Pretty as a picture
A family wedding led to a whole new business for one mother and daughter team, as Alex Jenkins discovers.
After tying the knot in July 2015 Charlotte Brock definitely had a case of the wedding blues and wanted to keep the glow going a little longer.
“I had spent a fortune for my wedding dress so afterwards I did not want to put it in a box,” the mum-of-two reveals.
“I had seen in a bride magazine somebody had framed their wedding dress and it was massive in the US and I decided to find somebody in the UK to do it.” But her search drew a blank.
While some people would have given up, Charlotte convinced her mum, Sam Hayward, that they could do it themselves.
Yet it was not just a case of ‘trying their hand at it’ the once.
With both of them ‘arty’ – Charlotte studied A-level fine art and Sam is a keen artist – the pair decided to go all guns blazing, enrolling themselves on various courses, including a picture framer course and a 3D shadow box one.
And they decided to go one step further, launching The Beautiful Frame Company from Sam’s home in Barnham and successfully applying to be part of the Fine Art Trade Guild – a body that monitors the industry.
The first wedding dress the pair framed was Charlotte’s great, grandmother’s 1920s dress while the first paid-for commission was a hand-painted Alan Hannah design that had been stored in a mother-in-law’s attic for the past 14 years.
“It was a high five moment,” Sam says, when I ask her how it felt when the first order came through.
“It made us think it is actually happening and it is going to work,” adds Charlotte.
The client organised the framing as a surprise for his wife’s 40th birthday, but it was not the easiest of commissions.
“He was a carpenter so the pressure was immense,” reveals Sam. “Every stage he came to have a look.”
Another exciting commission was framing a Lusan Mandongus wedding gown for display at Truly Gorgeous in Chichester.
However, it is not just dresses they frame, with shoes, veils, tiaras, and flowers all possible.
And it does not have to be wedding paraphernalia, with a baby’s first shoes or toy a popular choice.
With the wedding dress frame fairly large – it is usually the length of a wedding dress – I am interested to know where people fit them in their home.
“Most people are having it up their stairs, on their landing, or in a dressing room,” says Charlotte.
“Sometimes we just get dimensions the customers give us,” adds Sam, “some customers say I want it thinner and others say I want it to be as big as possible.”
I question whether they can cut and chop the wedding dress to fit it into a smaller frame – something I quickly learn is frowned upon.
“Part of the framing criteria is you have to frame an item without damaging it in anyway so you can re-wear it,” says Sam.
“It is really to preserve the item so it can be taken out of the box and nothing has happened to it.”
With this in mind the pair have to suspend the dress and sew through existing seams so as not to damage it.
The idea is 100 years down the line you could open the frame and wear your ancestor’s wedding dress and it would be as pristine as the day it was worn.
“There are different grades of framing,” explains Sam. “You can have your basic framed dress but you can have museum grades.
“So for example for Lady Diana’s dress, something as precious as that, you would have to make sure no air got into the frame and that there was not anything that could be acidic.
“All the materials need to be pH-balanced conservation standard.”
The whole process takes three to ten weeks, from cleaning, restoring and preserving the gown, to building the bespoke frame and working out how to position and attach the item in place.
However, they do try to accommodate urgent requests.
The options when it comes to framing seem endless, with mirrored backs, see-through side panels and MDF through to oak all possible.
Instead of glass fronts, the company uses lighter high resolution acrylic, which is anti scratch, anti reflective and anti UV.
To help make it easier and clearer a new online shop has been launched, although bespoke commissions are still available.
The Beautiful Frame Company is not the first business the mother and daughter team have launched together.
After Charlotte had her first child she soon came to the realisation that working full time was not possible due to the cost of childcare fees.
“Having your own company was the only option to fit in around school hours,” she reveals.
With that in mind, and making use of Sam’s 12 years’ experience in recruitment, the pair decided to set up their own recruitment agency, which they ran for two years.
“It was successful, but we were not passionate,” explains Sam, “whereas we are so passionate about this – it is fun to do.”
“We absolutely love framing,” adds Charlotte, “and our ethos is to make customers’ dreams come true when they see their most precious dress once again.”
The Beautiful Frame Company is based in Barnham but can collect and deliver all around the UK and Ireland.
Prices start at £600 for a dress to be framed, or £150 for the framing of accessories.
For more information, call 01243 936432 or visit www.thebeautifulframecompany.com
Pictures: Kate Shemilt
September 22, 2016 Fashion and Beauty