HIGHLANDS CREATIVES // Black Parrot Art Room
When you find a framer who treats the art of framing as a work of art in itself, you know you’re going to get something special to hang on your wall. Anthony Springford of Black Parrot Art Room & Framing is an artist himself and has an amazing eye for detail.
We loved catching up with Anthony and hearing how his skills as an artist (he taught at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney and has a PhD in Art History!) have transferred into the world of framing.
How did you get involved in framing?
My background is in art. I’ve been an artist forever. I studied and then taught at the College of Fine Arts at UNSW. But as many artists know, it can be difficult to make a living out of painting, so when the opportunity came up to buy an art supply and framing business and move to the Highlands, I took it.
I have always framed my own work. I come from a family of woodworkers – my father, brother and grandfather have done a lot of wood working – so I already had a good foundation of skills working with wood. I also have a business qualification in project management, and experience working with museum collections, so my rather serpentine career has given me a lot of relevant skills.
When I bought the shop in 2015 I was lucky that Aaron was already part of the business. He has many years of experience framing, and for all his modesty, has a terrific skillset and a great eye for colour and quality. Having someone as capable and reliable as Aaron here everyday has made it possible to build a business with a reputation for quality, and because we have very different skills and backgrounds, we work very well as a team.
You see framing as an integral part of the artwork. Tell us more about that.
To frame an artwork, you need to have a good understanding of the purpose of the piece of art and how it relates to the viewer. The role of a frame is to negotiate the relationship between the fictional space of an artwork and the real world around it. The frame gives the art the space to breathe and come to life. The relationship between art and its context is an increasingly important concern in contemporary art, and framing is a big part of that.
I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing local artists who foreground framing as part of the artwork, in a theatrical way, rather than choosing conventional or neutral frames.
Ben Quilty has created some incredible sculptural frames, that are editioned artworks in themselves, and as important as the etchings inside them.
Danie Mellor is another internationally important artist we work with regularly who treats the frame and the presentation of his work as integral to the result. We built a huge glazed cabinet with mirrored sides for one of Danie's assemblages, so that it functioned like a diorama or a museum cabinet.
Danie gives us a huge amount of creative freedom, so for that type of job it is important to have an artist sensibility and an understanding of how artists think.
Tell us about some of your biggest influences in your creative life.
I have quite a few……I did my PhD on Chardin, a still life French painter from the 18th century and his work is always part of my thinking. My work always makes a lot of reference to art history, but contemporary art, and especially photographers, are as important to my work as any historical sources.
Jeff Wall is interesting to me. He's a photographer that produces large scale photographic images in a way that draws heavily on the traditions and methods of painting. He constructs the artwork digitally, out of many other photographs, to produce an image that is obviously artificial, grandiose and beautiful.
What challenges have you experienced in your career?
There’s such a range of skills required in the world of framing. Every job is different, and I am always developing new skills. We do a lot of repair work, cleaning up pieces or fixing up frames.
Plus, the more unconventional approach we have to framing means we have to constantly think of new ways to do things.
We build boxes, plinths, use a huge range of materials and are constantly challenging ourselves, so always upskilling and developing the skills I have has been a challenge.
And running a business, that’s for sure!
What’s a career highlight?
Definitely working with Danie Mellor has been the highlight for me in my framing career. Danie has been incredibly generous in how much faith he put in us, and in giving us a huge degree of creative freedom. It is wonderful to know our work is now part of some of the most important art collections in the country.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to move into your field?
The future of framing is in quality not in mass production. Focus on the design side of things and get to know your artists.
Find a way to work and collaborate with other local businesses. We get along well with all the other framing businesses in the region and Stu, who used to own Art Roomers (that’s who we bought the business from) is a great guy and he still comes in and helps us out.
What are your plans for the future?
We’re always trying to expand on what we can offer and I’m keen to increase the amount of more complex and interesting jobs we work on. I want to develop our mouldings and offer a higher level of customisation.
We’ll continue to work with the incredible artists and collectors in the Highlands. We frame for people who bring us some amazing and quite serious artworks!
We also sell art materials, so are keen to offer some more niche products and tools in that area. Things you don’t get anywhere else. We’re always going to be a little art shop, but with unusual and interesting stuff.
A lot of people don’t know that we sell artworks and a plan for the future is to expand the artworks we offer. We sell my art, and pieces by Max Linegar among others. We also sell prints and have antique style artworks for sale. Perhaps we’ll end up with a separate gallery in the future!
Why do you love being a creative in the Southern Highlands?
The quality of artists in the Highlands is really exciting. Artists we didn’t even know were here keep popping up, and we’re talking artists of real significance and quality. Artists like Zoe Young, James King and Nick Santoro (who is an old student of mine) and plenty more live here.
The art community in the Highlands is also very friendly and very accommodating. High quality artists and good people. It’s a great community to be a part of.
Black Parrot Art Room specialises in high quality, custom picture framing, and also stock a broad range of artist-quality art materials, including acrylic paints, watercolours, oils, printmaking supplies and paper. Black Parrot also displays a changing range of prints and original artworks which you can see online or in their Mittagong framing studio.
This blog features friends and advertisers of The Fold Southern Highlands and is fully endorsed by The Fold Southern Highlands. We strongly believe in the businesses and all the information we share with you on The Fold and we're excited to share the amazing stories and adventures of our local businesses. We want to say a BIG thank you to you for supporting our sponsors who help make The Fold possible.