Shop Talk | Casco Bay Frames & Gallery
This 35-year-old store is one part gallery, one part frame shop. While it’s chock-full of more than 400 different types of frames, including wood, metal, and more, don’t be surprised if you walk out with a painting or vintage poster, too. (The selection includes art in many mediums.) Here you’ll find custom services, great art—and a great place to curate your own collection.
Casco Bay Frames and Gallery has been a mainstay in Portland for more than three decades. The understated storefront offers exactly what its name promises: a lovely, professional
frame shop where customers can choose from a wide assortment of materials and browse a gallery space where the staff shows their own artwork.
Owner Tony Cox was working at L.L.Bean and renovating old houses when his wife’s parents decided to sell their shop, Casco Bay Frames. As a longtime amateur photographer who loved working with his hands, Tony found the process of framing appealing. “Figuring things out technically—how to hang them, how to build them—is something that seemed like the perfect fit,” he says.
Tony and his wife, Heather, pride themselves on maintaining the close, family-business vibe and personal customer relationships introduced by her parents and for which the store has become known.
Visitors will find custom picture framing services for all mediums, from fine museum art to children’s finger paintings, photographs, sports jerseys, needlepoint, diplomas—you name it. “We even framed a snake skin once,” says Tony. “Whatever objects or images are important to our customers, we preserve and present them in a custom frame or shadow box. It’s exciting to watch a client’s reaction when they see the finished piece for the first time.”
Customers can choose from archival materials, such as acid-free mats and UV-protective glass, along with hundreds of frame samples from around the corner (made in Maine) or around the world. Assembling the frames is all done on-site. It’s nice to know that in this age, when much of what we buy is mass produced, Casco Bay frames are still handmade, tailored for each individual.
Watching the experts at Casco Bay Frames and Gallery, it’s easy to see the work they do is equal parts art and craft. The team uses loads of specialized skills, such as cutting multiple types of material on several different pieces of equipment, and has a thorough understanding of finishes. But they are all artists as well, who understand every step of the design process and have the ability to visualize how to improve the aesthetic quality of a piece of art by choosing the correct frame.
“What’s amazing to me,” says Tony, “is you can choose the wrong frame and ruin a beautiful work of art, just as you can choose the right frame and improve a not-so-beautiful piece.”
In addition to custom framing, Tony and his team partner with local photographers, architects, and interior designers on a variety of projects. They often source art and frame and install it for hotels, law firms, restaurants, and assisted-living facilities.
“Installation is a strong and growing segment of our business,” says Tony. “Typically, we install art that Casco Bay Frames has framed, but we also work with personal collections for homes and businesses, or when a client is hanging a piece that requires special care or equipment.”
In addition to the frames, the gallery is a great place to shop— whether you are in the market to add to your collection or buy a gift. The shop features the diverse art of the talented staff framers. You’ll find an array of paintings, photography, even mobiles and soap products. We also loved the vintage ski prints and selection of ceramic art.
A LITTLE MORE SHOP TALK…
WHAT ARE KEY CONSIDERATIONS WHEN FRAMING?
“As mentioned, preservation is key. Inferior methods and materials will degrade the art over time. Archival framing is crucial when framing a masterpiece, and it is equally important when framing a special family photo. Style is also a key consideration, both the customer’s style and the aesthetic qualities of the individual piece. Usually the frame is chosen to complement the art independent of the room in which it will hang, but sometimes the overall look of the room is a factor.”
ANY SPECIAL TRENDS IN FRAMING?
“White frames are making a comeback. Many specialty frames, such as stainless steel, are also popular, along with silk and suede mats.”
“I have seen Portland develop a strong arts scene, and
we are proud to be a part of it. Our gallery features the diverse artwork of all the framers. As president of Portland Buy Local I understand the importance of a strong local art and independent business community. I think Portland and Maine are full of many great creative people who really care about creating a sustainable future.”