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Media and Press » SMH Jul 2003

800-Media and Press/005-SMH - Jul 2003 Image 1

Size it Up

by Mari Gibson

It's surprising how streamlined the business of custom picture framing can be - especially at Rick Hoelscher's family-run workshop and showroom. But, given that in a previous life he worked in the European car industry, his in-built love of precision is understandable.

Hoelscher, who came to Australia from Germany in the late '60s, has made custom frames for 25 years. He and his son, Kurt, have been based in Caringbah for the past eight, and these days they make between 50 and 100 frames a week.

"It depends on what the job is," says Hoelscher senior. That job can be anything from framing a treasured oil painting or wedding photograph to displaying baby's coming-home outfit - or a big baby's winning football shirt - in a specially designed frame.

After a customer has chosen the perfect frame and mounting board (and the precious item has been labelled and tucked away), the first stop is at the 'V' nailer, an Italian machine that cuts and joins the frame moulding according to one of 150 different settings recognized by its computer. Next, something called the Wizard mounting-board cutter does its job.

All this efficiency has one result, says Hoelscher, and that's the ability to create a quality product, one that is "value for money - not cheaper". They use top-of-the-range, quality mouldings, including timber and aluminum, and an archival-quality, acid-free type of mounting board. "It will not interfere with the artwork." says Hoelscher, "We can guarantee it will look the same in 10 years."

Hoelscher also thinks he has the answer to a common customer problem: trying to picture the result. Son Kurt expects to finish work soon on software that will allow customers to see their artworks as they would look after framing.

First, the artwork will be digitally photographed and downloaded to a computer. Then, at a click, the customer will be able to see what various frames and mounting boards will look like around it - even the background colour can be matched to the walls.

Technology aside, the Hoelschers know a bit about the art of old-fashioned customer service. They will come out to do quotes in the Sutherland Shire area, where they deliver free. And, for those without an inkling about how to do it, they also do picture hanging ($50 an hour, hardware supplied).

Asked what keeps him interested in his work, Rick Hoelscher doesn't hesitate: "The creativity of it. There is always something else. We get a lot of unusual work - you get real challenges along the way. It has got to look impressive. If people don't look at it and say 'Oh, this is good', then you have lost it."

Spoken like a true artist.

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