Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 23
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

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N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

ARTISTIC ENDEAVOR: "I believe you must give back to the community. Every time, I do an art show, we give a donation to HomeFront. Last year, we sold 17 paintings and raised $1000 for HomeFront." Marc Udell, owner of Queenstown Gallery in Pennington, stands near a sampling of framing moldings and art work in his gallery."

Queenstown Gallery in Pennington Offers Custom Framing and Artwork

High quality custom framing and a selection of paintings by area artists is available at Queenstown Gallery in Pennington. Housed in the Isaac Hart House (1798), the gallery (which derives its name from the original designation of Pennington) is located at 43 South Main Street. It is now owned by Marc Udell, custom framer and professional photographer.

"I wanted to open a frame shop for years," says Mr. Udell, who has a degree in commercial photography, and was trained in custom framing by Larson Juhl, the leading manufacturer and distributor of custom picture framing moldings.

When previous owner Jack Koeppel decided to sell the gallery, Mr. Udell did not hesitate, and purchased it in October 2005. Since then, he has renovated the space, creating a handsome and comfortable setting in which to discuss and demonstrate framing options with customers and also to display artwork.

"I've changed the lighting and the flooring, moved stations around for easier public access, and added new equipment and technology," says Mr. Udell. "All the space is to be used as a means to generate income. This is important."

Visual Person

Moving from the world of photography to picture framing was an interesting segue for a visually-oriented person, such as Mr. Udell. And in fact, he continues to pursue photography when time permits, focusing on commercial work, such as annual reports, executive portraits, architectural and interior shots, and conferences and trade shows.

"Being a visual person, I can tell what mats and what frames go with what," he points out. "It's true that until you start putting mats over frames, you can't be completely sure how it will be. However, I can usually tell pretty quickly how it will look.

"I like to use color, texture, and be bold," he adds. "I want to create framing that is unique. I enjoy the creativity. The more ornate something is, the more challenging and interesting it is.

"I also frame to the art," he continues, "and reversibility is the standard by which we do our work, which means that anything we do today can be undone and/or redone in the future."

Sometimes, customers have ideas about framing, hoping to match their decor, he notes. "Then I'll ask them: 'Are you trying to frame a room?' It's much better to frame to the art."

Mr. Udell spends a lot of time with customers, offering them options for framing their piece — whether it's a valuable oil painting, children's artwork, an antique lace fan, a diploma, Olympic medal, or a baseball. He has framed an intriguing variety of items, including a $25,000 painting, a hand-done Peruvian throw, and an African tribal beaded necklace.

Push Pins

Maps are popular, he reports, noting, "I framed a National Geographic map of the world, 53 inches by 35 inches, and the customer wanted to put push pins on it indicating where she had traveled.

"Another customer brought in a map on a cork board, and it had push pins on it too. It was very old, and I had to mend it before it could be framed."

If a piece needs substantial restoration, he says he will recommend that the owner take it to a conservator.

Queenstown Gallery offers an extensive and varied selection of molding styles, mat colors and textures, and all work is done on the premises, with 100 percent acid-free materials and using conservation and preservation practices.

"The only way to preserve something totally is to keep it in a dark, temperature-controlled environment," explains Mr. Udell. "No one lives like that. So, in order to enjoy art, you use treatments and materials that will preserve it. For example, the glass today can block up to 98 percent of UV rays. There is regular glass, which blocks some UV; conservation glass which blocks 90 percent; and museum glass which blocks even more. Nearly every piece here is framed with conservation glass."

Hundreds of wood frames (many from Italy), from less expensive standards to real gold leaf, from American primitives to modern contemporary, and from thin hardwood box frames to 4-inch wide ornate gold, are available, as well as a complete line of Nielsen metal frames.

Dramatic Changes

More than 100 colors, textures, and fabrics are offered for matting, and the possibilities are nearly unlimited. Suede, linen, silk, and acid-free mats are all popular.

The technology of framing has undergone dramatic changes, and Mr. Udell has updated much of the equipment, employing the use of computers both to input orders as well as utilizing a computerized mat cutter that will cut a perfect opening in the mats for framing. There are also pneumatic tools, such as a pneumatic miter saw and a joiner (V-nailer) to drive nails into the back of frames.

These are time-saving devices, which enable the framer to spend more of his effort in the creative aspects of the project. Mr. Udell has also tried to speed framing turnaround. As he says, "In the past, it could take a while. Now, it is typically a week or even less."

Queenstown Gallery's clients come from all over the Princeton area, and have included historical sites, such as the Old Barracks Museum and the New Jersey State Museum, also Princeton University, Rutgers University, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Bristol Myers-Squibb, art collectors and dealers, and the general public.

Mr. Udell is encouraged about his new venture. "It's most rewarding that in this job I can do anything — from the design and the framing to the bookkeeping!"

He also looks forward to holding more art shows, including the second annual Trifecta of Art — Win, Place, and Show, featuring three area artists: Nathan DeStefano (oils on canvas), Susan Winter (pastels on paper and oils on masonite), and Kevin James (photography).

The show is open to the public on Saturday, June 2, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, June 3, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will benefit HomeFront.

The gallery is open Monday through Friday 9:30 to 5:30, Saturday 10 to 4 (until 2 in the summer). (609) 737-1876. Web:

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