A different kind of craftsman: Andrew Ash, 35 years of framing experience

Andrew Ash has been putting the finishing touches on artwork for 35 years without a paintbrush in sight. A creative of a different nature, Ash began working as a framer in 1980; he claims his is the longest career in the industry in the entire Bahamas. His career in the craft began at a local shop on Shirley Street called The Frame Center. Under the eye of Richard Charlow, who was then one of The Bahamas’ most respected framers, Ash learned the basics.

“The first thing he taught me was how to read the measuring tape by writing different measurements on strips of paper and taking these strips home to study every night,” recalled Ash. He mastered cutting and joining the molding and cutting matboard, glass and backing before he was allowed to assemble the piece in a process known as “completing”. Since 1980, Ash has worked at The Frame Centre, Balmain Antiques Framing – both now closed – and Andrew Aitken Frame Art. Over the decades, he’s been using his skills to complement works by many of the country’s foremost artists of both newer and older generations. Among his clientele have been Brent Malone, whose works are now featured in Reincarnation, a retrospective exhibition at The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, and Lavar Munroe, who was recently featured in the main exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale. These days, though, he can be found at The Place for Art – a business he owns with art educator Kim Smith.

Building rapport

Ash and Smith met in 1992, when Ash framed a particularly sentimental work for Smith, who had recently moved to The Bahamas from Canada. “I needed the first drawing I had done in The Bahamas framed, and Simonetta Raymond-Barker referred me to a framing shop called Balmain Antiques and Framing where Andrew was employed as the framer,” Smith recalled.

An artist and teacher for over 30 years, Smith established The Place for Art in 2001 as an art education center offering afterschool, evening and weekend art lessons for young people and adults. It was originally located off East Bay Street in the Island Traders Building. All the while, Ash framed Smith’s works, even after Balmain closed. It was then, in 2007, that Smith pitched the idea of opening a framing business together, but it wasn’t until a few years later, with little push from Pam Burnside, owner of Doongalik Studios, that plans began coming together. “In 2012 Pam Burnside offered one of her vacant buildings on the property to Andrew and me to create the framing business. We decided to incorporate the art classes with the picture framing and relocate to the Village Road location,” explained Smith. “It took a few years to get organized and to get the funding we needed to open, but in January of 2015, we became Nassau’s newest custom picture framing boutique,” he added.

The Place for Art Smith’s art lessons haven’t slowed as The Place for Art has expanded its services to included specializing in “archival framing”. “This means that all of our materials are of archival quality, giving art and photos, or other treasured documents the best protection from damaging ultraviolet rays and chemical deterioration,” explained Smith. Framing is a personal experience. Ash offers guidance on framing styles to help each client determine a design that works best for her or him. He takes the artwork’s measurements before providing a quote. And though The Place for Art’s framing service has earned a reputation that keeps Ash busy, the company still manages to guarantee a three-day turnaround on all its framing jobs.

The Place for Art is located at Doongalik Studios on Village Road and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. To find out more about Smith’s art lessons and Ash’s framing work, call The Place for Art at 393-8834.