Ron Phelps – Denver Art Project interview

Denver Art Project:  DAM will make a point, starting in January 2013, of posting regular interviews with prominent art people about town. The first interview, October, 2012, was with artist Jerry De La Cruz, a seasoned professional who had much to say about art and artists, the Denver art scene-then & now, famous artists and art trends. DAP will seek people known as art professionals. These are people working and making a living in the arts who have varied ‘in the trenches’ experiences we deem valuable which could make a difference in your art life. 


Ron is RedShiftFraming on Broadway

Instead of dreaming about ice cream flavors or custom beers, this guy dreams about frames. Yep.

Ron Phelps of RedShift Framing admits he eats, drinks and dreams frames. After 30 years creating and packaging art, Phelps is the go-to guy who makes professional recommendations to artists and art clients. The needy come to him seeking advice on how to preserve, ship, display, or hang a work of art. For an artist, it’s Phelps’s peerless generosity they seek and his expert advice on how to maximize materials on a finished product heading to a show or sale. For the art lover, Phelps knows almost all the tricks of the trade that will enhance a work of art for a lifetime of beauty. He simply can’t help himself. Frames are a 24-7 priority in his psyche. If you’re in a pinch artists, collectors or memorabilia freaks, Ron Phelps has the experience and skill to structure a work of art for a long life, in an unrivaled economic fashion.

DAP:  You’ve been around the Denver art scene for a long time. How long is that exactly? And what has kept you in a business that runs hot and cold with no warning?

RON:   I’ve been framing for 30 years. I started working at the Frame It Yourself shop 24 years ago. Then I went into business for myself in 1989. What I liked about framing from the start was the immediate gratification of a finished piece. Since then I’ve framed just about everything you can think of from watches to jerseys. The memorabilia is one of my favorite challenges. It’s fun to take a 3-dimensional item, build a shadow box, and put framing or packaging around it.

DAP:  Like you are creating a work of art?

RON:   I guess you could say that.

DAP:  How has the framing industry changed in 30 years?

RON:  For one thing, there is more digital output and, sadly, it has affected the independent framer negatively. However, the computer has been a big help with tracking. There are new visual techniques and apps to apply, plus there are computerized mat cutters in use. We still hand cut our mats. Let’s face it, you can control quality by hand and it is always better with quality control.

DAP: What is the most important thing to remember as a framer?

RON: Attention to detail is the key. There are different treatments for different mediums. I make it my job to know what works best with what.

DAP:  Like knowing which glass works better for paper or acrylic works?

RON:  Yeah. A work of art on paper requires a mat and glass for protection. Oil on canvas does not. More people ask for museum glass today. It’s an amazing product that’s been optically treated and acid etched – and it has no glare at all.

DAP: What did you use before Museum Glass and is it expensive?

RON:  The museum glass is expensive and that’s why so many go with the Conservation Clear, which is the most traditional. It gives a fine clarity to glass.

DAP:  What do artists need most?

RON:  Advice on how to package a work of art for beauty, transportation, display and endurance. We stock a lot of molding, like basic black, white and natural but we carry over 20 different lines of frames (molding). My advice to artists is to stick to quality, economy and standardized sizes. For instance, stick to the 32” x 40” standard sheets of foamcore, glass and mats. Getting four 16 x 20’s, or sixteen 8 x 10’s out of a sheet with no waste. Knowing the proportions of standardized sheets allows the artist to maximize material and minimize waste. It takes only one time to experience loss and increased expenses for an artist to understand my advise which is to “maximize material and minimize waste.” 

DAP:  You’re always active at The Starz Film Festival. Did you frame for them again this year?

RON:  Yes, it was my seventh year for framing posters, and marquees. We spend a couple of months after the festival framing and shipping all over the world, to sponsors of the festival.

DAP:  Which festival stands out in your mind?

RON:  The 30th Anniversary. They had an art show in conjunction with the other festivities and Denver photographer Larry Lazlo showed 35 photos tied to the festivals. We did all the framing.

DAP:  You’ve worked with many artists in Denver. What is the best advice you would give them?

RON:  Be prolific. Don’t worry about a size or theme in your work.

DAP:  As a professional, what questions do artists ask you the most?

RON:  I am consulted a lot on packaging, transportation, ordering materials, and how to solve display issues. I search for the particulars such as where will the artist be displaying this art, at an outside or inside venue? I have to know what materials they are working with such as acrylics on canvas or oil on masonite and what are the conditions of the art show. Will the artist have works that need shrink wrap and again, is the artist using standard sizes for maximum material and minimum waste. That’s part of our job helping an artist make his work look its best and how to protect it for the journey. Along with packing and shipping, we also build crates to ensure safe transport of the art. We help the artist pack for a show, and we also do art installation and handling.

DAP:  You love to mess around with framing materials. What unusual materials have you used to build a frame in the last 30 years?


RON:  One of my strengths is thinking outside the box by incorporating non-traditional materials such as reclaimed wood, rope, skis and industrial hardware combined with plexiglass, western print and my latest – candy wrappers. After all these years and approximately 60,000 pieces later, I know what works and what doesn’t.


DAP: What are the trends in the framing industry today?

RON:  Designers have trends. Artists do not. With  framing, I advise keeping it simple. Black and natural molding are standard. White is popular. Metal is out.

Ron Phelps, RedShift Framing, 303-293-2991, 2266 Broadway, Denver, CO 80205

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