Anybody Everybody Tottenham

Falafel, Frames and Finding your Community - Donny, the Blue House Framer

March 03, 2023 Jamila Season 2 Episode 35
Anybody Everybody Tottenham
Falafel, Frames and Finding your Community - Donny, the Blue House Framer
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Today I am talking to Donny who opened his picture frame shop in the Blue House Yard pretty much two years ago. We talk about his path into the profession, why people don't just go to Wilko and the community spirit in the Blue House Yard. All I now need is a great piece of art so I can get it framed ...

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Jamila  0:05  
Hi I'm Jamila and anybody everybody Tottenham is a bi monthly podcast, introducing the good people of Tottenham to you. Hello, my friends. It's another strike day. And it has been a minute apologies, but interviews are lined up. So in this episode, I'm talking to Donny, a picture framer that has a shop in the Blue House Yard. l hope you enjoy it. I really like it.

So today on the pod, I've got Donny from Blue House framer, thank you for doing this interview. So it's our second person from the Blue House yard. Okay. Now, I don't know anything about you, Donny, do you have any connection to Tottenham?

Donny  0:49  
Well, I used to live there. I used to live in Tottenham, a few years ago. And now I live. We were in Haringey lines a few years ago, and then they moved it. So now we're in Enfield. But I'm local to Wood Green. You know, so I spend a lot of time in Tottenham and Wood Green. And, you know, I'm local.

Jamila  1:08  
Okay. So how would you describe Tottenham? 

Donny  1:12  
Well, when I was living there I was living with mates. And yeah, there's lots of creative people in Tottenham, you know, I think one of my flatmates was, you know, studying to be in the circus, you know, juggling and doing hoops and doing lots of different things. Another one was an artist. So there were a lot of creative people in Tottenham. And my friends I lived with,

Jamila  1:40  
Did you grow up here in this area? Why did you come to the area in the first place?

Unknown Speaker  1:47  
Yeah, I grew up in North London. Yeah. So I used to play in a band. And we used to rehearse in the studios in Bruce Grove, you know, and, yeah, we used to go and drink in the beehive. And, you know, we hung out a lot. You know, I lived there. I'd always been, you know, around, you know? Yeah, I don't think that studio is there any more. Where they were, we were rehearsing on West Green Road. And they moved to Bruce grove. But I like Bruce Grove Castle, you know, they do a lot of cool exhibitions and interesting sort of, you know, telling you interesting history about the area, you know, and about what they what they find what they uncover about the area, you should definitely visit there. If you haven't visited Bruce Grove castle.

Jamila  2:42  
Let's talk about your job, which seems quite unusual. So how did you get into into this? Oh,

Unknown Speaker  2:51  
Well, actually, I was working. I was working in the pub. I mean, it's over 10 years ago, now. I was working in a pub. And I was complaining about the hours. And one of the locals in the pub was like, Oh, do you want to come and do a few hours in the workshop, you know, where I work for a bit, you know, one day a week for a couple hours or something? And it was a picture framing workshop. And I just sort of took to it. You know, I liked it. And it went from there, really. It was a

Jamila  3:24  
Did you have any experience at all before with woodwork or art painting?

Unknown Speaker  3:31  
A little bit on the sort of woodwork side. But I think I just had an aptitude for the cutting and joining and, you know, I yeah, I really enjoyed the team that I worked with in the picture factory, the picture factory up in the north Finchley  I really enjoyed, you know, working there, and really, it was sort of learning because I was only doing a couple hours a week. I wasn't doing you know, a lot, but I you know, I enjoyed it. So I carried on, you know, I went from the picture factory, I moved to a sort of more exhibition museum type framing. And so, I've worked for three different firms before starting off on my own, you know,

Jamila  4:21  
what do you think are maybe misconceptions people would have about your job? What do you think people maybe don't quite understand?

Unknown Speaker  4:30  
I think it's one of those things, isn't it? Some, some people they've never gone into a custom framing shop and some people they go regularly. So if you don't know, then you just sort of you don't really know what to expect. You don't know. You know, you like you said like you sort of don't know the purpose of it. You know what I mean? But, but custom framing you know Uhm, you know, I mean, we range from working with paper conservators and you know, all the way to, you know, framing, you know, pictures and you know, people, people's portraits and stuff.

Jamila  5:13  
Had you ever had a custom frame made before you did your couple of / your day working there? (No.) And what was the first piece you framed for yourself? Or did you have someone else frame?

Unknown Speaker  5:29  
Um, so the first thing I did for myself, well, actually, I can tell you the first thing I did for a friend, because I was living in Tottenham at the time. And I did a screen print, like a poster that he had picked up at a gig for someone who did some album artwork or something. And he really wanted to have it framed, have it up in the flat. So I did that. That was the first thing that I did for sort of myself, and you know, the house, so to speak.

Jamila  6:00  
Now, how long does it take? Or how long did it take to make that frame?

Unknown Speaker  6:04  
Well, the thing is picture frame because you have to fit it all in with other stuff that has to be framed. So it did take me quite a while, it's hard to try and break down how long it takes to take what to make one frame, you know what I mean? Because there's a lot involved, you've got a cut the wood, join the wood, let the glue dry, sand the wood, fill the wood, paint the wood, then you have to cut the glass, cut the back, cut the MDF, put the little rings into you know, hang it to so it can be hung. You have to mount the artwork, cut the mount, cut the paper, put the you know, put the artwork in the mount, then you have to fit the whole thing up. You know, so it's quite it's, it's it's very laborious.

Jamila  6:50  
What is your plea for for people having more things framed?

Unknown Speaker  6:54  
When customers come in and they're not really sure. Because we work with quite expensive materials, you know, like the, the right down to the acid free tape to stick the, you know, artwork or, you know, whatever down to the, you know, conservation mount card. So, when people come in with things, they're like, you know, I, I don't really know. And then they hear the price. I sort of, I sort of think, well, if you want to spend money on this, you know, piece of artwork or something that you have that means something to you, then go to a picture framer. But if you sort of just want to stick a photo in a frame or you know, do you know I mean? Yeah, then pick up a nice frame from like Wilko or, you know, you know, TK Maxx have some sort of little six by four frames, you know,  it's easier to go and get cheap frames for stuff like that, you know, yeah. Whereas people that want to get stuff, you know, that it means a lot to them. You know, they spend a lot on you know, UV protected glass and you know, you know, non reflective glass like it can be very expensive getting stuff framed. So, bear in mind what your framing

Jamila  8:23  
because, yeah, as you said, you have a bit of a background in one of the companies who worked a lot with museums, you said, (yeah, yeah, gallery), that it's not just about looking pretty, but also protecting the artwork for a long time. (Yeah, exactly. Yeah.0 What is quite interesting as well, is because within the Blue House, you're, you have a lot of artists, and you often get involved as well, when there is the citizen art market, and things like that. So has it also got you in touch with more artists? And do you now appreciate it in a different way? Maybe?

Unknown Speaker  9:03  
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I think that was part of wanting to start a shop on my own, you know, was to sort of be part of, you know, people's stories in a way a little bit, you know, that we have a local, you know, local sort of hero here who he he had a triple heart surgery. He's an artist, and he made a painting for Bart's hospital to give to the surgeons that operated on him. I framed that for him. We sort of worked together on deciding the frame. And so it was a very nice sort of, you know, thing to be a part of,

Jamila  9:46  
so how long have you been framing now so I scrolled to the bottom of your Instagram first post was 2015. And you seem to already been doing it then or?

Unknown Speaker  9:57  
Yeah, yeah. I been about it's been about 10 years now. I mean, since the, you know, few hours a week type thing, because  I did that for a few years with the picture factory just a few hours a week and a day maybe one or two days here and there before I completely sort of left the pub,

Jamila  10:17  
and then you started out on your own two years ago. It looks like

Unknown Speaker  10:21  
it's coming up to two years. (Yeah, like March it was in march. Yeah._ Yeah. April 18 we opened. In March, the beginning of March, I got the keys to the shed.

Jamila  10:33  
How has it been to be your own boss? And what have been the challenges? What have been the joys of, of making this work? I mean, can I just say on a side note, if you Google yourself, Google reviews just all love you. The amount of really heartfelt review is just really nice.

Unknown Speaker  10:54  
Ah thanks, Yeah, I, there's been great, yeah, I really am sort of thrilled that it's working out, you know, because you never know, you start these things, you know, when you start your own business, or you take a punt, don't you and you, you know, sort of invest a bit of money that you sort of think, you know, I may completely lose this, you know, this may not work. But you know, you give it a go and you take a punt and you do your best in it. You know, it's sort of working out? Really? Yeah.

Jamila  11:32  
Do you think during the pandemic, because a lot of people spending more time at home, they looked around and they care more about what is in their home? Do you think that kind of worked in your your favorite?

Unknown Speaker  11:45  
Maybe - I've tried to sort of take a guess at what it is, you know, it's just, I mean, I just don't you don't know, you know, because at that time, you know, gallery when galleries were reopening, and, you know, exhibitions were reopening to the public, you know, I had, you know, custom out of that. I did an exhibition at the south bank centre called art by post. So the south bank centre did this sort of program for people to if they wanted to do art at home, and then send their art in, you know, because it's in, you know, lockdown. And, you know, that was, it was so great to be, you know, part of sort of a part of that. And then, you know, like you said, maybe people were like, "oh, you know, I must get that picture framed, that i've had you know, up in the attic for so long", or, you know, so I think it was a mixture of sort of just being part of, you know, what the sort of needs are as a picture framer. And also, you know, being a bit lucky.

Jamila  12:55  
But, so it's interesting. So you've got, how would you break it down your, your customers? Is it - so galleries, individual artists, who else is coming to you?

Unknown Speaker  13:06  
Yeah, I get, it's sort of the whole range. You know, I get exhibitions, I do, you know, exhibitions for artists. Also working with Ed, like you said, the gallery opposite is a great gallery you should visit if you get a chance. The citizens art working with them, and with artists that come to the art markets here, you know, that he does. And then yeah, people that people that want to frame, you know, domestic sort of stuff for their houses, too. I had I've recently I've got a book conservator that's come to me that one of her clients wants to preserve a napkins, like this 100 year old wedding set that you know, is is going to be preserved. That's one of her clients, you know, that she's done the paper conservation on. Yeah, so really just it ranges, you know, across the board.

Jamila  14:08  
And I saw that you said you're not only doing pictures, but you do also more physical stuff like figurines you said, how do you frame figurines?

Unknown Speaker  14:20  
Oh, yeah. Yeah, well, they're going in deep boxes, you know, so you kinda make these very deep boxes for the I did a couple of sort of Day of the Dead style. Yeah, so plaster or clay sort of figures for a wedding that was quite interesting. You get everything, you know, you have to just sort of whatever comes through the door, you never know, you know.

Jamila  14:51  
So how does it normally work? So if I now have a beautiful piece of art, and I think it's worth it to have it properly framed? Do I book a consultation with you? Do I just rock up? How does it, how does it go?

Unknown Speaker  15:06  
You can just come in with it, you know, I'm, my hours are Wednesday to Sunday 10 to 5pm. I'm closed Monday and Tuesday, within those hours, you know, you can come in and you know, have a consultation. Or if you want to book time, you know, if it's something that you feel like, oh, I want to make sure that, you know, we have half an hour or you know, whatever, to go through something, then you can ring and book and I can you make sure that that time slot is available. Yeah.

Jamila  15:41  
 And is it still just you or have, you now, also got someone from a pub, who needs a couple of hours to learn a bit of framing?

Unknown Speaker  15:51  
(laughs) it is just me is still just me. And it's because the space is so small, and it's sort of really quite difficult to get work done here, I would have, I wouldn't wish it on anyone to come and try and get them to I mean, the way the layout is by, you know, hopefully getting someone to help me like, you know, a friend from somewhere that I've previously worked just to help with a day here and there, you know, because I'm very busy. But I would like to, you know, when I do get the opportunity to, you know, maybe grow or expand, you know, I want to do that I would like to, you know, do get some, you know, get someone from the local pub and get them started, you know, the wayI did, you know, they don't have to be, you know, institutional.

Jamila  16:40  
Yeah. The other thing I was wondering about, have you seen changes in like, if we just look at the private people now, who get this framed over the years? Because you've done it now for 10 years, that there are different trends, what people like or what gets framed? Have you seen any, any trends in that regard?

Unknown Speaker  17:04  
Since I've done the business? I probably will start seeing a bit of that, you know, seeing what is fashionable? I guess. I think, yeah, there's a lot of people focusing on certain mediums, you know, like the North London print, you know, that they had the exhibition opposite - people, like, you know, people bring a lot of prints in the shop, you know, lots of screen prints, lots of prints. But then also get a lot of canvases, you know, a lot of acrylic on Canvas. So I don't know yet is the answer to that. (Okay). With it.

Jamila  17:45  
Do you have any other things that you would like to develop? I saw that you were running, like a little workshop with kids? Is that something that that you're looking into? maybe? I don't know, if - could you run a workshop for people to frame their own work? Or is that too complicated?

Unknown Speaker  18:04  
I think to do the whole process will be a bit much. But what I was thinking that I could do is - do like a mounting workshop, you know, how to cut mounts how to, you know, fit book mounts up or, you know, window mounting. So I might do that. The kids that you mentioned from Tree House School, was something that we organized with citizens art with Ed, as well, we had a group come and paint some frames and do some paint pouring. And I think like, that was the other sort of bonus. And thing that I wanted to do by starting up, starting up on my own was, like I said, be a bit more involved in my community and things around me.

Jamila  18:54  
Okay, and what have been the challenges so far? Or have you not had any?

Unknown Speaker  19:00  
No, it's very challenging. Yeah. Well, in terms of the, I mean, I've never run my own business before, you know, so having to keep track of expenses and keep lots of paperwork and all the, you know, doing a lot of admin, you know, all the time just doing admin all the time, you know, and then try to actually make frames and do the labor has been really sort of, you know, challenging and also the space, you know, I'm doing I'm at the moment, I am at work. So it was my, it's my day off, but I'm in the Blue House doing a big huge frame that won't fit in the workshop that I've painted outside and you know, so it's, yeah, it's a constant sort of challenge really, actually.

Jamila  19:47  
But I think you really enjoy the communal aspect isn't that of the Blue House? Because you keep on coming back to it that you enjoy working with people?

Unknown Speaker  19:57  
Yeah, I do. I like it. And I think The you know coming down here if you haven't already been down here people that are listening or you know it is it sort of feels like a nice community when you come and have a drink on the bus and come and visit the shops there's lots of there's always someone doing something you know, Jenny does the knitting work and then we have a revolving gallery that you know has different artists in. Emma, you know, is sort of always out sorting the clothes out for the kids shop and you know, then she's promoting and helping, you know, pram drop and there's a real Yeah, it's nice you know, it's nice, nice to be in it and I think well I hope it I hope it you know, long may it continue you know, here

Jamila  20:49  
Is there a little network of you framers (yeah there is you know) do you all know each other?

Donny  20:56  
Yeah, really or know of each other. Or I mean, like I said about the space being small, you know, I use the picture factory where I used to work to do some mountain for me, so I go up there, I take art work, I say, Oh, and you know, I need a couple of mounts cut, you know, the other place that I worked at, in Haggerston frame London, I speak to them, you know, regularly, like where that, you know, ended amicably we, you know, still share things and, you know, so yeah, there is, you know, is a community.

Jamila  21:33  
That's nice. Like, you know, like the old crafts people I like , yeah. Okay, so do you have some top tips? You already said Bruce castle? And did you say the beehive Where did you go drink? Yeah,

Donny  21:49  
the pub. Yeah. Well, because they had live music at the beehive. So I remember I don't know if they still do but  they did in the back. Well, maybe they do. I mean I haven't been there. I went there once when they reopened for lockdown because I was like, oh, I want to go you know go there again. But I've been so busy now. And also I'm having my own family we've got a baby on the way you know, so I'm really really busy so I haven't managed to venture out that way but when I do I'll probably Yeah, we'll probably be to visit some you know something that Bruce castle and then hit the pub, you know?

Jamila  22:31  
Okay, any food places or anything else even like wood green Haringey area that you would recommend?

Donny  22:38  
Actually there's a great new falafel place in Wood Green shopping city the falafel for you. It's really good and affordable you know .Like eating going to get sort of a falafel wrap now I mean, on the high road is can be like 10 quid it's ridiculous but this guy falafel for you. it's a fiver so it's like nineteen ninety nine prices are something

Jamila  23:06  
nice. And I know you shouldn't have favorites but are there some local artists that you think like people should look out for these people that you maybe framed an exhibition for or some of their artwork and you're like yeah, check out their website

Donny  23:23  
in terms of the stuff that I sort of really like you should check out art by QE. He has a studio here at the Blue House and he just does just mix media he does everything you know he does a lot and actually in the shop I've got artwork up of local you know artists that are selling prints and selling you know original work as well you should come by and have a look and you know, you'll see some art, some local artists that you know really because there's so many you know, you just need to look out of your front door

Jamila  23:59  
Do we have any galleries in the area like apart from from the one in the blue house?

Donny  24:08  
Well, what we have is the art walks and the collage arts Open Studios once a year so there's lots of artists in this area in WoodGreen I think there's five collage arts and there's about you know 40 to 60 artists that are in the different collage arts and they do an open studio every year then crouch end do that you know, art walk and I think I don't know in terms of Tottenham it's only really because I follow Bruce Castle.

Jamila  24:43  
Markfield Road. Markfield Road has a lot of artists

Donny  24:48  
Markfield Park I used to go to Markfield Park quite a lot. Yeah, that's it then I have to check that out. I have to go down there. Yeah, you're telling me oh, 

Jamila  24:59  
Okay, thank you very much. 

Donny  25:03  

Jamila  25:04  
Was a little bit of sudden ending but you know, it is what it is. In the show notes. I will link his Instagram which is very cute his website and do Google him and look at the reviews because there are pictures as well of the work that he has done. And it's just really nice to read what people have said. I speak to you guys soon and have a lovely weekend.

I hope you enjoyed today's episode, learned something new, and let that Tottenham love grow. Take care and until next time bye

Transcribed by

Connection to Tottenham
Starting out as a framer
Opening the shop
Top tips