Tim Benians, owner of Uckfield Framing Company, talks about how the business has grown and the history of the Uckfield Art Trail.
What is your background Tim?
My background is art and interior design. Following a period of secondary school teaching I worked for 30 years as a furniture and interior design consultant, to major multinational companies such as McDonalds, Applebees and KFC.
I set up Tim Benians Associates in 1997 as I always enjoyed design and being creative. During the course of my UK work a colleague referred me to Applebees International, who were looking for a trainee overseas decor installer at the time, which I did and led to being their approved international Consultant. I worked on theming restaurants, which took me to the Middle East and Europe. When arranging the transport of the pictures I also managed the whole operation through to putting the work in place in various restaurants – the Arab States in particular loved the western themed styled restaurants.
What inspired you to start Uckfield Framing Company?
Originally, like so many start ups, my business operated from home. I outsourced all the picture framing in those days as I didn’t have my own workshop or storage facilities.
I did lots of networking and started to build up my name from word of mouth. I started to deal with larger artefacts, which meant that I needed more room, so it then came to the point where I had to expand and look for larger premises. After seeing several business units locally this Bellbrook building became available and it particularly appealed because it was well above the level of the flood water.
So in 2004 I expanded Uckfield Framing Company into the current premises: a 2000 sq ft modern industrial unit, which is equipped with specialist framing equipment, and has a separate wood and metal workshop downstairs. We have a small gallery at the front where we greet our visitors, sell cards, prints and framed work by local photographers and artists.
What products/services do you offer?
Custom picture framing and cabinets for special objects in solid wood, with most of our clients preferring oak to pine. Modern and traditional is the most popular with wood in its raw state without staining, although we do get a few requests for this.
Our specialist equipment allows us to create frames from standard mouldings, or make something bespoke, utilising hand finishing techniques to produce unique effects.
Over the years we have earned an enviable reputation for innovative solutions, quality and presentation and we strive to create elegant yet practical solutions.
We try to source locally where we can, particularly as clients like to know where their wood has come from. We also like to source sustainably and have some supplies from throughout Europe, particularly Italy which is a big source of picture frame mouldings.
Who are your clients and where do they come from?
Clients come from all over the south east, particularly because we offer bespoke framing. We are on the first page of Google so we stand out well on the internet.
Have you any famous clients?
Recently we had an urgent call on behalf of Peter Andre, who wanted a picture frame for a 60 minute makeover programme that he was involved with, which we did in time and I was able to meet him. We have also done some work for a local official Royal photographer, who required some specialist materials.
What About the Art Trail?
The Art Trail started in 2006 in collaboration with the Uckfield Festival committee. At first it was hosted by local artists spread all over Uckfield and surrounding villages. We used to run a taxi service to ‘ferry’ those around who wanted to visit the venues, however this didn’t really work. So we moved the Wealden Skills Centre, however it was a very hot building, quite cramped and out of town. We approached the Civic Centre and decided to host it there in 2011 and then moved into the Weald Hall for the first time in 2014. This year, 2015, following feedback from our 50 artists, we have added another room to make a little more space.
What technology or apps are most useful to your business?
Our website attracts new clients and we constantly update it, ensuring it has the right feel. Kind customers have added lots of great feedback reviews. We are also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We blog weekly, and send out a quarterly newsletter to about 1200 contacts, with an extra one going out in July with an Art Trail invitation.
What are your long-term plans?
We plan to expand slightly to cope with increasing turnover. This may entail taking on an apprentice, but finding the right person isn’t easy. We continue to do local shows such as the Christmas Indulgence, the town’s Late Night Shopping, and we regularly attend the Uckfield Chamber of Commerce meetings to keep in touch with local businesses.
My thanks to Tim Benians, Natalie Banton and his team.
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