One of my core principles used to be to make the very best frame using the best materials. While this is permanently in my consciousness, it’s not an answer all of the time. There are often circumstances under which it is more sensible to make a frame faster with lower level materials. When I say lower level materials, it’s still better than most framers in this country use. For instance, I make low cost frames that artists use to display their work. These frames are display items where the work will be sold, removed from the frame and the artist puts a new work in the frame to be sold. This allows the buyer to choose the exact frame they want to fit with their styles. It also means that the artist can get a better price for their work. So it is apparent that it is not always the right thing to frame everything with very high end materials.
Design led, customer service and transparency. The three pillars of Mount.
Good design has always been at our core and always will be. Good design is about form and function working harmoniously together. We don’t just apply these principles to our frames, but to everything we do. And I believe good design feeds into the principles above as well: something that is well designed has integrity and has considered its implications from all angles. It’s not just about how good it looks on the outside, it’s about all that is unseen within.
Our customer service or ‘experience’ as it seems to be called is probably the aim we’ve failed to deliver on up to now because we didn’t have the right systems in place, which really upset us. So this is one of the key changes we’ve been making, and we know it’ll take a while to get this 100% right. But we will.
The new core principle we now have is transparency. I am very honest about what each framing option can cost and what it means to the work. There are a lot of materials that will harm work, i.e. accelerate the natural rate of degradation. I notice in work that comes in for reframing that a multitude of sins are hidden within frames. The norm is to find incorrect methods of taping by framers who have never learnt best procedures for the work. There’s also the incorrect tapes – masking tape, Sellotape, packing tape. I even had one in that was bonded using silicon bathroom sealant. All carried out by professional framers. All of them ruinous to the work that was meant to be protected. Double sided tape is another – I once had one that bonded the actual image (not just the paper but the graphite of the work) to the underside of the mount. Work carried out by actual trading businesses. So often we have people ask for a quote only to say ‘but this other framer is charging much less, I thought you might be cheaper’. I guarantee the other framer is not carrying out their work to a professional standard. We all buy our materials from the same suppliers at the same prices, we all have workshops and vaguely similar overheads. Prices for the same frame – exact processes and materials – won’t be too far apart.
Within transparency is what I’m calling our ‘ethical baseline’ or environmental commitment. After graduating from art school I trained in Conservation and Wildlife Management specialising in woodland management. I’m very aware that the planet on which we live is falling apart and numbers of so many species are plummeting. My family home used to be in rural Dorset where we would see Great Crested Newts, Lapwings, Yellowhammers, Spotted Flycatchers, Cuckoos and so much more. Over the 25 years we were there we would no longer see those species, just the more common and resilient of garden species. Every business has an obligation to act responsibly on the planet we reside on. We are one species amongst countless others and we have a duty of care not to destroy all the others. I often wonder about other businesses and whether they consider they have the same duty of care. Does that plant nursery source their plants responsibly? Or are they part of the problem of introducing invasive species and pathogens. I even find myself wondering in the middle of the night whether Bake Off use organic eggs, or whether Strictly use eco friendly sequins. I don’t even watch these things but it enters my thoughts. We are facing the demise of the majority of life on this planet – us included – so I feel I have a duty of care to make it known what I know of the impact our business is having.
Over the coming months I will be investigating the impact of our business and what the solutions could be. There’s no avoiding the heavy impact of making plate glass, but if the frame is really well made and timelessly designed then it won’t need to be changed when a fashion changes or the materials degrade. Is a frame made from recycled cardboard from Ikea better or worse than a frame with very high conservation standards which may use virgin materials? One might last a couple of years, but the other may last indefinitely depending on the environment it is kept.
The day of reckoning is coming for those businesses that don’t change, those that are out for absolute profit no matter the social or environmental cost. Perhaps we’re too soon but the day will come because it’s a system based on finite resources. It’s guaranteed to end.
I don’t know all the answers but I certainly have a responsibility to find out so that our customers know that our products are made with integrity. I also have to acknowledge that as a society we need to transition, so cheap frames will continue to be sold for a while yet, but answers need to be found to move away from disposable products.
The dream of Elasticity
With our upgraded systems, we have some new staff as mentioned in the last post. I am still doing a bit of everything but the main difference is that I don’t have sole responsibility. I am generally the first port of call but I am able to pass the work on to a skilled member of staff. This is enabling me to transition into running the business, being the quality control and backup for extra work that comes in.
This is key to the changes we have made. While it is important that we’re transparent and aware of environmental impacts, at the end of the day we are picture framers. Our job is to design, make and deliver frames and we need to do this as efficiently as possible. We now have that dream situation of spare capacity. We’re not sitting, twiddling our thumbs awaiting work as we have plenty. The business has elasticity, the ability to expand and contract with particularly busy or quiet times.
Last but by no means least we are working with Allan, an art tech who’s moved down from London. He’s worked moving and installing art for some of the art worlds most powerful companies and institutions. It should prove to be the start of a new chapter in Mount so I’m really looking forward to offering installation from the South West.
In the pipeline.
There are other new ventures in the pipeline, including a programme of talks and courses aimed at helping artists sell their work. We’re planning our 5th birthday party coming up in Spring 2020, which will be hosted at The Whittox Gallery, and an open exhibition in Autumn 2020 is on the horizon too. We’ll post about these things in more detail very soon. Make sure you’re subscribed to our newsletter to be the first to hear our big news, and follow our various social media accounts for more frequent updates.
Kudos if you read to the end!