Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fred LeFebvre Interviews Laura Jajko on Local Radio Show

With the opening of our new Showroom and gallery, along with our involvement with the Robert D. Mazur Scholarship Fund we have been fortunate to receive lots of support from our local media. On Monday, November 2, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by WSPD talk show host Fred Lefebvre on his morning show. It was my first experience with live radio. Here follows the conversation.

FL: In the studio with me is Laura Jajko. Laura has American Frame down in Maumee. Now you've been there a while, right?

LJ: Yes. We’re a homegrown company. American Frame was actually started in our family garage in South Toledo in 1973. My parents started the business so we're second generation. They cut custom metal picture frames. My father always wanted to be in the mail order business and before that he was in the hardware business and my mother was an artist…

FL: So they blended the two?

LJ: They blended the two. The custom metal frame came on the market in the early ‘70s and my dad thought this would be a perfect product to send via direct mail to artists. So he took out an ad in the back of American Artist magazine. He forgot about it. A couple weeks later the post office is calling him saying, “Mr. Mickel will you please pick up your mail?” So he goes there and he finds all these orders spilling out of the mailbox. He closed the hardware store and they had an art gallery as well and opened a direct mail business at the time.

FL: Wow- that’s amazing! Now you’ve gone from the direct mail and working in your dad's garage to a much bigger brick and mortar building. You’re in Maumee, right? Where are you located?
LJ: We're in Arrowhead Park. We’ve been there since the early 80's. I believe that my father was the first to build there. It was a lucky choice because eventually UPS put their Midwest hub there and so it allows us to serve the country and even some parts of the world very efficiently.
FL: So the basic service stayed that way for a long time right? The mail order business? But now you’ve expanded and the reason why we have you on is because you have some job openings. Tell me about the expansion.
LJ: We're a direct mail company but we’ve always had a small factory showroom where artists and photographers who were doing their own framing would come in and pick up their work or work on their designs and a couple years ago we couldn’t believe what we witnessed in that space. It was over the Christmas season and it was a tiny space not much bigger than your studio, and they were coming in and they were socializing and helping each other frame their work, reconnecting with friends, making new friends and before we knew it the place was packed, my staff was going crazy and we were like, "Wow this is a really meaningful service we're proving here."

FL: So a lightbulb went off?

LJ: Yes! It made us rethink how we want to participate in the community and what we want to mean in the community. So we decided to reimagine the modern frame shop experience and try to create a community hub for the arts in our space.

FL: So that’s what you’ve done. The space looks enormous. I was on their Facebook page and you can go there too. Or you can go to their website,, and you can get to their Facebook the same way. So how big is the space now? It looks like quite a few thousand square feet.

LJ: It's about 3500 square feet.

FL: Is it really? So there’s a lot more room to work first of all and a lot more Showroom space. And I see on your Facebook page that you’re actually going to be displaying artists’ work?

LJ: Yes, we have a full gallery there.

FL: That’s pretty cool. So that’ll give them a space that they don’t necessarily have right now, right?

LJ: We are expanding gallery space; we are taking very low commissions. We are providing free meeting space for any kind of community group that needs a place to gather and we are also launching with a fundraiser on behalf of the Bowling Green State University foundation and the school of art. An artist that we personally collected as a family, Bob Mazur, who was head of painting there for a long time, passed away in August. So we are displaying a lot of Bob’s work right now. The Mazur family is very generously donating all the proceeds to the Bowling Green Foundation to build a scholarship in Bob's name for a deserving art student.

FL: That’s really nice! So when is that event?

LJ: That was last week but the fundraising is ongoing.

FL: So if people come over today they will be able to see Mr. Mazur's work still on display?

LJ: Yes and this is both in our gallery and we also have an online gallery for artists.

FL: What are you hours down there?

LJ: 8:30-5:30, Monday through Friday

FL: Are you open at all on the weekend then?

LJ: Not yet.

FL: And it’s in Maumee, right on Tomahawk drive. 400 Tomahawk drive. Now let's talk about jobs. So you have some job openings. What exactly are you looking for and what skills do I need?

LJ: You can be pretty much anything to come work for us. I would say it helps if you’re a craftsperson. We need people in the plant to custom build picture frame orders and you have to be a nice person, a team player. We are looking for somebody to assist in the Showroom. We need an additional showroom attendant.

FL: Would any kind of art background help?

LJ: Oh yes, we love artists, yes!

FL: Okay so I bring a photograph in, I’m just going to give it to you but you’re also going to recommend to me too, what kind of frame, what color frame, what size of frame, what style of frame. So an art background would probably help.

LJ: It’s helpful but it’s not necessary.

FL: Alright.

LJ: These are things we can train people on. A lot of people just have a flair for art and design but they don’t necessarily have a formal education.

FL: How can they go about that? Do they just need to come in and fill out an application?

LJ: Just come on in. Yes, absolutely. Schedule an interview. We need about 3 or 4 people right now going into the holiday season and hopefully we will keep that momentum and build from there.

FL: It’s called American Frame

LJ: We're online

FL: Or their Facebook page- you’ll find everything there. You can go online and get all the info you need. You stop in and take an application with you and dress to impress, right? No baggy pants.

LJ: Well, you know...

FL: Come on, hold up the standards!

LJ: -laughs-

FL: You’ll take somebody with baggy pants?

LJ: I’ll take somebody with baggy pants - if they're good!

FL: If they’re good! Is there a phone number they can reach you at?

LJ:  419 893 5595. We truly appreciate this. It gives us the chance to invite the public to shop where the artists buy and enjoy direct pricing and high quality craftsmanship and quick service.

FL:  I love the idea that you have gallery in there that local artists will be displayed at because there are so many really good artists all throughout the Toledo area that have been working for years and years and I love the idea that you have a little gallery that the work will be on display all the time. So if you get a chance go down and take a look. Like I said they are at 400 Tomahawk drive down there in Maumee. Thank you so much for coming in today!

LJ: Thank you for having me!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jennifer Gunderson Wins Featured Artist Contest for October 2015

Every month we host a contest for artists who sell and display work through our online Art Gallery. Winners are selected by customer votes on Facebook and receive a cash award and promotion. October's winner is photographer Jennifer Gunderson.

Gunderson’s work ranges widely, from portraits to expansive nature shots, close-up still lifes, and commercial photography. Originally from Michigan, Gunderson now lives and works in Toledo, Ohio, where she uses the camera to explore the “deeper meaning” in her environment. “Capturing a moment is not just point and shoot. If…I can create something that invites intimate conversation, suspends time, and emotionally connects the beholder, then I have done my job.”

The winning photograph, “A Magnificent Morning,” demonstrates Gunderson’s efforts to create strong emotion through her work. Taken over Lake Huron, this sunrise shot evokes the feeling of a new beginning, and the peace and hope that comes with fresh starts.

A Magnificent Morning

Equally at home in a metal or wood frame, this image would take on a modern feel in a clean-lined, metallic-finish frame such as those in American Frame’s Neo-Florentine collection. A frame from the Gibraltar collection would create a traditional flavor. For a particularly warm, nature-inspired treatment, a frame from the Arts & Crafts or American Hardwoods collections would be ideal.

To contact Gunderson or follow her work, visit her American Frame gallery or her website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

DIY Framing Tutorial – Halloween Décor Project

Follow along with this simple tutorial to make some easy, inexpensive, Halloween décor. You can easily switch this out with the seasons or to fit your home’s décor after the holidays.

A while back, we wrote a DIY picture framing blog on how to frame a piece of fabric. Essentially we will follow the same steps from that blog post, which can be found here:

- Piece of fabric
- 2 pieces of mounting board
- Mat board of your choice
- Frame
- Acrylic
- Utility knife
- Pencil
- Ruler

Determine how much fabric you want shown in the frame. Use this method to determine overall sizing and what size opening to cut in the mounting board. 

Since this piece of fabric is quite small and we wanted most of it to show in the mat board opening, we had to wrap the fabric around the mounting board center (piece that was cut out) and tape it on the back side, with linen tape, to prevent it from slipping out. If you have a larger piece of fabric, you may not need to do this and can follow the method outlined here.

For this project, we chose a grey piece of mat board, but did NOT want a bevel to show. To get this look, choose “reverse bevel cut” from the mat tab on the website.

Then, use double sided tape to attach the mat board to the mounting board. If you plan to switch out the fabric or mat board later, we suggest hinging the mat board to the mounting board instead.

Finally, place another piece of mounting board behind all of that to create the art stack. Peel the protective paper from the acrylic and place it on top of the other materials.

Continue framing like normal. If using a metal frame (like we did here) assemble the three sides and slide the art stack into the frame’s channel. Complete the project by attaching the fourth side and placing spring clips in the back of the frame. If using a wood picture frame, place the art stack in the back of the frame and finish with the provided spring clips or with a point driver.

And here’s the finished project!


To create a grand display, you could frame multiple pieces of themed fabric and hang them together in a certain arrangement. This method of framing makes it easy to later change the fabric if you wish to use another color or pattern of fabric to fit your décor in the non-fall months.

Have you ever framed a piece of fabric before or anything else that isn’t typically framed? We’d love to know if you tried a different method that worked for you and to see the finished project! Share your projects with us on social media and use the hashtag #framinghappiness.

Monday, October 26, 2015

American Frame Showroom Grand Opening October 29th

It’s Grand. It’s Opening. It’s Showtime!

Our goal as always is to be the best place to buy picture frames! We promise to be that and more!

Join us on Oct 29th 8:30-5:30 as we unveil our new Showroom, Gallery and Learning Center at our 400 Tomahawk Drive facility. On the 29th enjoy food, festivities and sign up for a tour of our plant to see how your frames, fine art reproductions and photographic prints are made just for you, the American Frame Way!

On October 30, we have a special guest visiting us all the way from Dallas, internationally acclaimed watercolorist Laurin McCracken who will be conducting three separate workshops for artists and art lovers alike, kicking-off the learning part of our new Showroom experience.

Laurin McCracken is well known for his representations of silver and crystal in watercolor

10:00AM:  Seeing, Drawing and the Mastery of the Craft (a step-by-step tutorial on his creative process, from concept through completion)

11:30AM: How to Market your Art: Getting Noticed by Galleries and Publishers

2:00 PM: A History of Dutch Painting: How 75 Years of Dutch Painting Shows Holland’s Progression from the Poorest to the Richest Country in Northern Europe

To help you stay current with Showroom classes and events going forward, we’ve created a separate Facebook page: Anyone interested in classes or plant tours can schedule by calling 419-893-5595 x 6.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jaime Johnson Wins as First-Year Champion - Featured Artist Contest

Every month, we sponsor a contest for artists who sell and display work through our online Art Gallery.  This month marks the culmination of the first full year’s worth of winners and outstanding pieces of art. To give our customers a chance to consider all the winners one more time, and choose a favorite among them, this month’s contest featured the year’s best in a competition with each other. Voters chose photographer Jaime Johnson as the champion.

Nature is one of the most popular subjects for artists and art buyers, so it is little surprise that Johnson’s work appeals so widely. A native of Mississippi, she grew up surrounded by the beauty of nature and eventually brought her talent and interest in the photographic arts to its many enchantments: rain, birds in flight, the special gray light reflected off a bayou. Johnson’s formal training includes a B.F.A. from the University of Mississippi and an M.F.A. in Photography at Louisiana Tech University.  She recently won the Grand Prize in the Maine Media Workshops international contest “Character: Portraits and Stories that Reveal the Human Condition.” She was also named a finalist for the “2014 Clarence John Laughlin Award.” Her work has appeared in publications such as Light Leaked, Muybridge's Horse, and Seites and been shown at venues such as the SOHO Photo Gallery in New York, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the New Orleans Photo Alliance in New Orleans, Louisiana.
"Rain" by Jaime Johnson

In the winning work, “Rain,” Johnson has transformed the familiar site of falling rain into something entirely new. The pink rain conjures a sense of dreaming and asks the viewer to consider the magic of light and the subjectivity of color. A very narrow black frame such as American Frame’s Standard with no mat or an unframed canvas would serve as perfect complements to the sense of floating the image creates.

To contact Jaime Johnson or follow her work, visit her American Frame gallery and her website.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tim Gagnon Frame Collection

Widely-collected artist and famed instructor Tim Gagnon partnered with American Frame to create our newest wood frame collection, a sophisticated blend of old-world craftsmanship and finishes with restrained profiles to complement an impressive range of art and décor.
Portrait of a Cow by Tim Gagnon

An oil painter, Gagnon’s work includes rural landscapes, wooded scenes and whimsical images such as “Portrait of a Cow.” Voted one of the “Top 50 Emerging Artists” by Art Business News in 2012, he has also taught painting to over 25,000 students in the United States, both in person and through lessons available online at his website, His work is collected in over 30 countries and has been featured in more than 20 galleries across the United States and Canada.

American Frame’s relationship with Gagnon began as a customer. He needed frames and other art services and was impressed by what we have to offer: reliable two-day order turnaround, an unwavering commitment to quality by handcrafting in the USA, and what Gagnon has called “amazing pricing.”

Like all artists, Gagnon doesn’t simply accept what exists in the world: he envisions what could exist. He also looks beyond the surface, to what is less apparent about the world and makes others see these things—light, color, texture—through his work. That sensibility is one of the reasons that collaborating with artists is so rewarding and informative. The creative spirit they bring to their work is reflected in everything they do. Thus, we weren’t surprised when collaborating with Gagnon on a new frame collection proved to be one of the most satisfying projects we’ve undertaken.

Crafted by hand in Italy, the frames in the Tim Gagnon collection all feature complex, hand-applied finishes, including oiled bronze, oiled silver, silver leaf, matte black, warm pecan, detailed beaded black, and two beeswaxed black leather finishes that absolutely captivate the close observer. The profiles’ lines vary, from those with delicate embellishments and classic squared faces to those whose fluid, dramatic lines marry elegance and contemporary flair in a whole new way. The careful proportions and fine craftsmanship of each one make any frame in this collection perfect for plein air painting, heirlooms and memorabilia.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

ArtPrize – the Nation’s Largest, Juried Art Competition

If you happen to be within 100 miles of Grand Rapids, MI within the next few weeks, I highly recommend that you make it a point to travel there for ArtPrize, the nation’s largest juried art competition, which opened September 23 and runs through October 11.

What makes this event so special? It is citywide, curated and judged by both the venues and the public and offers more than $500,000 in awards, including two $200,000 awards to winning artists. Yes, it’s a big prize.

This is an event that no art lover should miss, whether you are an artist, collector or simply like a good party. The city of Grand Rapids does an amazing job of hosting and the weather generally cooperates, making this a first class experience for all who attend.

For me, it’s particularly exciting to see so many artists from our area being represented this year, particularly my friend Leslie Adams who I have known since high school, and who’s fine work is being exhibited in the Gerald Ford Museum this year, so if I am biased, please forgive me. But I encourage anyone reading this article to be sure to visit and vote for Leslie.

The Art of Life by Leslie Adams

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