By Ali Webb
I’m super-curious. Who isn’t? Even the word ‘curious’ makes me curious. Throw me a random shop-front with curious objects in the window and I’m – you guessed it – curious.
While I love a surprise, I also love an investigation. Being an extrovert, I can’t help myself but unravel a secret, a myth, an adventure waiting to be found. And that’s kind of what happened when I got the courage to drop in to a warm-looking storefront on a cold winter’s night with a six pack of beer, and chat to some friendly looking people because I was curious about a font on a poster.
The poster said ERNEST FRAMING and it hung in the window of the old shop front on Ballarat Street, Yarraville. A place I would walk past everyday. The thing was, the poster was really modern and I’ve always thought of framers as dusty, forgotten about stores that may or may not be a cover for a drug den. Do people make frames anymore in this flatpack world that we live in?
Yes. Yes they do. This is how I came to meet Craig Ernest Byrne.
The studio space on the ground floor of the shop front is covered in neatly placed timber cuts, glassless frames and a series of incredible ornate frames on display ready to be collected.
What strikes me is the detail in each frame I’m looking at, as Craig and I discuss the Yarraville neighbourhood, sinking tinnies like old buddies. Each frame I’m staring intently at is different: different timbers are used, different joins are highlighted, different colours, shapes and sizes and, in some instances, different carvings.
They really are works of art.
But is that a problem? How do you create a frame that doesn’t steal the limelight away from the artwork itself?
Politely opening a second tinnie, Craig answers what is possibly his most-asked question with a grin: “The focus is the artwork. In my case, less is more. The main thing is that the person who is looking at it enjoys it and the artwork is displayed right.”
While he tells me this he brings out an extraordinary framed work. It’s a World War One certificate and whilst the design, the font, the detail in this piece of history is significant, Craig tells me that it’s an artwork that gave him inspiration for the frame.
“This war certificate was really damaged. It has rips and holes in it and moths have had a go. I chose to show the damage as a feature, like a treasure map. I didn’t want to cover up the history of the certificate.
“It was important when I came to designing the frame that the certificate received the respect it deserved. I can make a frame that can provide you with a story. The frames I make should last as long as the artwork itself.”
The timber is stunning, handcrafted to perfection. All the frames in the studio are. You can tell Craig really loves what he does and spends a lot of time finessing each design. There’s so much thought in each piece and it’s obvious he cares.
“I get my timber rough sawn, then I machine it down into strips. I buy timber from a range of suppliers, such as Timber Lord and Urban Salvage and a few other local places. A timber I am working with now is from Tasmania called Blackheart Sassafras. There’s an initiative in Tassie where someone had the rights to dredge a lake and this timber is from this lake and had been underwater for a long time. It’s super rare. It’s incredible.”
So here, in the centre of Yarraville, there’s Ernest Framing. A young man owning an old trade and judging by his designs he’s going to keep it going for a long while yet.
Craig is joined by two artists in the studio – a textile artist and a jewellery designer. The three live together upstairs.
So what do you get when a framer, a textile artist, and a jeweller live and work together?
I asked for a website, but Craig simply said, pop in and say hello and then you will see. Curious?
Meet the local artisans at 43a Ballarat Street, Yarraville. Ernest Framing can be found and followed on Instagram. The housemates have regular open house days where you can check out designs, ask questions and if you bring a tinnie you might even get to kick back and make a few buddies.
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