Hafa Adai Exchange, Tamuning
By Steven Graff
When SGO Designer Glass shut its doors in 2002, custom frame designer Zamie Zamora decided to take his craft home.
He worked out of his house for about six months, but then Typhoon Pongsona hit and damaged some of his property, pushing him to find a proper space to continue on. “When the gallery closed, people kept calling me to frame, so I started my own,” says Zamora, an artist who studied the fine arts in Manila, Philippines. A year after Pongsona, he opened up Framemaster, a custom framing shop in the Hafa Adai Exchange in Tamuning.
He has been a custom framer for nearly 28 years, and for the last 16, served as the owner of the business. His paintings — a mix of realism, post-modern and abstract pieces — and other work, like a framed sports jersey and diplomas, line the wall of the small shop, which serves as both a showroom and his work space. A power saw, framing materials and samples, a work table and his tools can be seen around the room. The store’s sign — “custom framing with a touch of art” — hangs outside above the door.
Custom is the key word. Purchasing a store-bought frame is fairly easy and inexpensive, while a custom job will run a customer more money because of the higher-quality of work, Zamora says, and the materials and time to do the job right.
What do you mostly frame and who is your customer base?
Diplomas, art, photos, tassels.
I have my regulars — some senators, professionals, doctors for their diplomas and artists for their art. Some are military, because some of them like to frame sports jerseys.
How many do you frame a week?
Last week, I framed five pieces. Some are big, though. To do a bigger frame takes about three to four days. You have to cut, and then drying time takes overnight.
How many people work for Framemaster?
It’s always just been me. I used to have people who want to learn come here for a week to learn the basics; some are students.
How has the business changed over the years?
I used to have two spaces, [one] just next door. But then after that, 10 years ago, I moved to this space … to save costs.
What are some of the challenges of being in the framing business?
Some customers say it’s pricey. Sometimes, they just [want] to get ready-made [frames]. I tell them it’s up to them, but there are limitations with ready-made, like the size. The big difference is that when you buy them in the store, some are imitation wood. It looks like wood, but it’s not wood. It’s plastic. And then, of course, cheaper. We use [real materials] and it lasts.
What is the best part about the job?
I always come in to do the work because it is fun. And I get to look at other people’s art.
Where do you buy your framing materials?
Mostly in the states. Because of the shipping costs, it’s getting higher [to bring them over]. They don’t have [the materials I need] on Guam.
I order the glass over in the states too. And I buy in bulk. The only thing is the shipping, which is expensive.
Your art hangs across the walls in the shop. Can customers buy them?
Some are for sale, some are just for display as samples for customers.
Do you still paint?
Yes, I’m [part of] a group called Guam Filipino Artists. Every month we meet, and every June on Philippine Independence Day, we do an exhibit.
What are some useful tips when it comes to framing?
I don’t put glass on canvas, unless customers insist, because the painting cannot breathe. For family pictures, I also recommend putting a border or matte to separate the glass and the picture so it won’t get stuck later on. In a long time, sometimes with the humidity, the glass gets stuck to the picture, and if the glass broke, then you cannot take the photo out.
It also depends on what room it’s in. With [air conditioning], it’s okay. In the hotels, sometimes a room, if they don’t have tourists, they turn off the [air conditioning]. Those hotel rooms have two to three paintings with glass, and sometimes, and with the humidity it starts to get wet and becomes moldy.
Any advice for people looking to get into the framing business?
They need be hands on in their business. And they need to be focused on what they are doing, instead of hiring and then just leaving.