by Jeremy Jones
Facts: He’s a local boy; grew up in Chestnut Hill and nearby neighborhoods. When he was 14 years old, his mother thought he would be interested in picture framing, so she took him to a do-it-yourself frame shop to learn how. He earned a master’s degree in historic preservation and a JD in historic preservation law. He is an authority on architectural and landscape conservation, as well as historic interiors. Ultimately, his passion could not be stilled. He is a picture framer.
Observations: His shop, Palladio Custom Framing & Art Production, has thrived at 8623 Germantown Ave. for six years, as it did in Ambler for eight years prior. He is a Renaissance man. His enthusiasm for his work is charismatic. He is creative, confident, charming, principled and disarmingly humble. And he, Jay Davidson Susanin, can’t find it in his ethos to produce a piece of work or a design plan that doesn’t represent more than what it is; it has to tell a story. He creates shadow boxes that infuse a pulse into objects and memorabilia, mirroring the reflection of a life lived or sacrificed: the blushed organza christening gown; the bold, noble ribbons of a hero. “Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art,” said Leonardo Da Vinci. It is for this reason the likes of Susanin’s work cannot be found elsewhere.
Prediction: Palladio’s newest creation, “Bank & Surf,” a line of custom-designed maps, will catapult Susanin and his team to the big leagues. Already a success in producing unique custom framing, home accessories, photo restoration and interior design, Palladio, with these maps, will “own it” in the world of home and corporate interior design because Susanin was born to tell a story – and everyone has one.
In 2012, Susanin created a simple interior design art plan for friends who own a home in Naples, Fla.
“One thing that I decided fit in the house and with the personality of the owners, was a map of Old Naples,” said Susanin. “After looking for and not finding a map in Naples over the course of 10 days, I drew one.”
He took his base sketch, photographed it, digitally converted it into a blueprint, added a decorative crest and compass rose, did a little digital magic and produced and framed a large turquoise map.
“As I finished the piece,” Susanin said, “it sat in my store with the other work that was transported to Florida the following season.” A customer saw it and asked Susanin to create a pair similar, depicting her home coasts in Naples and Avalon. He already had an old map of Avalon upon which to build the base for a customized, personalized map.
Susanin has collected hundreds of maps and will transform the terra incognita of lines and symbols into the longitude and latitude of life. For many of us, the beach, the banks and the surf are not only where home resides, they are where the heart and soul reside.
In tandem with the ocean’s waves, Susanin has just launched his city series of maps: Rome, London, Paris, Philadelphia, Manhattan, San Francisco and Chicago, as well as a yacht club and summer camp series.
With the wickedly precise accuracy of the blueprint, the white-framed maps come in two sizes (18 x 24 and 26 x 32). Customers select their town, map size and color and, if they like, can personalize the map – adding a street address (which is placed over the exact location), a private club, a marina, a favorite restaurant or anything in town that is important. Susanin can also add a monogram in the center of the compass rose, a house date in Roman numerals under the crest, and even substitute the decorative crest with a wedding monogram and date for a wedding map.
Before adding any personalization, the maps retail for $325 and $500. For a limited time, a sampling of maps can be seen in storefront windows on the Avenue, next to Starbucks and George T. Hobe Fine Art and Antiques.
“Everyone has a story to tell – who they are, where life has taken them, with whom they have made memories, what feats have been accomplished and which personal treasures are priceless,” Susanin said. “These are the things that breathe meaning into our lives, these are the things that tug at our emotions and these are the things that should inspire or become art.”