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memories it evokes every time we look at it.
Unfortunately, the humidity of our tropical climate can affect the contents of the frame, often making its presence known through little brown specks which eventually ruin the entire picture.
“If it is not properly framed using the correct materials and technique, it will deteriorate,” said Khoo Eng Theng.
And he should know, as he is the only Guild Commended Framer in Malaysia, an internationally-recognised qualification from the Fine Art Trade Guild in Britain.
This means Khoo possesses a thorough knowledge of the latest framing techniques, after passing some very stringent tests, including a practical.
Khoo, 38, who is from Kulim, Kedah, graduated from Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1995 after which he worked in the construction industry, specialising in the renovation of old houses.
“Clients decorating their houses kept asking me to recommend a good framer,” he explained, “and that piqued my interest. If there was such a demand out there, why not do it myself?”
With the building industry slowing down post-1997, Khoo decided to take a leap, and learnt basic framing skills from a friend. He started a small workshop in Sungei Nibong, where he was able to service friends, relatives and contractors.
However, he quickly came to the conclusion that although local craftsmen are competent enough, the techniques used were not exactly scientific. In other words, if it looked good enough, it would do. “I wanted to provide better service than that,” Khoo continued.
That’s when he decided to look further into the craft. “I realised that there was enormous potential in the business.”
As the economy grew, Malaysians were becoming increasingly serious art collectors, and artists needed fine framing to display their work to best advantage.”
Trawling the Net, he found the FATG in South West London, enrolled and started learning. However, it wasn’t easy for the Chinese-educated man. “It was a real challenge,” he grimaced. “All the books I had to read up on were in English.”
It didn’t come cheap either: the final test had to be done in Britain, so he travelled there with his artist wife, Ching Ching, who was very supportive of him.
The finals consisted of two nerve-wrecking tests: a 1½ hour paper in which he had to answer questions like, “You are given a piece of old porcelain. Explain the method that you would use to frame it, the material used, and why you chose to do it that way.”
The second was a practical where he had to frame a painting using a prescribed method, and he was marked on his knowledge, technique and workmanship.
“As it had to be done using a machine I had never seen before, they were very good about it and gave me extra time.”
The first Asian to sit for the qualification, he has done Malaysia proud.
“They were apparently very impressed with my work,” he said, grinning bashfully. Considering the handicaps he had to work with: language, unfamiliar tools and environment, and presumably jet-lag to boot, the string of resounding As and a smattering of Bs he managed was an achievement indeed.
The qualification entitles him to proudly use the words “Master Frame Maker and Designer” after his name.
However, apart from a mouthful of words for a title, what else has it given him? “I have learnt a lot from it,” he claimed.
“It’s shown me the right and wrong ways to frame, and given me the confidence to tackle more unusual projects.”
Other than old documents and photographs, fabrics, even forks and spoons, unusual treasured items that he has been asked to frame are two pairs of shoes, worn by a father and son, and a genuine Liverpool jersey that was brought in by a football fan.
Not content with one qualification, Khoo is now planning to obtain a scholarship from the US-based Professional Picture Framers’ Association in Portland, Oregon.
“Ultimately, my aim is to become a Preservation Framer, using materials like UV-filtered glass and acid-free paper which will protect against the effects of pollutants.
“This is museum-quality framing, meant to last for many generations to come,” he added.
Unfortunately, much of the material required also happens to be imported, so it can be quite expensive.
“Good local wood is also hard to come by, as they are more profitable if exported,” he lamented. He uses different woods like ramui, jelutong and even durian from Pahang, Selangor and Perak.
Not everyone will have access to Khoo’s expertise, so what should you look for when entrusting a framer with your precious mementos?
“His workshop should be clean and tidy, without food, dust or cigarette smoke lingering about the place,” he said. “View the samples on display so you have a good idea of his workmanship.”
Khoo’s studio Artbug in Nagore Road is a good example: it is neat and trendy, beautifully-crafted frames of different sizes and unique designs, some complete with cute little wooden doors, fill it wall-to-wall.
“Ask for their opinion about what you wish to frame. A good framer must also be prepared to give advice,” he added.
Khoo, now a master craftsman, felt that the consumer had the right to ask for preservation of their treasured belongings, and a frame maker’s responsibility was not just to beautify but also to protect them.
Khoo is located at Artbug at 26, Nagore Road, Penang. Tel: 04-2280 504 / 012-4706 554.
by HELEN ONG
Wednesday, October 1
Had been away to Pulau Duyong, Kuala Terengganu for the installation of the framed songket in Heritage Bay Resort. (Kelab Teluk Warisan) ..
here are some snapshot of the interior, the designer haven't fully complete with the setup of furniture. but here you go.. some nice picture of our framing work.
after a hard day work.. here we are sitting by the stair case in front of the bungalow ... relaxing.. with soothing breeze ... phewww...