John O’Sullivan opened Art & Frame of Danbury two years ago, after having worked as a framer since he was 15 years old, at various locations. His love of woodworking was learned from his father, he said, growing up in Bethel, and he attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
“It’s the perfect mix of building stuff and art, for me,” Mr O’Sullivan said of his business. “I love building things, and we get to see art from all over the world.”
The shop functions primarily as a frame shop, said the Newtown resident, “but I wanted a gallery, too.” Seven to eight times a year, the white textured walls on either side of the bright, rectangular space that makes up Art & Frame are covered with the works of local artists, solo or in groups. Each show is hung for approximately six weeks, allowing ample time for viewing during the Monday through Friday hours of 10 am to 7 pm, or until 6 pm on Saturdays.
He keeps the gallery fresh by changing shows frequently, and by producing theme-based shows. “It might be a theme of ‘green.’ That could be taken to mean recycled, environmentally green, or maybe just all green in color,” Mr O’Sullivan gave as an example. Other themed shows might focus on a particular subject, and one show last year showcased “Fridge Art,” all art by children, to benefit Ann’s Place.
Most of the shows are juried, but his favorite show, which started its run Saturday, November 9, is not. The Small Works Show consists of more than 100 works in all mediums, each one no bigger than 13 by 13 inches, including frame, or 13 inches all directions for a three-dimensional work. “I try to do this show each year, right around the holidays,” Mr O’Sullivan said. The majority of the pieces are for sale, and prices cover a wide range. “We’ve had things selling for $5 and things selling for $1,500,” he said.
Each art show opens with a public reception with refreshments, and background music by local musicians. A comfortable couch and wing chairs clustered about a coffee table in the center of the room prevent the space from seeming cavernous, and offer seating during a reception, or if there is a short wait. “It’s a nice place to showcase talent, for musical and visual artists,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
(Customers browsing the artwork might pause at the counter where an aquarium houses a strawberry South American horn frog. “J.J.” is a rescue frog, and has become the gallery’s uber-quiet store mascot.)
In addition to the revolving art gallery, what makes Art & Frame stand out from other frame shops, Mr O’Sullivan said, is the number of frames from which customers can select. “We have over 5,000 frame samples in the shop,” he said. Four layers of wall that slide back and forth are covered top to bottom with frame samples as exotic as the leather frames from Peru or the hand painted Italian frames, or as simple as a factory made frame. Brilliantly colored frames and decorative frames of inlaid wood are lined up next to rows of novelty frames to suit any interest, wood frames, antiqued frames, funky Lucite frames, and metal frames.
“Some of these frames, like the ones with bicycles or skeleton heads or suits of cards, I might only ever sell one,” Mr O’Sullivan admitted. “But I’m a fanatic about frames. We try to stay current with the frame styles,” he said.
Nearly as large a selection of mats as there are frames is available at Art & Frame. Fabric-based mats of cotton, silk, suede, or even leather can be selected to complement the perfect frame, and all are acid-free.
Each of his four staff members are artists, Mr O’Sullivan said, and all are qualified to assist customers in selecting just the right mat and frame.
He is confident that customers will walk away satisfied, whether framing a toddler’s first scrawlings or a million-dollar work of art. “We do it all,” he said. “Between myself and Jim Jeffrey, and the rest of the staff, there’s not much we haven’t seen. We’ve framed wedding dresses and Christening gowns, football jerseys, and all kinds of 3-D stuff,” he said. They have added light and sound features to framed pieces.
Customers come to Art & Frame for the expertise and individual attention. “We want to work with customers to give them what they want, and we want them to be happy when the job is finished,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
Art & Frame provides restoration services for paintings and frames. The shop offers basic cleaning and repairs to tears, and each job is assessed on an individual basis. Restoration jobs that are beyond the scope of the small shop are referred to other professionals.
“We get into some pretty creative stuff, and you won’t find that in a chain store. I love this creative outlet. People who know the difference in quality really appreciate us,” Mr O’Sullivan said. “In doing framing,” he said, “we take the time to do it just right.”
Art & Frame of Danbury is at 60 Newtown Road in the Route 6 Plaza in Danbury. The store and gallery are open Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 7 pm, and on Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm. For information on gallery submissions, framing, or restoration, call 203-748-0197, or visit www.ArtandFrameofDanbury.com.