by Jeremy Jones
My visit to Maureen Pitcher’s Avenue Art & Framing shop in Mt. Airy delivered an on-the-scene exchange that was a gift from the Shop-Local story gods.
An artist from Connecticut came in to have one of her most popular prints framed because she heard Pitcher had “an impeccable eye.” She was in a bit of a state as she needed the work done within two days, ready to present as a gift to a major donor at a fund-raising gala in Center City.
Being that the print was in its second edition and had seen many lives in many different frames, the artist, who has asked not to be identified, knew exactly the look she was going for and didn’t give Pitcher much of a chance to make suggestions. But when Pitcher found the opportunity, magic happened.
As the master framer coupled a matte and striated silver molding and placed it on the border of the print, the artist looked at her artwork as though for the first time. She couldn’t believe Pitcher had given voice to the piece no other framer, not even the artist herself, had ever produced.
“No one ever went in this direction before,” she said. “Fabulous!”
An artist herself, Pitcher’s creative eye and attuned talent for framing artwork and memorabilia are born from passion for what she does – years of training and a rich inheritance. Her mother was an artist and her great grandfather was one of the original sculptors who designed and mounted the architectural trim around the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Pitcher was raised in Chestnut Hill and attended Our Mother of Consolation School and Cardinal Dougherty High School before going on to study at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
In 1992, Pitcher answered an ad in the Local for a framing assistant/sales associate position at the Framing Barn, which at the time was located in Germantown and had been in business for more than 25 years.
“I wanted to learn how to frame my paintings,” Pitcher said.
She got the job and continued to paint while learning the art form and mechanics of framing.
In 2002, the Framing Barn moved to 6837 Germantown Ave. Two years later, Pitcher became manager and, two years after that, she purchased the business, renamed it and re-designed the space into a framer’s dream studio. Since then, Avenue Art & Framing has established a thriving business and loyal following that would make her mom and great grandfather very proud.
“Working with Maureen is the best chance of art meeting craft,” said Ruth, a longtime Avenue Art & Framing customer from Chestnut Hill. “Because she is an artist, she brings all that sensitivity to the work. She knows how to have the frame complement the work and yet not rival it or contradict it.
“And she won’t impose her ideas, but if you turn her loose, you will not be sorry. She treats each piece as if it is as dear and important to her as it is to you. If she makes a suggestion, take it!”
“Sometimes if we don’t hit on it right away, I tell people to leave the piece with me until I come up with a stellar design and then I’ll send them a photo,” Pitcher said.
When she speaks of design, Pitcher isn’t referring to the framing process alone. Many custom-design orders require a complex and painstakingly intricate layout in order to manifest that “stellar” design.
Recently, Pitcher created what is surely to become an heirloom piece for a family who wanted to honor their mother by making a collage consisting of a sampling of doilies she crocheted, accompanied by a copy of her obituary. Pitcher has done similar customized pieces with puppets, baby blankets and even a baby’s pacifier.
“Sometimes it’s challenging to come up with a design,” Pitcher said. “But it’s an honor to have my customers trust me with such meaningful decisions.”
Pitcher particularly enjoys engaging in the decision-making and creative processes involved with in-home and office site visits. She is slowly building a clientèle with whom she collaborates on aspects of interior design and assistance with placement of hangings, groupings and collectibles.
She will also personally deliver finished pieces to customers who may not have access to convenient transportation.
In addition to providing framing services, Avenue Art & Framing carries a charming and eclectic selection of jewelry, greeting cards and artwork created by local artists, including Leslie Haas and Manette Rudel. And a handsome assortment of EB Lewis Giclées is available, priced at $85-$350.
My Pick: “Sibling Rivalry.” This framed Giclée of an oil pastel by Maureen Pitcher presents five colorful lipsticks representing Pitcher and her four sisters. Strong, bold and fun! – 24×30 inches, $475.
G.K. Chesterton reminds us that “Art consists of limitations. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”
Maureen Pitcher is an art whisperer.