For Four Decades, Gail Fenner Has Applied Her Framing Talents to the Satisfaction of South Bay Art Lovers
It’s difficult to imagine a successful business that doesn’t have a dedicated website or social media presence. Yet Gail Fenner of Gail’s Frames & Gallery on Manhattan Beach Boulevard has operated digital-free for the past 40 years. Gail is not just a picture framer; she is also an artisan and brings a special flair to the work she produces.
An art major and graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Gail focused on painting early in her career. “Self-satisfaction is my goal with my art,” she says. “The visual is everything to me, and I don’t have to be worried whether someone else likes it or not.”
She shares that while at UC Berkeley, the art department frowned upon framing. “They considered it a commercial endeavor,” she explains.
After college, Gail married her sweetheart—a physicist—and they moved to the South Bay to start a family. When her three children were in high school, she got a part-time job at a frame shop, knowing nothing about the craft other than finding it “interesting.” When Gail started to show a knack for the work, her boss generously signed her up for framing classes. This education unlocked new creativity.
“I was fortunate because my main emphasis was that I could professionally be proud of each piece that left my shop.”
While Gail was working at the shop, a man came in with a charcoal etching on very fine paper. Gail spent a lot of time collaborating with him on how best to frame it. After he took the frame home, he was disappointed that the artwork was not flat under the frame. Gail explained that the key to custom framing is to avoid devaluing the art by gluing it to the backing.
In the end, her boss glued the artwork down for the customer. Gail instantly knew her future meant having her own shop where she could make sure art was framed for preservation. Not concerned with turning a profit from her shop, she maintains the type of integrity and workmanship she finds fulfilling. She has the liberty to go the extra mile for her customer and create something special.
“I was fortunate because my main emphasis was that I could professionally be proud of each piece that left my shop,” she says.
“Sometimes she would spend 10 hours meticulously making a frame perfect for her customer,” says friend and former coworker Janet Canavero. As a result, Gail built enduring relationships with her customers that led to a continuous stream of new clients just through word of mouth.
“It was fun to go to work,” adds Janet. “There wasn’t really a process; we would just start by trying to match mats to the art.”
Gail is known not just for her eye for design but for her attention to detail, ensuring that each framed piece complements and enhances the sentimental value of the memories or art being displayed. At 83, she has no signs of slowing down.
If she feels a customer would be better served having their framing done at a bigger shop, she will let them know. But if you’re lucky, your art will get the unmatched customer service and unique perspective offered by Gail.