Framing Mary's Past
by Bruce Richardson
    Like anyone who has ever written their own resume, or any artist or craftsman trying to self promote their creations, there is a fine line between sounding self confident enough and over confident egotism. Both ends of the spectrum can be distracting to a future employer or customer. It is often a good idea to have some outside source do your resume or sales for you. Although I'm far from a disinterested third-party, I find myself in that position, as my wife is not much one for boasting. And I'm fine with that. Even if I may oft times sound more like a gallery owner expounding the virtues of his cadre of artists, I am very proud of what my wife has accomplished over the years, especially when it comes to picture framing. Like many a fine woodworker, fine home builder, fine chef, fine winemaker, or fine architect, who has taken his or her work beyond the realm of craftsmanship, Mary has with hard work, patience, research, practice, experimentation, common sense, attention to detail, and creativity, taken her picture framing to the level of an art form. Dare I say, to a "State of the Art". Mary wouldn't go so far, but then finely brewed beer is called artisan beer, and fine sword makers of old Japan were given the title of samurai for their fine craftsmanship.

   For many years, Mary worked for neighbor and box maker Judi Conant, creating cloth bound slip cases and clam-shell boxes for limited edition books printed by such publishers as Stinehour Press, Janus Press, as well as other small book publishers, libraries, & museums. They would also, on occasion, do some book repairs and hand bind & case-in small book editions. Ever looking to learn something new, Mary then started her own small business called Maidstone Paperworks, where she made handmade papers of numerous varieties... from hand drawn 100% cotton rag to milkweed pulp. I'm amazed to this day as to what you can make paper from! She also created & sold hand-bound journals, compendiums & wedding albums, handmade cards & tags, folded japanese origami note cards & gift boxes, cloth boxes for photos & videos, & continued on with the occasional small book binding jobs. She even had the chance to work with one the very rare copies of the original Gutenberg Bible, in constructing an acid-free padded enclosure for it.

   A bit over 18 years ago, Mary's brother, landscape, wildlife & nature photographer, Roger Irwin, was in need of some picture framing & matting as his photography business started growing & blooming. Mary took the task to hand. As a professional/commercial picture framer from 70' to 80' in Honolulu, HI & Aspen CO, she had me help her build a small framing shop & show her the ropes & tricks of the trade. As with our home that we built ourselves up here in 81', she literally had her hand on hammer in this too. She has since taken her framing business far beyond anything I had done in the old days. Of course, (ahem!), the advent of new technologies, techniques, and materials had something to do with this. Heck, in the 70's all we had were 2 colors of museum rag board... white & cream... period. Mary must have 30 shades of white & 30 shades of cream mat samples in her rack. Yet, hinging artwork with rice paper & rice paste is still a valid method to this day. Picture framing has come a long way since then and Mary has kept up on it all, through research & in working with book conservators & paper conservators, putting the newly available materials & methods to good use in her framing business. She may not be able to create a hermetically sealed, temperature, light & humidity controlled, argon filled, bullet proof enclosure like that which surrounds the Declaration of Independence, but she does an excellent job for the price in creating a safe, long lasting, encapsulated environment for your artwork. Please visit the navigation links to see what she does offer.

   Mary has framed innumerable pieces of artwork over these years, from small personal keepsakes to whole gallery shows. She continues to do her brothers photographic works, as well as framing for photographer/printer Fletcher Manly & editor Steven Stinehour, both formerly of Stinehour Press. She still works with artist/owner Claire Van Vliet of Janus Press, & with book conservator Nancy Stinehour, but most often she can be found working with paper conservator M. J. Davis of Washi Paper Conservation doing framing & paper conservation/restoration work. Mary enjoys working with M.J., as there is always something new to learn, & always new interesting projects to take on. It could be cataloging, cleaning, & framing smaller works at M.J.'s home studio in Newark, VT, or framing a huge piece for the President Calvin Coolidge Museum and Education Center in Plymouth Notch, VT. Or perhaps restoring the State House photo archives in Montpelier, VT, or restoration & framing of rare old circus posters for the Shelburne Museum near Burlington VT. Here is an interesting article from 7 Days online about M.J. Davis: Works on Paper / Seven Days.  Mary has also had the opportunity to assist M.J. with the "Curtains Without Borders" project, helping restore various historic theater curtains around the New England area.

   As you can see, Mary is a busy women, & her Vermont work ethic shows. As they say up here, she's "done well" for herself.