Sgraffito: In the picture

It's not everyone who can say they've been within sneezing distance of Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon.  But Stu Robb of Sgraffito Picture Framers has probably been closer to more famous people than any of us can imagine.

Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon?  Tell us more!
We frame so many weird and wonderful things.  A collector had us frame a lock of Jimi Hendrix's hair, we've framed napkins of poetry by John Lennon, one of Sir Edmund Hillary's pick-axes.  You name it we've probably framed it!

And the name of your shop, Sgraffito.  What does it mean?
Sgraffito is an art technique.  You put down a base colour, add something else like gold leaf on top and then scratch it back so the base shows through.

Sgraffito sign

How long have you worked here?
A long time!  I've been here at Sgraffito for around 20 years, and bought the business seven years ago.

So you've always worked in the framing industry?
I've always been involved in artistic endeavours in some shape or form.  I was a carpet designer, I've been an artist... and I was working in an art gallery when the framer just up and left one day - he went to LA and never returned - so I decided that after watching him work, I could do that too!  And 25-odd years later I'm still doing it.

Sgraffito hands on print

Have you noticed the style of framing changing over the years?
There are definitely trends that come and go.  Right now it's white on white, which may seem boring, but it looks great in modern houses.  But of course there are always things that stay true and classical.

And what about the types of things people frame?
There are a lot less prints being framed these days, now it's more originals and limited editions.  But there'll always be the standard items - certificates, diplomas etc.

Do you have a lot of framed pictures or memorabilia in your own home?
Yes! I have a bit of art, although I'm not a huge collector.  Actually there's probably a lot of stuff my wife would like framed, but I haven't gotten around to it.  I have framed my daughter Lily's baby dress and shoes though.

Sgraffito frames on wall

Is Lily old enough to help out in the shop?
She's nine.  She'll come in and put hooks in bags, but for most part the shop is like a huge adventure playground for her, she just comes in to paint and draw!

Do you live locally?
We live in St Johns, but we do have some history here in Remuera.  My wife Nicky's parents had a grocery and hardware store back in the 70s (where Westpac is now) and her dad belonged to Remuera Rotary Club and helped build the Clonbern Road carpark.  So it feels like full circle for her, coming back here with our business.

Who else works here?
Sam started framing here 15 years ago, left for a stint, now he's been back three years.

Two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I'm a mainlander!  Christchurch born and bred.  I'm also a huge music fan, but people might know that already if they've been into the shop - I've usually got something on.

What are three things everyone should frame and hang in their home?
I'd say artwork, memorabilia (think dad's medals, kids' special occasion clothing, rugby jerseys) and mirrors.  We do a lot of designer and custom mirrors.

Sgraffito framed dress

Do you get a lot of repeat business?
Well we've been around a long time.  Our clients are very loyal and everyone knows us.  There's a lot of choice out there, but they come here.

Finally, what else do you do here?
We do canvas stretching, conservation, restoration, calligraphy, shadow boxes... and of course we can frame absolutely anything!  In a nutshell, we are your one-stop shop for artwork care.


Sgraffito Picture Framers
1 Garden Road
Ph: 09 520 5090  www.sgraffito.co.nz 

Photos by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson

Sgraffito framed outside