Filling frames
Art framing business fills market niche in Iqaluit

Kerry McCluskey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit ( May 15/00) - When Debbie Purchase made the decision to start up another business in Iqaluit, she helped fill a hole in the art market.

Already running the successful hair salon Haircuts, Purchase made the move last July to buy an art framing business from a resident who was moving south.

Ten months later, the full-time hairdresser turned picture framer is certain -- judging by the amount of art for sale in Iqaluit -- she moved in the right direction.

"It was a needed venture," said Purchase, who, other than dabbling in framing years ago, went into the new business green.

"There are prints being sold left, right and centre. There are so many prints in this town and I know that I bought a couple of nice prints and it was hard to get them framed," said Purchase.

While raising the money to get the business running with colleague Ray Lovel, Purchase said she found it hectic keeping up with both hairdressing and framing, but the success of Tundra Graphix made the pace worthwhile.

"It's time consuming. It's art. We're trying to enhance that print. We thought it would be a good venture and it has been a very busy year," she said.

The pair work about 40 hours a week all told, and frame between five to 10 prints a week. It takes about a month on average for customers to hold the finished product in their hands -- a delay Purchase said results from her dependency on southern suppliers.

Due to a lack of space and the proper equipment, she could measure the prints herself, but has to send south for the wooden and metal frames. Her supplier in the south then sends the mouldings back to Nunavut where Purchase and Lovel fit the print and the mat into the frame, she said.

While her costs are higher than she likes because of the shipping, Purchase said her prices -- $120 for smaller works of art to $400 for big prints -- were kept reasonable by running the business out of her current shop.

But that means close quarters and her other dreams for the business being put on hold.

"I would love to have some kind of retail outlet for local artists, some kind of gallery," said Purchase.

"I'd love to see all the work done here, but it's expensive here, very expensive. It wouldn't pay for itself and prices would be so much higher," said Purchase, referring to Iqaluit's prohibitive commercial rents.

But, almost one year after she opened, Purchase said the business is taking a big step forward. As soon as the sealift arrives, the pair will begin to cut their own glass for the frames.

"Right now, our glass is purchased locally, but we've made arrangements to begin cutting it on our own," she said.