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25 Oct Meet the People behind our Framing & Restoration : Mark Gucciardi, John Slaney, Elise Jokell & Jack Whitaker

Coffey & Thompson Art Gallery, Frame & Design is a hallmark of Charlotte’s Art History since 1946. Located in Historic South End, we provide custom framing services and frame restoration, art restoration, consulting services and a gallery space to meet all our customer’s most valued needs. Meet the artists behind the scenes who repair and restore art for our customers and make each piece shine anew with vibrant life and luster.

  • What is your background in framing and restoration?


  • Jack Whitaker: I started in New York, a little frame shop in Rochester. After several years of learning the business, I decided to open my own gallery and frame shop in downtown Rochester on Park Avenue.




    John Slaney: I started my framing career working for Koenig’s Art Emporium in Southbury, CT. It was there that I was first introduced to the custom framing trade. The craft interested me almost immediately and soon I applied for a transfer to the company’s central framing shop in Newtown, CT, called Koenig Frameworks, where I was made mat cutter. There I met Sean Murphy, the manager and head framer, who became my first trade mentor.
    After a couple years I was again promoted and transferred within the company to Hull’s University Art Supply and Framing in New Haven, Ct; which notably catered to the Yale architectural school staff and student body. I had a lot of good technical experiences at Hull’s and found no shortage of unique and challenging custom framing opportunities.
    Eventually, I settled at a custom frame shop and art gallery in Danbury, CT (closer to where my wife and I lived). I worked there for six years and during that time I learned about repair and restoration from a brilliant artist and master craftsman named Jim Jeffrey. Jim and I became good friends over time and to this day, I consider him the foremost influence on the finer points of my professional skill-set.




    Mark Gucciardi: I’ve had 29 years of framing and restoration between the United States and Italy. I began my career at Coffey & Thompson after I quit my job working at a restaurant and hotel supply company. I walked in and they gave me a job having no experience. I’ve always like to make and fix everything and anything.




    Elise Jokell: I found myself first working at a custom frame shop in 1992. I’ve always had an interest in repairing old, broken, dirty and otherwise-headed-for-the-trashcan items. My dad did quite a bit of furniture and clock restoration so I guess it was in my blood, so to speak. Over the years I picked up my “tricks of the trade” through personal research and paying close attention to those who knew more than I.



  • Who was your mentor and what kinds of things did they teach you?


  • Jack Whitaker: John Halonan, Micheal LeTragna, George Bailey, among others. I was selling at the old Rochester art club and they taught me a lot about painting. I studied at Rochester Institue of Technology and the Rochester sculpture school. It was an education in itself; I had opportunities up there that opened new doors for me.




    John Slaney: Sean Murphy first taught me the fundamentals of custom framing, what I hadn’t already picked up from doing basic fitting at the Southbury location. Sean was a seamless technician, especially when it came to large-scale corporate contracts. His work in that realm was measured and careful and steady, and I consider them invaluable when approaching production-level framing orders. Sean also taught me how to cut double-thick/8-ply mat boards with perfect 90-degree corners, no hooks and no over-cuts. He also taught me how to cut snug and cleanly joined fillets. Sean had finesse, and he was funny—a good teacher. Jim Jeffrey brought a fine artist’s touch to the trade in addition to being a consummate perfectionist. He was also a fine woodworker and taught me the ins and outs of fabrication from raw materials. Jim showed me that custom framing can be elevated to an art form, and in fact should be given the proper circumstances. I learned there too about high-end mat designs like fabric-wrapped reliefs and stacked fillets. It was with Jim during my time at Artworks Inc. that I grew to appreciate custom framing and restoration work as an admirable and rewarding career choice.




    Mark Gucciardi: Brian and Paul Thompson, father, and son: they showed me how to do basic frame and painting restoration. Then, I spent 15 years in Italy hanging around painters, restorers, and sculptors. I always kept my eyes and ears open and always was inquisitive.




    Elise Jokell: Of all the people in my life who taught me the various things that I know, no one has had more of an influence than a Mr Hugh Weiss, of the now (retired) Studio Shop. At the time I was hired, I was knowledgeable in the areas of paper, photograph, fabric and frame repair, but nothing compared to Hugh. His expertise and finesse impressed me immediately, and I knew it was important to shut up and listen whenever that expertise was communicated.



  • What is your specialty in restoration?


  • Jack Whitaker: I learned a lot from Mark Gucciardi and Mr. Thompson. I am primarily a builder, but I like to work with my hands painting as well. The scope of what I can do has yet to be untapped!




    John Slaney: Primarily, frame repair and refinishing. But at Coffey & Thompson, that’s Mark’s territory, with Elise handling paper restoration. Both are superb technicians! I also spend a fair amount of time doing digital design and illustration, thus I have become adept at repair and restoration within software platforms like Photoshop and GIMP.




    Mark Gucciardi: My specialty is to be a painter first. Restoration is simply one of my many passions!




    Elise Jokell: My specialties are paper repair and cleaning, photograph restoration both by hand and digitally, and fabric cleaning and repair.



  • What special skills do you bring from your own art career to framing and restoration?


  • Jack Whitaker: Achieving Perfection.



    John Slaney: I have been an artist all my life and my aspirations are almost universally creative. I’m always thinking and pondering—fleshing out new ideas for paintings, drawings, sculptures, and stories. But probably the most significant contribution my creative life brings to my professional one is a consistent to desire to see new work completed and polished to the best of my ability. I’ve always been skilled with my hands and manually dexterous, in addition to having a wide array of creative interests. I’m equally at home in front of a computer as I am behind a drum kit or painter’s easel. I also have a firm grasp of color and tonality; and a passion for graphic design and the general realm of aesthetics. And I’ve always just loved looking at pictures!



    Mark Gucciardi: Everything. I don’t see the purpose in doing anything unless I can do it to the best of my abilities!



    Elise Jokell: I have a background first in drawing and sculpture, second as a photographer. The delicate paper and fabric repair seem to be a meld of the first two, the photographic work that of the latter. All of the restoration jobs we receive demand a sharp eye to detail and a steady hand, and this plays to my personal strengths. I also have an intense curiosity that drives me to research the best solution to any problem. I get quite a bit of joy when I can make a customer happy when a precious memory has been preserved for them.

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