We often take framers and designers for granted, and yet their work may be immortalized in your home. Perhaps you have a treasured wedding photo, or an important painting or meaningful document on display. Ellen Van den Bergh of The Great Fame Up in the Castro helps to preserve and beautify such valuable objects, creating powerful memories that go beyond mere décor. They become part of our homes and lives.
Ellen receives some unique requests too, and has already worked on quite a few surprising projects, as you’ll soon learn.
Bay Times: Please tell us about your life before The Great Frame Up. Where are you from originally, and why did you decide to come to San Francisco?
Ellen Van den Bergh: Sunny laid back California has always been in my dreams, but I am originally from New York. In my teenage years I realized I wanted to live in San Francisco to be surrounded by my kind of people – authentic, out of the box type people, that is. I U-Hauled it here from Salem College in North Carolina with my then girlfriend, now wife, Bernadette, nearly nine glorious years ago.
Bay Times: What’s it like to wake up every morning knowing you are going to the famous Castro neighborhood?
Ellen Van den Bergh: “Is this real life?” I say to myself and I conclude, “Sorta,” and throw on my funky helmet and pedal there on my bicycle like a mad woman.
Bay Times: What are some of the most memorable projects that you’ve worked on at The Great Frame Up?
Ellen Van den Bergh: I have designed a hang-able jewelry case for a big, heavy African necklace, a see-through shadow box for an ancient mask made of real bone and hair, a six-foot frame for a thousand-year-old scroll, a double-sided frame for a flattened cardboard box that had been painted on both sides, a water-gilded frame for a tiny painting on camel dung, a triple stacked frame and matting for a paper grocery bag, and that is only naming a few.
Bay Times: How do you, as an artist, express yourself through your work as senior designer at the store?
Ellen Van den Bergh: What I like about designing is changing my clients’ verbal ideas into visual realities with creative solutions that are as unique as each individual and art they bring in for framing. People ask, “What is typical?” and I say, “There’s no such thing.”
Bay Times: How do you think your store is different from, or similar to, other Great Frame Up locations?
Ellen Van den Bergh: Well, when you walk in, you have definitely entered what I have lovingly termed a “framing circus,” because I love color, synchronicity, and we are definitely the ring leaders. I am fairly sure other locations follow corporate more closely, but we do our own thing.
Bay Times: What advice do you have for someone who might be thinking of bringing an item(s) to your business? Should they do a bit of advance homework? What options will they have?
Ellen Van den Bergh: We can expertly accommodate both framing virgins and connoisseurs alike, as our selection is ample, but accessible, since we give thorough design advice to every client. Alternately, if you already know what you want, we will help you to find it as quickly as possible.
Bay Times: Is there a particular time of year when your business is really booming? I’m wondering if that could be tied to certain events, or seasons or…?
Ellen Van den Bergh: The holiday season is busiest for us because forever encapsulating precious memorabilia in a personalized custom frame is one gushy present for a special someone if I ever heard of one!