More often than not, customers misinterpret Ms Sally Quek’s occupation or underestimate her role.

But over time, the 30-year-old picture framing consultant of Merlin Frame Maker and Art Gallery has become immune to the misconceptions.

“Picture framing consultants do not do the actual framing of the artworks, although we do have to possess knowledge of the process,” she explained.

“We have a team of experienced craftsmen that does the actual work of chopping the frame mouldings, cutting of glass and the like.”

Ms Quek’s responsibilities lean more towards business development and customer service. The gallery’s clientele includes government bodies, museums, galleries, artists, interior designers and private art collectors.

She also attends to walk-in customers, helping them to select appropriate frames and noting detailed instructions and measurements.

Seeing the big picture

“Many people tend to think, ‘How difficult can it be to put a frame together when all that is involved are just four strips of wood, a piece of glass, some cardboard and a wire?’” says Ms Quek.

“This is the sort of response I get whenever friends ask me what I do,” she adds.

But she begs to differ.

“The frame alone is made up of several elements, such as colour, shape, design, size and even weight. There is a lot to consider in selecting a frame for a piece of art,” she explains.

Her assessment is taken a step further when she visits customers’ homes on request.

She says: “Being in a customer’s home and noting its interior gives me a feel of the person’s tastes. This insight proves invaluable when I work closely with interior designers to ensure that the overall look of the completed picture frames matches the home.”

Ms Quek joined Merlin Frame Maker and Art Gallery, which is owned by her father, in 2004.

Trained in multimedia design, the art lover says she “stumbled upon her current career path”.

She only started working part-time at the gallery when she was contemplating a break from her previous job as a graphic designer.

“I am passionate about this job, and I am not saying this because of my dad. The job is flexible and interesting.

“In fact, it is more stressful because my father owns the gallery.

“Even if he does not, I would still give it 100 per cent,” she says, adding that her design background boosts her consulting work.

Handle with care

What she had to learn to deal with at the outset were difficult customers and the enormous responsibility of safeguarding customers’ treasured mementos.

She has come across old photos of late great-grandparents, old military medals and even a remnant of a tree log, which was a favourite object of the customer’s late pet dog.

“The most stressful situation happens when a brittle or fragile artwork or artefact is placed in my hands,” she says.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that the item to be framed is transported to the workshop safely for framing. We have to be extra careful when packing the item to ensure that it is cushioned and protected.”

She also encounters peculiar works, like an artwork that was painted with cow dung and emitted an offending smell which lingered in the shop for days.

 “The stories behind these old memorabilia let us get to know the customer’s family a little better each time.

“It feels good to know that after working for a number of years in this trade, I now have a group of regular customers who come to me for framing advice,” says Ms Quek, whose grateful customers have given her, among others, a home-baked cake.

“I enjoy what I do, dividing my time between attending to customers and business development. I also get to see a variety of interesting artworks.

“Artists are creating new types of artwork by combining mediums with materials we never thought of. I feel that I never stop learning in this job, as something new comes through the door for framing every day.”

She adds: “I had always wanted to do something art-related, but I just did not expect to find my passion in the picture framing business.”