Donna’s Custom Framing

by Barney Quick
photo by Cindy Steele

When you bring a piece of art to Donna Proctor at Donna’s Custom Framing, it will be treated with a sense of craftsmanship and responsibility one tends to associate with professions in which serious matters are at stake. It will also be treated as a unique object, deserving of visual support for its essence. Proctor doesn’t see anything generic about a project that comes her way.

“When you tailor a frame to the colors of one particular room in a house, it’s not always what’s best for the painting,” she notes. Customers appreciate this art-centered approach, often inviting Proctor to come to their homes to see how the finished works look.

She brings to her work a blend of respect for the worth of a piece and the technical considerations of how to most effectively frame it. For instance, she has had the opportunity to frame some paintings by the original Brown County masters, and while it was “a thrill in the beginning,” she quickly became focused on the task of giving each one a proper setting.

It’s not just paintings that come to her, though. She has framed a collection of someone’s Grateful Dead concert tickets, a display of high school memorabilia such as a class picture, a school pennant, prom gloves, and a hair wreath and bobbins. Currently, she is framing a baby photo that is approximately a century old, as well as the actual gown worn by the baby.

“The first thing to do is make sure the gown doesn’t touch the glass,” she says. To that end, she cuts a spacer shallower than the depth of the frame, and accounts for the thickness of the mat. The means of fastening the gown to the mat factors into her calculations as well.

Like so many people who settle in Brown County, Proctor had visited many times during her years living in Lebanon, Indiana. Once here, the pace of life and the friendly people made a permanent resident of her.

She had done some sewing and quilting throughout her life, but had no interest in painting or drawing. A job offer from a friend—frame-shop owner Sue McAllister—led to a fourteen-year apprenticeship. Early on in that relationship, Proctor discovered that framing was a passion for her. When McAllister retired, Proctor opened her own business. She moved to her present location on Old State Road 46 in July 2007.

Several area painters display and sell their works at her shop. “I don’t really list myself as a gallery, but it’s kind of evolved into that,” she says.

Still, most of her customers are people who buy paintings and are not artists. Many are from the Brown County area, but some come from elsewhere. A couple that resides in Puerto Rico has had Proctor frame several pieces. Sometimes they are shipped back and forth, sometimes dropped off and picked up on trips to the United States.

Being the only frame-shop proprietor in the area keeps her busy. “I work by myself, mainly because I have no time to train anyone else,” she explains. “I’m here between 6 and 6:30 in the morning. It’s that time before I officially open, as well as time in the evening after I close, that is best for getting certain tasks requiring concentration done.” She notes that her Christmas tree wouldn’t have gotten decorated if her daughter hadn’t come to her house.

She doesn’t just leave her work at the shop when she heads home, however. “Sometimes at night I wake up with answers to questions, like how to attach something to a mat,” she notes. “Sometimes I wake up with more questions about my questions!”

She devotes such a degree of thought to her work because she sees the client relationship as being based on trust and responsibility. “They drop off work and say, ’Call me when it’s done,’” says Proctor. “That’s a lot of faith to have in me.”

She can be contacted at (812) 988-0775. Donna’s Custom Framing is located at 1156 Old State Road 46.