Frameworks Berlin

Frameworks: A Berlinese novel written in wooden frames

BRANDS & TRENDS – 2014 I met Claire d’Orsay for the first time at Stattbad Wedding. With a dimpling, freckled smile, solid handshake and in dungarees – in a studio filled with wood breathing history. Claire d’Orsay is the founder of Frameworks in Berlin – she crafts unique frames from upcycled wood and opened a store in the Reichenberger Strasse in Berlin. As colourful as the Reichenberger street is her assortment, each frame a singular piece and for each frame Claire has an amusing, little story about it’s origin.

Text und Fotos: Esther Suave
Claire d'Orsay
Claire d’Orsay in her studio: “I say yes to all possibilities to show off my frames.”                  Foto: Helena Blachier

Name: Claire d’Orsay
Age: 33 years
Center of Life: Berlin
Education: Master in Counselling Psychology
Passion: Meeting people and art

10 years ago she built her very first frame in a DIY Workshop across the street in Brooklyn and caught fire. Little did she know about all the woodwork that would frame her future. During the financial crisis in the US, with a MA in counseling psychology, she followed her love and moved to Berlin. Without much detour she started working in a High-End picture framing store and studied the traditional craftsmanship.

The modern, common picture frame is black or white, meek and modest. But Claire is fascinated by the historic frames with an own character, a piece of art in and of itself. Out of this fascination Frameworks was born – individually handcrafted frames with upcycled wood, a sustainable concept – and with patina, please.

Your first studio was at Stattbad Wedding and now you have your very own store AND a studio in Neukölln, how did it all start?
I started Frameworks within small markets. I was building frames in my basement then in my apartment, and with the help of friends I eventually found the studio in Stattbad Wedding. That was great. I said „yes!“ to any event, or any opportunity where I could show my products and meet new people. Anyway, long story short, a graphic designer bought a frame from me on a market, invited me to a small event of producers and that’s where I met the owner of the store front.

Frameworks Berlin

What do you think is special in Berlin, what do you like here?

I am from NYC, so people are always asking me why I would choose Berlin over NYC.  Neither city is better, but there are some fundamental differences that stand out to me.

In Berlin, you can actually be who you are without being judged. Literally, no one cares. That type of freedom, freedom from social norms, pressures and expectations is something I have only truly felt in Berlin.

When I got to Berlin I realised fairly quickly that there was a lot of room to start your own business. With little money, a lot of love, and a good idea, Berlin is still one of the major cities where one can make something hapen.

Where do you get the wood? How do you choose it?

We have three sources at this point: First, we drive around.

Literally, there are restoation works all over Berlin and beautiful things are simply “disposed of” on the street.

Secondly, over the years we have come to know wood collectors who find the wood for us. Thirdly, the Customers! They send us messages with tips on places that are full of wood. As long as it’s beautiful and has a nice patina on it, we take it.

What do you especially like in working with wood?
Wood is alive. It stores heat or cold, it can be stubborn or giving. I also like the fact that working with recycled wood is particularly demanding. Fresh wood is delivered, straight and ready to cut. For us, the process looks like this:

We go out on an adventure find ten pre-war doors and drag them all back to the studio. There, we seperate the wood, remove all the metal and nails out of the doors, cut it down into 3cm strips on the table saw and finally push it through the shaper. Now we are at the same point as if we had ordered the wood.

We can start building frames – from our handmade strips… I love it!

Who are your customers, what makes them?

Framework is definatly a niche. Our customers understand the concept of “up-cycling” and why it is more expensive.

Many people think “Oh, the material is for free. Cheap!” – but it’s not like that. This is already shown by the work mentioned above, which we invest to have the same source material as others after a three-minute telephone conversation!

Our clients are mesmerised by peculiarity, they are demanding. And the majority is female. I think one of the reasons for this is that many men are more concerned about status symbols that are socially proven (for example, a massive black frame). Women move more freely from these social status symbols and dedicate themselves more to design.

What can we do to create a better society?
Oh, wow … (laughs) I realized at frameworks, that no company can really be 100% sustainable. It is almost impossible – our concept of economics and our social structures were designed for a capitalist disposable model not a sustainable one.

Every business that acts MORE sustainable is a pioneer for the future, it generates consciousness, and that consciousness leads to change.

For me, “better society” in three words means sustainable, socially aware and fair-trade. Sustainable, for example, in regards to frameworks on waste reduction and environmental considerations. Socially aware about the photo art project Photocircle, which is committed to the common good, about donations to groups and projects. And, of course, the fair-trade pillar for fair pay, realised, e.g. at Kunst100 – real art works for every budget.

Thank you Claire, for the good talk and inspiration!

I always come back to the store in the Reichenberger and stroke my fingertips on the lovely crafted wood structures… and with each visit I fall in love with at least one of the frames. (“And not just touch, but buy as well, right?”)

Anyone who gets tingly fingers at the thought of self-milled Berlin strips and old patina has the opportunity to discover the craft of framing himself with Claire d’Orsay and Frameworks. Claire regularly offers DIY workshops. Technical prerequisite: The deep desire to build your own picture frame.

The special Berlin photo booth frame costs 25€ and you can get your own masterpiece already at 18€.

You would like to win a frame (see pics below)? Then please go ahead and leave a comment under our Giveaway Facebook post! Topic: “Next time I will take a picture with …!” Good luck!