Custom Framing Entrepreneur on Preserving Art and Memories Beautifully

Posted on November 22, 2021
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Tammy Iosbaker is the found of The Frame Maker, a custom framing business in Benton, Arkansas that helps customers create beautiful and long lasting art, memories, and family heirlooms by using quality conservation materials. She is part of The Venture Center’s Spark! 2021 cohort!

Spark! is a small business accelerator in Arkansas that aims to jumpstart small businesses and entrepreneurs across the state with access to free, quality resources, training and mentorship.

On this deep dive with Tammy Iosbaker, she spoke to us about entrepreneurship in Arkansas, the art of preserving and displaying art, and the importance of reframing memories as beautiful mementos.

Read below for a shortened transcription of our conversation, and watch or listen to the video above to hear the whole thing!

On the origin of her custom framing business

I actually started in the framing industry a little over 31 years ago. I went to work for a lady in Little Rock who had a framing business and managed her store for her for almost a year. And then I had an opportunity to purchase the business from her. That’s how I got started. My background is just a love of art from my junior high, high school years, and hanging out in the art department. Art has always been something I’ve loved and wanted to be a part of, and I love working with my hands. So that’s where I got my start.

On storytelling through framing

I have framed all kinds of stuff. I’ve framed lots of rock and roll memorabilia, like broken symbols from a drummer along with band photos, things like that. Last year at Christmas, I did this beautiful shadow box of a young girl’s ballet slippers from her first Nutcracker performance with the Arkansas Ballet. We included the program so that it was moveable. You could see that it was the program inside and photos of her in her mouse costume. I love doing stuff like that.

One of the really cool items I got to do was this beautiful piece of silk plaid fabric. It was a long ribbon about four inches wide. The lady who brought it to me was in her eighties, and it had been on her dress that her mother had handmade for her cotillion when she turned 16. It was in absolute pristine condition. The colors had not faded or anything, just beautiful vivid colors of silk. I tied it into this big bow, like it would have been on her back. We shadow boxed that, and she was so thrilled when she came to get it. She’d had it tucked in the drawer for all these years, and then her kids would now have the picture of her in the dress and the bow to go with it.

So, I’m a storyteller. I get to tell these incredible stories in people’s lives. I frame all kinds of art and everything, but shadow box stuff – that really gets me all excited because I love being able to share a story for years down the road.

On the importance of quality framing

It’s important to work with a framer who uses the right materials. Because whether you’re trying to do it yourself, or whether you’re just going into any frame shop, you want to make sure that they’re using the right materials. If not, you’re doing more harm than good to the items, whether that’s artwork on paper or canvas, a very old document, old family photos, or memorabilia items. I’ll see a lot of stuff, unfortunately, that people want me to try to help them fix that hasn’t been done right. Sometimes I can make it better. And sometimes the damage is irreversible.

On current challenges

The logistics of getting samples and materials. Our industry, like everyone else, has been hit really hard with COVID, especially right now with the backup and the shipping and everything like that. So you have to get creative. I’ve had to do a lot of thinking outside the box. Because I’ve been in the industry long enough I’ve been able to connect with other framers and people in the industry so we can help each other out. And no matter what my goal is to get whatever my customer wants, find those materials for them and make it happen.

On the Spark! program

I’ve already just really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from some of the other entrepreneurs and business owners. Just their methods of how they’re approaching things, especially how they’re strategizing, marketing and advertising, gaining customers and clients, as well as the different people that have been brought in from various industries.

The wealth of information that I’ve already learned and the challenges for each of us – like creating the elevator elevator pitch. I need that, because I tend to be old-school, so getting help with the marketing and advertising and just more of that thinking outside the box for us as new businesses. I think it’s a great program and wish I’d have had it 20 or 30 years ago.

Huge thanks to Tammy Iosbaker for sitting down for an in-depth conversation with us and being part of Spark! If you’re interested in more about Spark! Or The Venture Center’s other programs, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop!