Celebrating 30 years – The Framing Workshop

Words Megan Lyon, Images Ashlee DeCaires

In her quietly determined way, Sarah Marston has built a business, honed her craft and been a driving force in Kirkiriroa/ Hamilton’s creative sector for three decades.

The Framing Workshop, owned and operated by Sarah, turns 30 in September this year. She is marking this by inviting 30 plus artists who have previously exhibited in her gallery to contribute an artwork measuring under 30cm square to an exhibition titled ‘30’.

The purpose of picture framing is two-fold: a pragmatic solution to protection, much like an envelope cares for its letter, and to bring an aesthetic element to enhance the artwork or object. Sarah completed a fine arts degree in Canterbury and has an artistic approach to creative custom framing. She says that there is a skill in presenting work in a quiet way that makes it more about the art than the frame. Her priority is getting the design to work for the artwork or object and by understanding her customer’s brief she combines her experience and artistry to help them get there. “In terms of my craft, what I love about my role is as a connector and being able to take the customer a little further than they expect.”

She still finds the most enjoyable aspect of her work is seeing what is important to people, “like a photo, that might seem insignificant, but is weighted with memory”. She also enjoys the reciprocal relationship and problem solving that comes from working alongside her staff (two full time and one part time). There have been some challenging requests for framing, including two super-sized drawings by artist James Ormsby (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato, Te Arawa and Katimana), a clarinet, and a collection of clay smoking pipes.

As a response to the growth of her business, rather than as a planned-out strategy, Sarah moved to her current premises in Silverdale in 2005. This location has proved ideal with a large workshop and an exhibition space, showcasing both art and creative custom framing.  With no desire to slow down yet, Sarah has upcoming exhibitions mapped out, including one by local artist Lynda Wilson featuring small framed works on paper. Working alongside Waikato artists gives an important perspective to Sarah, who values accepting somebody else’s aesthetic. “I have really liked a lot of artist’s work and found something to learn, such as proportion, colour, materiality or sometimes how to frame them.”

Looking back at her success of the past 30 years, Sarah says she’s not quite sure how it happened, but believes in a strong work ethic, stamina and has always felt “I was in my territory”. Sarah has held a space for the city to grow into itself, and in trusting this transformation has enabled others to join her journey. She reflects on a monumental shift from the 1980s and 1990s, dominated by framing reproductions of European art prints, to the exploded interest and skilful creation of Aotearoa/New Zealand art reflecting changes in a city that feels celebratory of its own identity.

Join Sarah to celebrate the ‘30’ exhibition opening, 3pm on Saturday 30 September, The Framing Workshop, 120 Silverdale Road. www.theframingworkshop.co.nz

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