Wednesday, February 9, 2011

About Our Framing and Conservation Advisor. . .

I never met Ross Merrill. Ours was a phone relationship. He was the teacher. I was the student.

Alan and I founded Gallery One in 1974. We had a significant background in retailing...and a love for the art of the day. We knew nothing about framing...and, in fact, thought we could run a proper art gallery while "farming out" framing projects to other custom framers in the area.

One such framer - one of northeastern Ohio's most renowned - framed an expensive item for our personal collection...and, by accident, I discovered that they had greatly devalued it with improper framing much so that they reimbursed us for the item and the framing. A bit shell-shocked, we realized that we needed to set up a custom framing department at Gallery One so that we could provide quality framing to our growing list of art (and framing) clients.

We bought the best equipment of the day, did what we could to train ourselves, handled every work with care, and became framers...doing the best we could. We were able to frame routine items...but if you are a custom framer, unusual projects become the norm. Having had the bad experience with the framing of our own item, I knew better than to rely on assistance from my peers in the industry. So I called the Cleveland Museum of Art and asked if anyone in their organization could advise an area framer. They put me through to Ross Merrill. (I just discovered that he had earned his master's degree in fine-art conservation from Ohio's Oberlin College in Ohio in 1974...the year we founded Gallery One...and was obviously new at the CMA. He later led their conservation department before going on to an even more prestigious career.)

Thus Ross and I began our phone relationship. I'm sure it was not a big deal to Ross. I called weekly or more with one question after another. And he always had time to advise me without making me feel incompetent. And I always followed his recommendations, thanking him for his kindness and picturing him as a much older person - mainly because of his knowledge.

Around that time, a gentleman drove from Cleveland with an armload of expensive art to be framed. It may have been the biggest framing sale we had ever had. I asked what brought him to Gallery One, and he said that he had contacted Ross Merrill at the CMA and that Ross recommended that he take his framing to us. I called Ross later that day to thank him for the substantial order. I asked what made him recommend us. After all, he had never visited Gallery One and we had never met. His response has stayed with me to this day: "Mrs. Brown, no one else cares as much as you do." I realize now that that became my charge. I still care as much as I did back then...the difference is that today I have staff that also cares as much.

I wonder if Ross ever realized what an impact his assistance made on a newbie framer/gallery owner...and just how much I appreciated his kindness in instructing me. And by the way, I was shocked to find that I was older than he. He was just so much wiser!

Please take a moment to look at the links. Ross died in December 2010. I have thought of him often, knowing that he went on to a distinguished career at Washington DC's National Gallery of Art where he built their conservation department into one of the most respected organizations of its kind in the world.

Ross Merrill's life
Ross Merrill's video interview
Ross Merrill's paintings

That's all for now!
Norah Lynne and Alan

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