Dave Newhouse: Art's a frame job 05/26/2008 06:28:38 AM PDT
The artist sees beauty in a painting, but so does the framer. Heather Piazza understands this comparison fully because she is both painter and framer.
Piazza makes a living framing paintings and photographs, but she sees herself first as a painter. Either way in her mind, it's all art.
''The framing enhances what's in the picture,'' she said. ''Depending on the colors you pick in the frame, you can create different moods or enhance various elements of the artwork.''
Why would the greatest artists — Picasso, Rembrandt, Matisse — even want a frame when they obviously felt their paintings were classics?
''To hold it all together and pop it out from the wall,'' Piazza pointed out, ''and to give it something to showcase it, so that it stands out.''
Indeed, a memorable painting without an appropriate frame would be like an expensive suit without just the right shirt and tie to set it off.
Piazza, 33, grew up in Modesto and has been a custom framer for 14 years, the last 5-1/2 years at Creative Framing & Gallery in the Oakland hills. Dave Sommers has owned the store for 33 years, but Piazza is the store's manager and its only employee.
Get the picture? Piazza is a one-person show. She refers to Sommers as ''semi-retired.'' He takes care of the books, and she takes care of customers.
''I really love helping customers,'' she said, ''and helping them pick stuff
that's going to be on their wall for a long time. And I pick up ideas from them for my own art.''
The framing shop is open Tuesday through Saturday. Piazza paints after work and on days off. She also uses her workplace to showcase her art. On June 7 and 8, and June 14 and 15, she will join Kathe Welch, both members of Four Oceans Press Artists and East Bay Open Studios, in exhibiting their paintings at Creative Framing, located at 5015 Woodminster Lane.
Piazza describes herself as an ''eclectic artist.'' She paints, she makes printings, she does sculpted glass and photography.
''I'm a Renaissance woman — in art and in life,'' she said. ''I can do most things for myself, and I'm not scared to try new things.''
She could decorate wedding cakes as a girl or fix the plumbing. Sky-diving and bungee- jumping are still on her list of adventuresome things to do.
Obviously, she doesn't think in black and white, whether it's art or exploration.
''All of my work is very colorful,'' she said of her paintings. ''I love color, and it's always really bright. I almost call it childlike, because it's very vibrant, happy and fun.''
A painting takes time, but so does framing.
''When someone comes in with their piece of art,'' said Piazza, ''I ask them a few basic questions to get to know them and their style. That gives me an instinct of what would look best on their art.''
If that instinct doesn't happen, she'll then experiment with different samples to figure out the customer's style. Basically, she prefers Earth tones for ''casual'' individuals, and gold, baroque frames for ''elegant'' people. She has a ''95 to 100 percent'' success rate in pleasing others.
''People say I have a really good eye,'' she said.
She does remarkable work. I know; I'm a regular customer. I have a hobby of collecting restaurant menus from my travels. She has enhanced them — with frame or frameless. She's artistic even in matting, including a tattered poster I have from a 1930s Oakland boxing show.
Piazza wants to be remembered, though, for her paintings, not her framings.
''I would love to be a full-time artist because I like to create art,'' she said. ''And I'd like people to enjoy my art. I'm not at a point where I've sold a lot of it yet.
''But I would frame my own art.''
Why would she trust anyone else?
Dave Newhouse's columns appear Sunday, Monday and Thursday, usually on the Metro pageof the Oakland Tribune. Know any Good Neighbors? Phone 510-208-6466 or e- mail email@example.com