It is always a special honor to be asked to design and build a piece for a public or semi-public space. In this case, I was asked to design and build a frame, which would house a very special photograph, taken in the Swedish archipelago from the shore of Jussi Björling's summer cottage. The photograph (taken by Anders Björling, Jussi's son) now hangs in the entryway to the President's House on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. Gustavus was founded by Swedish Lutheran immigrants in 1862 - a four-year liberal arts college known for broad academic excellence, including an outstanding Department of Music. Jussi Björling was clearly one of the finest operatic tenors to have ever lived; Gustavus uses his name (by permission from the family) for several music-related associations: Jussi Björling Recital Hall, The Björling Music Festival, and the Jussi Björling Music Scholarship.
The photo shows the beauty of the Swedish archipelago in summer's full bloom - birch trees, water, shoreline, boats, and homes painted in Swedish red are prominent. My assignment was to create a frame, which would compliment "all things Swedish."
Anders Björling, President Rebecca Bergman, and I, worked closely together on this piece over a period of months. I made two video presentations, offering a number of options in design and color for the frame, as well as a number of frame samples, showing size, profile, and color.
After a number of meetings and subsequent design adjustments, we decided upon the following concept: The frame would be built of birch - the most prominent tree in the foreground of the photograph. The main part of the frame would be ebonized (dyed black) to compliment the black color on the birch bark, while the accent profile lumber would be dyed red, to compliment the building color. The black and red combination is broadly known in the visual arts as the "colors of drama," a point, which offers dual meaning in this case.
After applying the dye to the lumber, I glued the red accent pieces to the main frame, and applied three coats of satin urethane, sanding lightly between each coat. The final finish was burnished with #0000 steel wool, and polished with a soft cloth. The frame measures 29" x 67".