Marian and John Martin have been "THE" professionals for framing in southeastern Connecticut since 1979.
Here is their story as it appeared in The Stonington Times a few years ago.
Stonington --- They've framed documents signed by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain's writings, and even a Renoir. And they work very hard to make sure that the items behind the glass will last a lifetime.
Marian and John agree that the framing business has changed dramatically since they opened their first store in 1979. Many of those changes, they said, involve new understanding of how proper protection from harmful UV rays, damaging wood gases and acidic paper can help extend the life of artwork, conserving it in its original form for future generations...That protection is now their specialty.
John Martin opened his first store in New London on State Street in a space that is now occupied by the expanded Garde Arts Theater. What began as an artist's art gallery and frame shop (John graduated from Paier College of Art and still does some work repairing of oil paintings) has grown into the full-service framing business that it is today...specializing in conservation framing. "The main thrust of our business is custom framing," Martin said. The Martins are the former owners of Studio 33 (Stonington & New London), which they sold a few years ago, and are now spending all their time in their Stonington location.
Marian first met John when she went to work for him in 1985. She said that she found the work interesting, in fact, more interesting than the accounting work she originally intended to pursue after graduating with a business degree. And, she said working with John was also rewarding for both of them.
"He found out he could work with me as well as play," Marian Martin said. "He taught me everything I knew and then we decided to expand the business."
Since the beginning, John has provided most of the labor, including the hand-cutting nearly every mat for every project. They do own a matboard cutting machine, but for the most part, John cuts the boards himself with a razor and a straight-edge. Marian says they've spoken with other framers at trade shows and industry conferences, and her husband's preferences often surprises people. "No one could believe he still does it by hand," she said.
John also custom mixes the paint to match each matboard, using as many as five or more colors to get the perfect match to hide the white inner foam core that shows once the mat is cut at an angle to create a beveled edge that abuts the artwork.
The Stonington Frame Shoppe carries the larges selection of corner samples, or sample frames, in the area. "If they can't find it here, I don't think they make it," Marian said. And, unlike most framing companies that carry matboards from one or perhaps two manufacturers, the Martin's carry matboards from three different companies; meaning more variety, more matboard in stock, and making more rush items possible.
The extensive amount of frames, matboards, fillets, and glazing choices can be daunting to customers, which is why it's helpful to have someone with an eye for color and design work with the customers. Normally, Marian will talk with the customer about what he or she expects, then bring out three to five samples to get the customer started.
While the work of framing the piece can get repetitive, every piece of art that comes in is different. "Everything should have a unique look geared to the customer and then geared to the artwork," Marian said. Framing is not limited to flat items. The store has framed everything from golf clubs to T-Shirts to wedding hats and baby items.
"Prices run the gamut from the very reasonable to the very expensive," depending on the materials chosen, John said. At the high end, for example, would be a 24x30 inch artwork in a 22-karat gold-plated frame with finished corners, a hand-wrapped linen matboard, 22-karat gold-plated fillet and museum glass. Something like that could cost about $1800. And, how many of those have they done? "Not too many," John said laughing..."but we'd like to do more, as they are very exciting."