat was to bring out the bark of the trees, and the top mat was to bring out the light in the back of the forest and to break up all the colors I used. The bamboo frame was used to make the style more Japanese (with Yoda being a samurai) and to unify the bark-looking mat and the trees in the picture. Call it cheesy, but the mats and frame I chose puts a smile on my face for how well the combination ties together. And the museum glass that is used truly helps the colors pop.”
Andrew is a landscape and wildlife photographer from the Main Line area in Pennsylvania and holds a BA from the Tyler School of Art. He has been involved in custom framing for about 5 years. He loves to travel and always brings his camera with him, wherever he goes. He truly believes that nature is art and in his work he has trained his eye to find it and bring the viewer an ethereal experience. He loves color, patterns, textures, and reflections, and tries to incorporate all of these into his framing.
Andrew says, “This particular composition depicts a sunny autumn morning in the forest and was taken at Hawk Mountain near Kutztown. I chose a nice smoky gray mat to accent the sun’s rays through the trees with a marigold underneath to pick up the brilliant colors on the leaves. The dark bronze-colored fillet and distressed wood frame really bring home the natural, organic atmosphere of the piece”.
Susan has over thirteen years of experience as a custom picture framer. Starting as a salesperson, she worked her way through all aspects of production and management before leaving full-time employment at Merion to pursue interior design. She works at Merion on Saturdays or Sundays and spends her weekdays as owner and interior designer at Susan Rains Design. Her favorite things about custom framing are the fantastic customers who brighten her day with beautiful art and excellent conversation. In the studio, she enjoys working with her hands to build and assemble the framing. When she’s not designing, she loves spending time in the outdoors with her husband and son. You can reach her at 267-606-0408. Visit her on the web at susanrainsdesign.com
When asked how she designed her piece, she said “To decide how I should frame this collection of pictures and fabric samples from a recent family room project, I revisited my design concept. When designing the room, my goal was to find harmony between his preference for contemporary lines and her love of traditional styles. The frame I chose has a midcentury modern feel with a gold accent to recall the buffet, hardware, and light fixture in the room. The matting is velvet, calling to mind the richness of traditional upholstery and drapes. The rough textured fillet was chosen to become an organic detail, much like the rooms details that were intended to bring nature inside.“
Michael, an artist and certified framer/designer, has worked for Merion Art and Repro for more than 11 years. With attention to detail gained from a diverse background of international architectural and engineering experience, he brings form and composition to customers’ framed artwork. His expertise in calligraphy and gold-leaf applications adds another dimension to this talented individual.
For his piece, Michael says “My twin grandsons, Sam and Luke, celebrated their Bar Mitzvah with the theme “SNL- Saturday Night Live”. Sam’s invitation color was green and Luke’s blue; I alternated the colors for the “Double Trouble” signature drink sign. The frame color, I chose to match the contents of the drink.”
Easter is here and it’s time for egg decorating! For artists and the creatively inclined, an egg is just another (weirdly shaped) blank canvas, and there are so many possibilities! Here are several ideas for artistic egg decorating beyond the traditional vinegar-and-water dip-dye process.
Disclaimer: these egg decorating ideas use art supplies, not intended for human consumption, so they will work best with blown-out eggshells, plastic eggs, or wood or paper mache eggs. Eggshells can be porous, and tastes can leak through, so watch out for chemical transference from certain art supplies. If you’re hoping to eat an egg sandwich on Easter Monday, stick to food-safe dyes!
Marabu Easy Marble- This Saturday at Merion Art, Dave will be demonstrating Marabu Easy Marble for decorating wood and plastic eggs. Easy Marble is, as the name implies, super easy to use. Using a medium sized water container (a quart container from won-ton soup works great), drip a few drops of your favorite colors onto the surface of the water. Use a toothpick to swirl and marble the colors, then dip your wood or plastic eggs in. Easy Marble results in beautifully random swirls!
Crayon Resist– This is a super easy technique that can be used with hardboiled eggs and traditional food-safe dye, to add fun designs. Use white or contrasting color crayons to draw designs, then use a water-based dye. The dye will resist sticking to the wax, causing your art to stand out. You can also use crayon after dying an egg one color, then dip it in a second color- the parts you “mask” off with a white crayon will remain the first color. It can also be a fun surprise for really little kids: write your “secret” message in white crayon, then let them dye the eggs to reveal the surprise designs!
Decoupage Eggs- Use Mod Podge and tissue paper, colored or printed napkins, or other thin handmade papers to create a multilayered colorful egg (This will work best with empty eggshell, wood, or cardboard eggs. It won’t stick as well to plastic, and the layer of paper will make freeing a hardboiled egg very difficult). Take tiny scraps of paper, dip in modpodge, and then smooth over the eggs surface. Overlap to let colors interact and make a smooth decoupage. Martha Stewart herself demonstrates this technique here!
Sponge Painted Eggs- Using a natural sponge (found in the watercolor aisle) or a sponge brush, take a very small amount of acrylic paint and dab it lightly and repeatedly on the egg. Rotate the sponge and vary the pressure for a subtle variation in pattern. If you dye the eggs first, using a contrasting color can give it a cool twist. For more visual impact, try using Jacquard Lumiere paints- they’re metallic and pearlescent for a gorgeous sparkly shine!
Curation in the art world involves the selection and organization of works of art for display. It requires careful attention, mindfulness, and thoughtful decision-making. Art curators choose what will appear in a show or exhibit, and decide which pieces will go where.
Choosing where something will go can be as important as choosing what pieces will be in the show at all. Placement can affect aesthetic and interpretation- and context is important! When pieces are arranged for a show or exhibit, they can take on additional meaning. A juxtaposition of pieces can emphasize contrast and conflict, whereas positioning like pieces near each other can emphasize interesting connections. Those connections can get really interesting when the commonalities aren’t obvious- for example, in shows where the art is stylistically very different, but the artists have something in common, such as race, gender, nationality, a shared life experience, etc.
Curation is an art in itself- the exhibition can become almost a sculpture made of other pieces of artwork. The curator must carefully consider things like color, theme, size, symbolism, style, space, height, framing, and lighting. When a curator has done their job properly, each work of art is shown off to its best effect, and the artwork communicates effectively with the audience. The audience views each piece of the exhibit both individually and collectively, and can draw connections and meaning from the show at large.
Think Like A Curator
Artists might not have too many opportunities to curate shows, but one can be curatorial about things other than fine art. This can be an incredibly helpful mindset for allowing artists to apply creative talents to other areas in their lives. Think of curation as an organizational concept that can help you get your life in order. Being mindful of what you see, and intentional about where it is placed, and why, can improve your life on many different levels. Imagine each aspect of your life that needs attention as an exhibit that needs curating.
Replace the Word “Clean” with “Curate.”
Personally, I hate to “clean”, but I love to “curate”. If I had been instructed to curate my messy bedroom as a child, I might have argued less (and I might have had a more interesting bedroom). Instead of a chore, think of each mess as an opportunity to communicate through rearranging what is there and removing unnecessary items. (Note: this is about putting things away, not scrubbing. No amount of curation will get the dishes done.)
Framing things this way, “I need to clean and organize my messy desk” suddenly becomes “I need to curate my workspace”. Ask yourself how your workspace feels, what it is “saying” to people who see it or have to work in it. Are the items on your desk contributing to productivity and inspiration, or is the sculpture of your work area looking like an assemblage of trash? Could things be arranged in a more attractive and less stressful way? What message is conveyed by the arrangement of your inbox, calendar, computer, and coffee mug- intelligent efficiency or scattered ineptitude? Are there things on your desk that are “outside the scope of this exhibition”? Maybe it’s time to remove them from sight.
Curate Your Home
Much of what interior decorators do is curation of a living space- they choose what to display, where to put it, and what the items relationship is to the other items in the room and the space it is in. Curated decor tells a story; items have a dialog with each other and play off each other to convey information about the people who own the space and how to act in the space (think of the difference in decor and behavior at a fast food joint versus a fancy bistro). Think about what each room in your home is saying about you, and about how you want other people to be or feel when they are there. View your home as an exhibit. Think about it as if you were an outsider at a very specific installation- what it is saying to you?
Curate Your Social Life
Curation can be about more than aesthetic- you can also curate your social life. Be mindful of who you spend your time with- curators are discerning about what art they allow into a certain show, and you can be discerning about the quality of character of the people you spend your time with. Think of your life as a piece of performance art- who are the actors, and how do they affect the tone and quality of your “happening“? This is not to say you should cut people out, just that perhaps they could be arranged more thoughtfully. Choose new combinations of old friends from different parts of your life and invite them to a curated party. See if you can use this concept to help the disparate people in your life make new connections with you and each other.
Merion Art and Retail Curation
Curation is where logistics and creativity meet. At Merion Art (and in all small business retail) we use the word “curate” all the time. As a retailer you can’t just throw random product up on shelves, you have to curate what you carry and where it goes, so that customers can see and understand what you’re selling and also who you are as a business. Luckily, we have a team of experienced artists and designers on staff who are willing to apply their creativity to the store. We are constantly changing our store around to make it more efficient, more attractive, better organized and more fun to shop in. If you’ve visited this month, you might have noticed the reorganization of our pens and markers, and a revamping of our custom framing section. It’s a constant movement towards a better layout. If you ever see one of our staff members glaring at a wall or a display like they’re doing a math problem, chances are you’re watching a curator at work!
Curation and Communication
Taking a curators eye towards your life is just another way of saying that attention and close consideration are better than running through life on autopilot. Artists can get tunnel vision by only focusing their creative facilities on their paintings, drawings, and sculptures. If you are a creative person, applying artistic principles to other facets of life can play to your strengths and lead to success in all kinds of endeavors. Making choices with mindful intention facilitates communication, and good communication is the key to success in every aspect of life.
Acrylic Demo this Weekend
And when you’ve been in the art business this long, you see trends come and go, package designs change, and new techniques & technology eclipse those of the past. We’re constantly changing and refreshing our stock to keep up with the times, but we thought we’d take a moment in praise of some oldies but goodies. We’ve dug up some vintage stock from our art supply vault, rounded up some oft-overlooked classic items, and done some historical research.
Here is a collection of classic and vintage art supplies to act as an inspiration and a history lesson! This is all stuff we’ve got in stock at the store, so come on by, check out some old-school-cool art materials, and maybe even pick up some clearance items at near 1971 prices!
It only takes a few years for something to go from “boring & out-of-date” to “retro & exciting”
Trends are circular- anyone who sees kids these days wearing high-waisted pants and 80’s glasses knows this. Similarly at an art store, sometimes, obsolete stock gets moved off the sales floor and forgotten, before suddenly coming back into style and resurfacing like buried treasure, to the delight of a new generation of artists. Pre-computer-era art supplies like Pantone papers and Letraset rub off lettering are trendy again with hip young designers, just like retro glasses and record players! Gold leaf and calligraphy supplies have seen a resurgence with the advent of Instagram hand-lettering accounts.
Pantone Paper: This paper was used to work controlled colors, gradients etc. into graphic design projects, before the advent of computer aided design. “This was like a very expensive pre-historic version of vector art for us. Coupled with a #11 X-Acto, you could do cut-paper illustrations that would envy the Adobe Illustrator (and Aldus FreeHand) work a few years later.” -Mike Shoaf, via forgottenartsupplies.com
Check out all the interesting color sheets we have in the store, recently unearthed from our art supply vault! Contemporary designers can find a use for the adhesive backed and transparent sheets, and the color sheets make amazing framed minimalist wall art. Come snag your favorite color sheet for $1!
Speedball Nibs: Get fancy with these throwback nibs! Work on your penmanship and inking skills, just like Grandad used to do. These classic nibs work right into modern lettering and journaling trends. These can be used for drawing too- drawing with dip pens takes precision and patience, and can be a good way to slow down and get back to basics. Ask to see our selection of uncarded nibs behind the counter!
Pantone Color Guides– Before computers were so common, anyone who wanted color accuracy with their printing needed a Pantone Color Guide, and art stores like Merion Art used to carry them as a matter of course. These guides were (and are) pricey but thorough, used to make sure the color you wanted was the color you got. I’ve known small design businesses that have held onto their Guide for a decade or more, storing carefully to avoid fading and yellowing of chips. With new colors added every year and the danger of colors fading, modern designers still pay top dollar for the latest updated Pantone color guides. We still have two “antique” Color Guides, a process chips book from c.2000 and a Two Color Selector 1000 from c. 1993- older than some of our staff!
A packaging change can make a good product suddenly look dated
Age ain’t nothin’ but a number to water soluble graphite and drawing pencils, but a label change can make them look ancient in comparison to new stock. Now’s your chance to rescue these classics and grab some excellent supplies at vintage prices!
Classic Pencils: These labels may be dated, but the shelf life of a good pencil is forever! Grab a handful of your most used hardness, or select a few unusual ones (think 8B, 7H, or F!) to add to your custom made selection. Give these classic drawing pencils a good home, let your pencil case party like its 1999, and take advantage of deep discounts.
Graphitone Pencils: These water-soluble graphite pencils have vintage wrappers, but they still work like they’re brand new. Water-soluble graphite allows for control and precision in line drawing as well as delicate shading and coverage for large areas. Try an 8B for a dramatic wash effect in your next drawing!
Lead Holders and 2mm Lead: Another martyr to the computer age, leadholders are still used by architects, albeit at a much lower rate than 50 years ago. Something like a large-lead mechanical pencil, lead holders don’t require sharpening like a traditional pencil, and stay the same size and shape throughout use (no fiddling with 2 inch pencil stubs!). The metal bodies of lead holders give them a nice heft for a professional designer or draftsman, and they erase just like regular graphite. High quality leads like Turquoise brand 2mm lead comes in these delightfully retro containers!
Sometimes art suppliers know when they’ve got a good thing going…
…and an art material or it’s packaging will remain unchanged for decades- For instance, today’s Litho crayons and Best Test cement would be instantly recognizable to midcentury designers.
Drawing templates: These green templates have kept the same product design through several decades and several company iterations. Still used today in architecture and interior design, these templates help with accurate curves, scales, and placement in design plans. “Before Illustrator it was near impossible to draw a 43 1/2 degree ellipse but these handy guides got you close.”- Mark Fisher via forgottenartsupplies.com
Litho Crayon: technically used to make Lithograph prints, but back during the times of hard-copy proofs and real photography, graphic designers used to mark-up design proofs, photos, and protective clear bags with these multi-functional wax-based pencils. Can write on glass, plastic, metal etc. for temporary outlines and notes!
Best Test Paper Cement: Ubiquitous in the 20th century, with a label and a formula that haven’t changed in years- why mess with a good thing? Check out that retro style. A clear, classic, and unfussy label says that this product is all business. Forms a strong flexible bond for gluing paper, photos and more!
The Same… But Very Different…
For our last item out of the time capsule, we present my favorite find in this trip back in time. These supplies are still made and widely used, but not in this particular shape. Merion Art used to carry these as a novelty item in the late 70’s! Meet Frenchy…
French Curves: Back in the day, you could titillate your fellow designers on those long lonely nights in the studio with a fancy French curve designed to look like a voluptuous lady. Hubba hubba! Although we no longer sell “Frenchy” the retro sexy French curve, a regular French curve allows you to make elegant and smooth curves in all your design work.
(Okay, so it’s not hard to guess why they stopped making “Frenchy,” but our staff wishes they still made other themed french curves- some great ideas from behind the counter include Orca shaped curves, harp shaped curves, or even French curves in the shape of the Eagles logo- Wooo! Go Birds!)
Merion Art has been working with various non-profits in the Greater Philadelphia area for years. We provide lower-cost art supplies, large-order custom framing, and printing and design services to various groups who help those in need, while promoting arts education and experiences.
“COSACOSA art at large, Inc. is a non-profit organization creating new public art specific to the concerns of Philadelphia neighborhoods in direct, long-term collaboration with city residents. COSACOSA reasserts art’s original role as a catalyst for community dialogue, creative cooperation, and positive change. Since 1990, COSACOSA projects have brought together thousands of citizens of diverse backgrounds and differing abilities to learn about art, about each other, and about how to work together.” For more information, visit their website at www.cosacosa.org/
Alexander K. McClure Elementary is a Title 1, low-income, Pre K-5 school in North Philadelphia. Their amazing staff does so much with so little, and we invite you to join Merion Art and our friends at COSACOSA in helping to give the faculty at McClure a little more to work with!
Through the end of February, we will be collecting donations of art supplies from a list of needs, as well as donations in the form of Merion Art gift cards. Just call up or come in, and tell your sales associate how you’d like to contribute, and we’ll take care of the rest.
Some of the items requested include Crayola Crayons, Crayola Color Sticks, Crayola Model Magic, Mr Sketch Washable Stix, Black Sharpies (Super and Fine), Elmer’s glue and glue sticks, Crayola Classic washable markers, construction and copy paper, sponge brushes and other paintbrushes, basic watercolor sets, and student grade chalk pastels.
Merion Art will be matching 50% of all gift card donations, and taking 25% off of all the supplies intended for donation, so your gift will go even further! Make a donation of $5 or more, and get a 40% off coupon for a future purchase, as a personal thank you from the team at Merion Art!
“The Alexander K McClure School serves students in pre-K through 5th grade in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia. McClure strives to instill in children a lifelong love of learning, enabling them to be contributing members of society. McClure believes all children can become willing learners and that the arts are essential to this process.
McClure is a safe haven for children in an otherwise neglected and high crime neighborhood. The students know all too well the effects of violence; a 20 year old man was murdered in the schoolyard in 2011, and a McClure student was brutally murdered at home in 2013.
Since 2013, McClure students have worked with COSACOSA art at large, Inc. on a large-scale art project entitled Growing United. Merion Art has provided many of the supplies for the project. Working with COSACOSA artists, McClure students are covering the school façade with mosaics (a full city block around) and creating a Hope Reading Garden in the schoolyard.
In order to diminish the memory of violence that visited McClure school in a very profound way, the environment must be transformed. Please help to wrap the school in art – as a centerpiece of the collective strength and optimism of the school community.”
-Kimberly Niemela, Director, COSACOSA art at large, Inc.