Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Art of the Selfie

Unless you’ve spent the last decade in a particularly deep coma, you’re familiar with selfies. They populate your social media pages, exhaust your cellphone’s data allowance, and are taken everywhere you can imagine: in cars, at museums, in lines, and famously, at the 2014 Oscars.
But they’re mostly pretty boring.

The average selfie you see countless times a day is just a person standing there. Maybe she’s making a face, or he’s enhanced with a fancy filter, but there’s usually nothing special about the shot. If the people behind the cameras want us to look at these images, shouldn’t they make them more interesting?
The good news is you can help. Here are some ways to “level up” your cell phone self-portraits.

Mind Your Angles
You probably know which is your “good side”: so keep that in mind when you take your photo. Shoot from slightly above to slim your face. And angle your body away from the camera instead of straight towards it. You’ll look thinner without having to skip dessert.

Use Good Light
The flash on your cell phone camera can wash you out. So whenever possible, use natural light.  Stand near a window or go outside. A beautifully lit photo will stand out in a sea of overly bright or way-too-dark shots.
Think of the Whole Picture
No one wants to see your dirty laundry, or the trash you should have taken out last week. Stage your selfie against a beautiful background. Find a funky mural or a picturesque park, so the entire photo is something your audience will love looking at.
Display It
You might take a ton of selfies to get a great one. But that doesn’t mean you should post them all. No one wants to scroll through 17 images of you in the exact same pose. So choose the photos with the best composition, lighting, and visual interest.
And while you’re at it, think beyond Facebook and Instagram. Pair your perfect selfie with a great frame so it can be a focal point in your home or office. American Frame makes it easy to print and custom-frame your photo to elevate it from ordinary to artistic.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ben Derkin Through His Camera Lens


You know you are in good hands when a photographer jokes about taking just pictures. Ben Derkin puts the “Derk” in Derk’s Works, which is the name of his photography business. Derkin describes how looking through a camera lens is not about clicking a button. Taking “just a photo” does not exist with the Derk’s Works passion. Having the right person in the right setting, taking a photo that shows emotion and true personality makes for a meaningful photo.

Derkin started what he thought would be his career path, at Bowling Green State University. He graduated in 2008, but found out through attending various Owen’s Community College photography classes he had true talent for photography. As someone who finds great pride in excelling at something, he decided to pursue his passion.

He started his time at American Frame by interning and saw first-hand the expertise and passion American Frame puts into each product it delivers to every customer. Seeing how the quality of their work shows through in the artist’s product inspired him even more.

It was then he decided to take the chance and start his own photography business in 2008. It was not until 2014 Derkin saw the opportunity to truly succeed when he booked more weddings than he ever had before. Once he booked his record amount, his wife quit her corporate job and went all in on Derk’s Works. Their hard work paid off and Derk’s Works has become a go-to photography business that captures emotional and personal photos.

On a personal level, both Ben and his wife balance work and personal life with their sons, who are two years old and six months old. But some may argue their dog, Juno, is the official mascot of Derk’s Works, who holds the title of Official Welcoming Committee.
Derkin will admit the most important thing about what he does is being able to capture the emotion behind each photograph. Being able to connect people with ideas and emotions is the best way to create the connection among “model” and photograph. It is the intangible things in each photograph that make it a great photo.
Would you like to see more of Derkin’s work? Or perhaps you are interested in hiring a photographer with such passion. Learn more about Derk’s Works online.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Speaking of Community

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) Associate Professor Lynn Whitney provides her students with thinking about and seeing their lives through different perspectives. Students in her photography classes are exposed to how the camera sees. They consider the weight of assigning meaning to what they choose to include inside the camera’s frame. Through the camera, students find out what interests them; through class critiques they are pushed to find out why. Lynn Whitney subscribes to the notion that making a picture is an invitation to learn something new and is a beautiful medium for creating empathy in this contemporary climate. Her intermediate class, Community Projects in Photography, introduces students to the challenge of going beyond what they think they already know and to broaden their ideas of what they think possible. In this class students engage with exploring the lives of people with disabilities in the Bowling Green community.  

Project origins
“Having a passion for an aspect of the world and related issues often finds an aesthetic expression through art. Photography is powerful for, through it, is the ability to bring about awareness, sometimes, even, significant change. Aesthetics and the ability that art has, especially photography, to make change in the world — is why this project with Wood Lane is incredibly important to me,” Whitney said. Wood Lane in is an organization which, since 1955, has provided children, youth, and adults with developmental disabilities a community of their own in Bowling Green. 

Whitney began to consider Speaking OF in 2012 through the BGSU Service Learning Community, directed at that time by V. Jane Rosser, PhD. In developing her community engagement course, Whitney met with her former student, Dianna Temple who, after earning her BFA in Photography went on to the University of Toledo for her doctorate in Occupational Therapy and now works for Wood Lane as a Health Supports Coordinator. Along side a friendship that has gone far beyond student/professor relationship, “I felt I had the absolute best connection in Dianna and, with her, the best opportunity to open up students’ minds and hearts to others,” Whitney said.
Whitney discovered that Wood Lane would be an opportunity to reimagine people living at the so - called “margins” and provide her students with a way to connect with people in the community.  In the beginning, Whitney said some of her students were a bit shy to take part in this project. However, in time, they began to accept the challenges involved. Whitney noticed that shift in her students. “They find they have a lot more to give than they thought they had in the first place,” Whitney said. “They get very energized … by interacting outside of what they wouldn’t normally been exposed to in their lifetime.”  This year we added a new component – that of placing the camera in the hands of our partners. We are Speaking Of and Speaking With rather than speaking for our friends at Wood Lane.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

American Frame Founder Ron Mickel Announces Retirement

After 44 years, American Frame Founder Ron Mickel announced his retirement today.
The announcement marks the completion of the transition of ownership to Mickel’s daughters, Laura Jajko and Dana Dunbar.

“Although he has not been involved with the day to day operations for quite some time now, his presence will be truly missed,” Jajko said. “Because of him and his unwavering commitment to this company, we are privileged to be who and what we are today”

Mickel began American Frame in 1973, as a mail-order expansion of a custom picture framing service he had run out of his Toledo-area hardware store. He posted an ad for the custom-cut aluminum frames in American Artist magazine but forgot about it until the post office called to ask that he come and collect the orders overflowing from his P.O. box. 

“Little did we know he had created a new industry, transforming what was once an expensive ‘professionals only’ task to an easy and affordable ‘do-it-yourself’ project for all types of picture framers- artists, photographers and DIY decorators,” Jajko said.

Today, American Frame is the country’s premier supplier of custom picture frames, mat boards, DIY framing supplies, and fine art printing services. 
American Frame plans to remain in Maumee, Ohio and continue their commitment to their customers and employees.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mothers in the Studio: Kati Kleimola

Creative people can’t stop creating. It’s in their souls and hearts — to take the images they see in their mind’s eye and bring them to life through paint, sculptures, or other visual art forms. Nevertheless, other aspects fall into these artistic peoples’ worlds over time. For example, parenting.

Such is the case with Kati Kleimola, a Toledo-area artist whose work is scheduled to appear at the Art Depo in Bowling Green starting May 20. In addition to filling her creative cup, Kleimola teaches art to others while also dealing with the daily routines of motherhood and family life.

For Kleimola, her art has been a part of her since she was little.

“It’s always seemed natural to me,” she said. “My Mom encouraged me to make creative messes and to let my imagination run wild. I always knew I wanted to be an artist.”

After studying at the Columbus College of Art and Design and the University of Toledo, Kleimola started her business two years ago at the same time she taught art and was raising her small children.

“I felt the need to begin painting more regularly,” she said. “I felt like I was losing a part of me, so I started to set aside time each day to paint.”

Kleimola’s husband encouraged her to take more time to paint and even pushed her to apply to University of Toledo’s “Art on the Mall” while she was seven months pregnant. At first, she humored him. Kleimola figured she wouldn’t be accepted.

“Then my acceptance letter came in the mail, which was the push I needed to keep painting,” she said.

She appeared at the show with her then four-week-old infant, won third place, and sold all her work. After that, more doors opened for Kleimola until “artist” became her official title and
full-time job.
When it comes to dividing work and family, Kleimola manages it her own way.

“I would say it’s more of a juggling act than a balancing act,” she said. “There are times when my kids need more of me, so my art is put on hold so I can care for my family. Then there are times when I am preparing for a show or gallery opening and my focus is on my art.”

Kleimola credits her family for helping out during those more hectic times. As a mother and creator, Kleimola feels a bond between the two.

“Motherhood and creating are both so intertwined with who I am that it’s almost impossible to separate them. I became a mom at 20, so both roles have gone hand-in-hand for the last 10 years.”

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, Kleimola believes mothers need to work on self-care to keep them level.

When I was younger and with less children, I would sometimes feel guilty about taking time to make art,” Kleimola explained. “What I’ve learned over the years is that taking the time to invest in my own mental and physical health allows me to give a better version of myself to my children.”

Kleimola is expecting a late Mother’s Day gift in the form of baby number five, due in September.

Do you know an amazing mother and artist like Kleimola? Let us know about her! Share images of artistic and inspiring moms and their creations on social media with the hashtag #FramingHappiness!

Friday, May 5, 2017

It’s Launched!

After many months of evaluation, planning, vendor selection & design, has launched its mobile/responsive website with a variety of enhanced features. Here are just a few I’d like to share.

The biggest enhancement you may notice is the ease of use on your mobile phone. Designing custom picture frame kits to fit your own art and photography is made friendly and intuitive, allowing creative people like yourselves the benefit of a more enjoyable design and ordering experience, wherever you are, whenever you’d like.

With streamlined menus for easier search, finding and designing your frame can be done with fewer clicks and more accuracy, also featuring an easy chat interface for getting help from our experts when you want it.
We’ve also made changing a frame within the frame configurator easier – for those times where your first choice may not be the one you ultimately pick. Search by collection, color, style and material to view different alternatives side by side before selecting for your design.
I am especially excited about the new mat board design interface which allows for easy jumping from top, to middle to bottom mat, making multiples as fun to create as single board designs. As always you can upload your art for preview but now you can craft color combinations and border proportions within a scrollable pop-up window and easily switch out choices until you find the perfect look.

You will also notice in the Print & Frame section, the process of evaluating paper choices for your project just became a lot more obvious. My husband, the non-artist everyday iPhone photographer, gave me a ‘thumbs up’ on how we’ve made this area much more logical and helpful, again using pop-ups to feature the information you need without it bringing up unnecessary pages that take you away from where you’d like to be – simply a better experience for novices and pros alike.


Finally, you will notice that our site went from an ‘http’ to an ‘https’, with the ‘s’ indicating that the communications between your browser and our website are completely encrypted and secure on all pages.
All in all, I hope you appreciate these and other enhancements we’ve made site-wide. Please let me know what you think. Your feedback matters.
Thank you for choosing American Frame!
Laura JajkoLaura Jajko is President of American Frame and a longtime contributor to "A Good Frame of Mind." Here, she delights in bonding with others over her love of art and framing. With more than 40 years of practical experience, she brings a unique perspective in a straightforward style that she hopes will spark lots of interesting and relevant dialogue in our online community. Connect with Laura directly here on the blog or follow her on Twitter @LauraJajko.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Capturing the Intangible

As a child growing up in Oregon, Terry Abrams was inspired by the beauty just outside his window – or at least what he thought was there.

He remembers gazing from his bedroom at Mount Hood and marveling at the way his window framed the volcanic peaks. But years later, his sister shut that memory down, insisting Mount Hood wasn’t actually visible from their childhood home.

“I’m not sure if we really could see Mount Hood from my window,” he said. “But it’s something I always imagined as a little kid and it really drove my life in some odd way.”

Incorrect or not, the memory pushed Abrams to a career photographing landscapes and teaching others about photography. He currently teaches at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was former Chair of the School of Digital Media Arts.

His love of photography grew when he and his childhood friends started developing their own pictures in a makeshift darkroom. But, Terry said, he never imagined it as a career until his family moved to Arizona and he started taking photography classes at a local community college.

“A picture can say things words can’t describe,” he said. “It’s like another language.”

After transferring to the Maryland Institute College of Art and Design, he began teaching photography as a volunteer in an inner-city Baltimore school.

“I liked this idea of showing people whatever I knew that would be interesting and turning them on to it,” he said. “I loved to teach, I discovered that.”

After college, he joined a group of teachers traveling to Europe, where he taught photography to soldiers as part of a local college’s overseas education program and ended up staying for 13 years.

He said teaching lets him set his own schedule and have time to pursue his passion of photography and conduct various workshops, like the two he’ll host in Ecuador and Maine this spring and summer. He also loves bringing out creativity in his students and watching them blossom.

“I believe everyone has a creative part of their personality that is looking for release,” he said.

Terry expresses his own creativity by training his lens on colorful canyons, lush green forests and ornate Turkish architecture. But, he says, he’s most inspired by deserts and sand dunes. He travels to California’s Death Valley multiple times a year to photograph the barren landscape.

“Some people would describe it as desolate,” he said. “But to me, that’s beautiful. My true place on the planet is there, because the landscape is so huge, and it’s so harsh and it’s driven by forces other than humans. I realize how insignificant I really am, and how little my ego has to do with anything else. How I’m just a little speck of dust on the planet. I love having that reminder and just being in awe of the natural forces of our planet.”

He said he is drawn to photographing landscapes because it allows him to capture what he calls “the intangible.”

“I try to photograph the spirit… the soul of something,” he said. “We all know what everything looks like, but to photograph what it feels like….to me, that’s what I try to do and that’s what I try to teach my students to accomplish.”

He said he also teaches his students that a career in the arts may not make them rich, but will reward them in other ways.

“If it’s not your passion, you might as well have a different job,” he said.  “Because this job is not going to reward you financially. But if it’s what motivates you to do what you do every day, maybe the other things aren’t so important.”

As for Terry, expect him to keep expressing his passion by aiming his lens at whatever inspires him, whether outside his window or halfway around the world. 

Learn more about Terry Abrams and see his art at

Listen to Terry Abrams on the American Frame Podcast here.
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