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Shop Talk

February 26, 2011

Shop Talk: Rachel's Framing and Fine Art

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Rachel Polens of Rachel's Framing and Fine Art in Delhi.

How long have you lived in the area?

I moved to this region in 1980 to attend college at Hartwick in Oneonta.

Tell me about your business:

I specialize in custom framing and design. It's a business where I work to make every picture look as good as it possibly can.

I also sell art and have a rotating gallery of artists, such as Anne Hayes, Alana Greenman and Joanna Murphy, who display their pieces here.

Describe a typical day in your business:

I never know what the day will be like exactly, but after I open up the shop and start my day by continuing work on a framing project that I might have started a day or two before hand, I will have a customer stop in.

The customer might have a cherished piece of art that they want preserved with framing or need a change in framing of a particular work. I will talk with them about what ideas they might have before offering suggestions. We work together to come up with a design and any specific needs the piece might require, such as museum-grade glass.

How did you get started in this line of work?

In college I was learning sculpture and very interested in art, which led to several jobs that involved handling, framing and displaying art.

One job I had that taught me a great deal was at The Farmers' Museum in Cooperstown. Learning about how to handle very old work has been great for my business experience now.

I have worked with many wonderful people before opening this shop of my own.

Where do you see this business in five years?

That is hard to answer, I don't know exactly, but I do hope to continue and keep the business dynamic and happy.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

There are so many, but there is a thing that happens here from time to time that makes up a memorable moment _ when my customers meet through art.

There are lots of examples, but one that comes to mind right now is a painting of elephants from an African preserve that I had just finished framing and had hanging for display until the customer came to pick it up.

Another customer came in and looked closely at the elephants before showing me a picture on their camera phone of those exact elephants at that preserve.

The two people in this small area who happened to both be customers who both shared a love of these specific elephants and aligned their time at my shop is an amazing and memorable thing to have happened.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned that every picture has a story and I have learned that the stories are precious to the person who is having the framing done.

Each piece is important and needs to be treated with respect for what it means to the person who owns it.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

Maybe it is true for all small business owners, but a challenge that I face is multitasking _ having the ability to focus in many different directions.

The most enjoyable?

I love my work, and I love to see people meet through art.

Being able to give a piece of art a framing design that helps to enhance its beauty and help preserve it makes my work enjoyable.

How do you define success for your business?

Staying above water with work and keeping the place happy and dynamic is success for me.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

The drawbacks of this region are that there is a slow season here that makes it a bit of a struggle to get by because of the economics and small population of this area.

The advantages are many, and what I first think about is that this area attracts many people with similar values to my own, people who are unified by the beauty of this land.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

Every framer is different, and for me, I think that I put a great amount of devotion into knowing the story of the art as a way to help with selecting what framework surrounds it and realizing that this picture is precious to the person who is having it framed.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

A love of art and appreciating not only the art but also the person who it belongs to is important in this line of work.

Get experience in the proper way to handle art pieces, "doing good by it" and know when to refer the work to a specialist when necessary.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail news@thedailystar.com.

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