ST. ALBANS CITY – After roughly 25 years of working in framing shops, Dan Pattullo, the owner of the St. Albans-based Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery, says he can probably frame anything.
And he probably has framed just about everything.
There are the more common commissions – paintings, posters, game-winning jerseys and shadowboxes adorned with wartime medals.
But there’s also the diaper framed for a family whose child was born prematurely, the old boot that survived a crash, the photo of a burned out house framed with accompanying scorch marks and red matting.
“We get asked quite a bit ‘Can you frame this? Can you frame that?’” Pattullo said. “We can probably frame pretty much everything.”
Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery sits on the corner of Main Street and King Street, its display windows always flush with a combination of the gallery’s showcased art and the framing services Pattullo provides.
Pattullo has worked out of that same spot for several years now, taking that space over after initially starting the Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery a block or so north from its current Main Street home, in the space now occupied by Moonshadows Gifts for the Spirit.
According to Pattullo, he “sort of fell into framing” around the time he finished high school, when repeat visits to an area frame shop eventually led to a job offer for a graduate who, Pattullo admitted, didn’t have any firm post-graduation plans.
Almost 25 years and a handful of other frame shops later, Pattullo now employees two part-timers in his own “shoppe” and gallery.
Surrounding the storefront are works from artists known around Vermont, like Fred Swan and Eric Tobin, as well as a handful of Franklin County names like Jon Young and Paule Gingras.
There are snowy landscapes with idyllic New England churches, snapshots of forests with sap buckets hanging from their trunks, photographs of cows and oil paintings of covered bridges set against the Green Mountains.
There’s even a few by Pattullo himself, a watercolorist and painter with a penchant for landscapes and painting en plein air – the technical term for painting the outside world in real time.
He pointed to one of his watercolors, a scene from Cambridge that, according to Pattullo, is a favorite in Vermont’s art community. (Across the gallery was an oil painting of that same scene, capturing the same farm at the center of Pattullo’s painting.)
An oil painting sits near the counter, displaying a portrait of a potter at work. That’s another original by Pattullo.
Pattullo makes about 40 percent from commission on works sold in the gallery, a fraction that can translate to a lot with some of the original paintings that hang inside Pattullo’s gallery.
He recalled one piece, a Fred Swan original painting listed for $24,000, that caught a customer’s eye one day.
Pattullo said he talked with the customer briefly before she left. That customer returned a week later and, after some negotiation with Pattullo and the collector who owned the Fred Swan original in question, cut a check for $21,000.
Most of the art sold out of the gallery, however, are the ceramics and pottery Pattullo stocks near the front of the gallery.
While the gallery is maybe the most plainly seen side to the Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery, the frames and shadowboxes provide the shop with its economic engine.
According to Pattullo, the Village Frame Shoppe can provide as many as 1,000 different framing options for the average customer, as well as photo restorations, photo printings, and other services allowing artists to reproduce their work when needed.
Usually, a customer will come to the shop with something like a poster or a painting they’d like framed. They typically have something in mind – like a color scheme or a price range – before Pattullo would chime in and brainstorm some kind of framing package with the customer. “We’ll guide them a little and they’ll try to guide us a little,” he said.
The end result will usually take somewhere between two and three weeks, depending on what Pattullo has on hand and what might need to be ordered from a warehouse in Boston.
Other projects might be a little more unique, however.
Pattullo recalled one, where a family asked that a jacket worn by a late relative be shadowboxed with its contents creeping out of its pockets.
He recalled another that mixed more typical combat medals and photos with barbwire and dirt pulled from a battlefield, and a third that paired a landscape marked by a burned-down home and the faux-scorching of an accompanying frame.
“Every piece that somebody brings, or just about every piece, has a story behind it,” Pattullo said.
That’s the underlying theme behind the Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery’s current “Share Your Story” campaign, which looks to coax a few of those stories from its customers online.
Sometimes the stories behind the fames could be strangely historical, Pattullo said, thinking back to one job where he framed a letter signed by U.S. President and Fairfield native Chester A. Arthur for someone in Paris.
The letter was framed alongside a recreation of its reverse side, allowing its owner a chance to continue reading that letter in full without having to remove the letter from its frame.
Sometimes, according to Pattullo, the people themselves could be the story.
“Sometimes people come in just to talk,” Pattullo said. “You don’t know what kind of connection you make day-to-day… Sometimes you almost get to know them on a friend-to-friend basis.”
There were also stories that were maybe more reverential, like the Purple Hearts Reunited shadowboxing he provides. He has a special arrangement for providing Purple Hearts Reunited, an organization that returns lost combat medals to their respective owners, with shadowboxes for their returned awards.
Pattullo referenced his pride for his work with Purple Hearts Reunited more than once when speaking with the Messenger.
Framing also serves a purpose beyond preparing a piece to be hung on the wall, according to Pattullo.
“A lot of people probably don’t realize that it’s not about putting a frame on your photo to hang it on the wall,” Pattullo said. “It’s about preserving your work.”
The Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery sits on the corner of King Street and Main Street, just across the street from Taylor Park. Its doors are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.