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What Sentimental Items Would You Frame?

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framed cat card

framed cat card

When I was growing up in Manhattan, a pair of ceramic Staffordshire cats perched regally on our living room mantle. Years later, living on my own, I came across a hand-painted card that looked exactly like them. It was uncanny how perfectly they matched. A funny little pair.

“Some of us are born a little mournful, and we spend our lives discovering new traditions for housing those ghosts we’ve long considered companions,” wrote Durga Chew-Bose in the New York Times. “Framing, I’d venture, is central to this urge. It gives memories a physique.” While I love a framed photograph or painting, I’m even more struck by a strange or sentimental item put up on the wall.

happy menocal

In her home, designer Happy Menocal framed an outfit her kids wore when they were babies. “To be honest, my kids mostly wore spit-up-covered Carter’s onesies,” she told us, “but this outfit felt more frameable.”

On her dresser, my mom keeps a framed telegram sent to her from grandparents in Texas. It reads:
MIMI AND GRUMPY BOUGHT A SEVEN WEEK OLD CHAMPION SILVER POODLE PUPPY WHEN HE IS OLD ENOUGH TO TRAVEL WILL BRING HIM TO YOU NOW DANA HAS A REAL LIVE DOGGIE
LOVE YOU
MIMI AND GRUMPY

That gift helped kick off my mom’s lifelong love of animals.

seed packet framed

Speaking of grandparents, ten years ago, I set an eBay alert for a seed company started by my great grandfather in the 1920s. Over the years, many pieces of ephemera from that company have popped up, including old metal signs, a light-up clock, and, once, a couple seed packets, which I quickly bid on and then popped into frames. I gave flower seeds to my cousin when she moved into her first apartment and kept this packet of beets for myself.

When I see the framed seeds, I now picture a grandfather I’d never met standing in my apartment, leaning in to take a peek, then stepping away a little proud. I’m sure it would delight him to know that two of his granddaughters have them up in their apartments on opposite sides of the country, though I wonder if he’d prefer to pop open the back of the frame, cut a slit in the packet, and see if anything would grow this many decades later.

Hannah La Follette Ryan apartment

My friend Hannah La Follette Ryan, of @subwayhands, has framed a loose MTA tile, a no-parking notice for Law and Order SVU filming, and the cover of a New Yorker issue her photography appeared in. “You could call it an indulgent form of scrapbooking, but as an artist I see framing as a craft,” she told me. “Artists and framers are historic collaborators.”

Like all framing fanatics, Hannah has a favorite: Jaman at Allerton Custom Framing. “Sometimes, when I bring something in, he’ll give me this pitying look and say, ‘Hannah, this isn’t art,’” she told me, laughing. “I listen to him about frames, but not about what to put in them.”

framed maine map

You could also frame a map, like this vintage Maine one in photographer Sean Litchfield’s apartment.

Liz Libré home

And our friend Liz Libré skips the frames and just tapes up her kids’ artwork.

What do you think? What would (or have) you framed?

P.S. How to hang family photos and kids’ artwork.

(Photo of Happy Menocal’s home and Liz Libré’s home by Alpha Smoot; photo of Hannah La Follette Ryan’s apartment by Hannah La Follette Ryan; photo of the Maine map by Sean Litchfield’s.)





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