A visit to Ballard’s Artwork Framing is no ordinary experience. Beyond the warmth and personable sincerity often definitive of small, family-owned businesses, there is an overwhelming feeling that you’ve entered a space where raw creativity is palpable, constant and — dare we say — magical. This feeling, almost preternaturally, permeates from every surface, nook and cranny of the surrounding walls.
The process of framing, at least at Ballard’s, is an art form unto itself; enhancing the art it encases while being a creative token of its own merit. We had the pleasure of watching this meticulous, thoughtful process with Aaron Ballard himself; a kind and gentle man, equally as interesting as he is interested in the world around him.
Local musician Simone White’s Los Angeles-themed tunes hummed in the background as we began our study in framing; a fortuitous sign for our meeting, according to Ballard. Our guinea pig was a charming and whimsical painting by Scott C. featuring shades of green, teal and brown. There are, we soon learned, a plethora of ways to accent the frame while complimenting the art.
One such method is to “float” the art within the glass, which should be visible beyond the artwork’s edge. The glass then lies between the two wood frames, giving additional dimension and depth to the final product. Ballard uses repurposed, raw wood by Urban Ashes, and abstains from adding any beeswax or polyurethane that may interfere with the grain’s natural character. Because of this preference, floating the art also protects it from being corroded by the natural oils still present in the wood.
The painting’s playful scene of a river with children and animals making music atop floating logs offered a great deal of inspiration for the frame. Ballard chose brown-colored wood for the top frame and a teal-color for the bottom; a perfect contrast accentuating the respective colors and textures in the painting. For the final touch, a beige-toned mat board was placed underneath the painting which further accentuated the earthy qualities of both the artwork and frame. Typically at this juncture, the price would be estimated and the framed art would be worked on for a couple weeks until ready for pick up.
The Science of Framing
A couple other interesting facts to note about framing at Ballard’s: the art is mounted with an acid-free adhesive that’s reversible, and all the glass is 99% UV coated. We learned that the latter is actually quite important, so much so that Ballard took a class from a scientist specializing in “the light you cannot see” in order to understand this further. He learned that glass should block at least 97% of the UV light that comes through, and that most framing shops only offer glass at a maximum of 96% — a little bit less than the standard. “It’s a tricky balance,” Ballard explained, “between seeing the art and blocking the light at the same time.” The glass and plexi used for the frames appear also almost invisible, showcasing the art to its fullest potential.
We asked Ballard how he got started with framing. His response, not surprisingly, was a serendipitous story unto itself. He worked at a Starbucks in Texas and did the store’s chalkboard art that included creative, quirky portraits of his coworkers. The manager of a local Jo-Ann’s Fabrics came in one day and, both impressed with Ballard’s artistic skills and desperate for a framer for the store, hired him on the spot. Ballard admittedly had zero framing experience, but nonetheless started this new trade with two days of training and an ominous 50 orders behind schedule to take on as his first project.
Not surprisingly, Ballard fulfilled this with shining colors and after years of knowledge and practice, opened his own shop here in Echo Park. With the help of his friends, Ballard renovated the entire shop himself, sprucing it up with painted floors and taking down a portion of the ceiling to create more space.
Now, 5 years after establishing his home-base shop in Echo Park, Ballard welcomes the opening of his new store in Pasadena. This expansion, however, doesn’t take away his heartfelt sentiments and strong connection to the neighborhood. Much of his family history is rooted in Echo Park; his grandparents were married at the Angelus Temple in the 1940s and both sang in choirs around town including Phil Kerr’s Harmony Chorus. Both sides of his family walked these streets from the 1940s to the 1960s, an image that brought both a proud and sentimental smile to Ballard’s face.
Beyond the obvious, wide variety of frames offered at Ballard’s, the store also features artists’ works such as Raven & Lily’s beautiful fair-trade merchandise. You can also catch live music and other events at the shop on select evenings.
Whether you are in need of a custom-made frame or enjoy perusing the creative world of one-of-a-kind shops, make sure to pay a visit to Ballard’s. The experience will undoubtedly spark your own creativity, inspiring new and interesting ways to brighten your walls and live an artful life.