With his background in photography and fine arts, Rob Watermeyer said he always wanted to own his own gallery offering framing and photographic printing.
So when FRAMEWORKS became available, “it was a natural fit for my skill set and interest,” he said.
Watermeyer bought the St. Helena business three years ago.
“I love talking to people, learning about them and helping them find a solution to their fine art needs,” he said.
1. What was your first job?
My first job was working at a very small art gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town.
At the time, it was fun place to work because they sold great photographic books and fun experimental cameras. The photographs weren’t great, but the general area was also the social place to be on Saturdays in summer so the people watching was fantastic.
2. What job would you like to try/not try?
Try: I would love to try being a game ranger.
Growing up in South Africa and spending so much of my childhood in places like the Kruger National Park, I have always thought it would be such a gift to be able to pass that excitement of seeing wild animals onto folks who are only able to visit for a week or two at a time.
Not try: Any type of accounting or finance work.
3. What’s a common comment you get about being a framer?
Most people just say, “Wow, you must be seeing some very interesting things.” Which I do. From children’s fingerprint paintings to letters from Richard Nixon (and) civil war medals (and) very, very old maps of Paris.
4. What’s the smallest and largest item you’ve framed?
Smallest: Probably that civil war medal.
Largest: I’ve framed very large mirrors for hotels — 9- by 10-foot mirrors. Mirrors are usually the biggest things I do.
5. What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
The number of truly “custom” framers across the U.S. is dropping steadily. Part of it is the availability of online framing services, with everything at the click of a mouse.
Many framing businesses are also finding it hard to find younger people who are interested in learning the art of custom framing, and interested in running and owning such a business, so I do think age can become a factor.
Fortunately for myself, having this type of business in a town like Saint Helena works because folks here still tend to have the budgets for handmade, custom designed frames and are looking for a more personalized experience.
6. If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Reducing the waste.
Custom framing comes with a lot of left-over materials such as moulding, glass, cardboard and plastic that usually ends up in the trash. It has been something I have thought about often and am working to change my own business practice to avoid that excess by reusing those materials for smaller frames or projects.
7. What’s on your to-do list?
I have always wanted to visit India. It fascinates me from a cultural point of view, and photographically it is a dream.
China has the same photographic draw, as does Patagonia. Travelling to any of those places with my wife Jordan, who herself is an exceptional photographer, would be a dream trip.
8. Who do you most admire in the business world?
I have always admired Bill Gates, simply because of his philanthropic work in Africa and how much positive change his work has made to vulnerable people in Third World countries.
9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I am deeply interested in politics.
I love learning and understanding political discourse, whether that is the current politics of the day, or historical politics and how that has influenced the world that we live in. I also am deeply fascinated by historical conflicts such as World War I and II and how that has shaped our world for the worse or better.
10. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
In the Kruger National Park (in northeastern South Africa) with my family, having sundowners and watching wildlife as dusk rolls in.