Frame Masters and Fine Art in Bird Rock specializes in rare frame decorating techniques, difficult frame matching and repairs, and framing non-flat objects. Now two decades in, husband and wife team Brian Lehr and Miriam Zieminski continue to build the store’s reputation for innovative framing solutions and skilled repairs hard to find anywhere else.
Custom designs are key at Frame Masters and Fine Art. “I won’t [frame] anything until I like something about it,” says Brian. Once that ‘something’ is found, he uses special techniques other places no longer offer (see A Wide Range of Frame Decor) to echo it in the frame, making the frame seem a natural extension of the piece. Frame Masters excels at pairing works with their perfect frame—one of my favorite combos was a Tony Hawk skateboard inside a grid-textured metallic frame with a black finish that had been part sanded off.
A Talented Staff
Frame Masters has been part of the La Jolla community since 1989 and was bought by Brian and Miriam in 1996. The couple, now both members of the Professional Picture Framer’s Association, met at a framing convention while each working in art stores. Miriam explained she comes from more of an art-making background, while Brian has a more engineering-based history from being trained as an auto technician. Both sets of skills have come in handy with the mix of requests Frame Masters receives from customers.
Popular requests include framing an arrangement of objects and making custom frames for works. Frame matching or frame repair requests are also very common, but still uniquely challenging.
[A 13-sided picture frame designed and built by Brian after seeing it in a dream.]
“People have frames that are Chinese knock-offs of Italian designs from the mid-90s,” says Brian. When customers want to add new frames to the set, he can’t use an Italian finish because the Chinese version is not a perfect match. He also has to keep in mind the age of the finish and try to re-create formulas no longer in use today.
Frame matching or damage repairs make for big challenges, but Brian’s efforts have resulted in not only perfect repairs but a wide range of finishing options unique to Frame Masters.
A Wide Range of Frame Decor
Brian continuously works on adding more framing techniques, often teaching himself traditional techniques that are rapidly going out of style. He also develops his own, letting him lend a personal touch to every frame he makes.
Brian’s Experimental Techniques (Clockwise)
Often, Brian adds new finishes to premade frame sticks, sometimes sanding them off to create an aged look or a duo-tone beauty. His current interest is chameleon paint, the same paint used for shimmering auto paint jobs. It’s characterized by its wide range of colors each visible from a specific angle. Glitter is another new addition Brian is still playing around with, testing different sizes and grains of glitter. One of my favorite techniques he has (sadly not pictured) uses separate shades of paint for each plane of a textured frame, showing different colors from different angles.
Traditional Decorating Techniques (Left to Right)
In the image below, note how the second picture frame’s carvings match those on the necklace. In the third from left, Brian reproduced the gold flowers on the frame from flowers in that region of the painting.
- watergilding – a gold leafing technique, now a lost art
- molding – 3-D designs from carving. Big part of early 20th century frame designs, which the store is known for
- sgraffito – layers of paint where the top layer is scratched off in a design, revealing the different color underneath
- French line / panel – matting technique that surrounds the art with lines and borders of paint, ink or decorative paper
Expecting the Unexpected
Frame Masters and Fine Arts gets “unpredictable” assignments “from anywhere” every day. They’ve framed kimonos, skateboards, bottles of champagne and fan cases. Their most interesting assignment? A dried sea turtle, which they put in an airtight sealed display case.
Submit your own memorabilia or art to Frame Masters and Fine Arts at 5631 La Jolla Boulevard Suite A (right next to Bird Rock Coffee Roasters).
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