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Framing that is Picture Perfect [Loudoun magazine]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Loudoun magazine
November 2003, page 15

When Bill Waller started his framing career in Leesburg in the late 1960s, he had no idea that someday he’d be framing artwork for Loudoun County’s most notable residents.

No, the owner of Waller Picture Framing in downtown Middleburg won’t name names, but hints that most of his clients—or at least their companies—are household names.

“They trust and confide in me,” says the 56-year-old Bethesda, MD native, who was a painting major at American University in the late 1960s. “It’s as if I’m their psychologist or hair-dresser. I’d never do anything to jeopardize that relationship.”

What Waller will divulge are details about the interesting and unusual picture frames that fill his showroom. From ceiling to floor, he has hundreds-if not thousands-of wooden and metal frames hanging from the ceiling, lying on the floor, leaning against the walls, and lining the narrow aisle that runs the length of his shop.

It is a sight to see-and even more impressive on closer inspection, since each frame in the collection is unique. Whether gilded or burnished to a fine shine, all are handmade by artisans from London and Lima to Los Angeles.

Such expertise doesn’t come cheap. While it’s possible to mat and frame a diploma for a relatively inexpensive fee, many of his frames run $200 or more per foot. The largest, most meticulously-crafted frames cost upward of $8,000.

The hefty price tag doesn’t seem to deter Waller’s loyal following. During the course of a week, he says he’ll typically frame two-dozen works of art. His success, Waller says, is born not onlv from working in the business for 30 years, but also from studying the masters.

“My goal is always to enhance the art—not upstage it,” says Waller, who works from large workshop behind his nearby home in Hume, VA. “My customers seem to realize I can help them make the beautiful art they’ve purchased look even more spectacular.”

That’s what Walta Warren said when she phoned last summer. The assistant director and curator of the National Sporting Library in Middleburg wanted Waller to frame a 30×39-inch portrait of George L. Ohrstrom Jr., the son of the library’s founder.

“We hoped to hang the portrait in the lobby of the library near the one of his father,” she says. “We needed to find just the right frame so this piece would look nice in the room and with the other portrait.”

After spending several hours standing in the lobby considering the space and the artwork ‘ Waller came up with the perfect solution-a four-inch gilded frame with flecks of dark wood that bring out the depth of the portrait.

For this painting major turned businessman, selecting the perfect frame has become his personal form of art.


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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.