Owner: Treasure Dragseth, Nine Mile Falls, WA
By Nicole Kidder-Perry, Reporter
Whether it’s an ancestral photograph, a handwritten letter, or a simple beach towel, Treasure Dragseth says if you cherish something, then you should frame it.
The Suncrest artist, who has been in the professional framing business since 1994, focuses on art preservation but believes that a person’s lifetime of memories and prized possessions should be protected too. In fact, it is so important that she created an entire business concept around it named Treasure It? Frame It!
Last winter during the pandemic, Dragseth launched her innovative idea to renovate an old school bus into a mobile design studio. Inspired by people like her parents who can’t get out in the pandemic to preserve their memories, she created an entire process that is zero contact.
The bluish-purple bus arrives at the client’s doorstep for the scheduled appointment and then opens its front door to a welcoming sterile viewing room. The sterile yet warm environment is separated by thick plexiglass from the driving deck and design areas. After the customer slides their artwork onto the design table and shares the piece’s story, Dragseth begins sifting through the on-board samples of colors and materials, working with the customer to select the perfect matting, framing, and glass.
The in-person process is critical, she says, because “it is very difficult to give true quotes over the phone due to the magnitude of samples to choose from.” Sometimes price point is more important, other times aesthetic or quality is the top priority.
“I do my best to give a low-cost estimate and explain how it can go up depending on the end selection. I once designed a triple-stacked gold-gilded frame with a specialty mat on a 4 by 6 inch postcard that came to $650. If I hadn’t shown the design, she never would have known the potential that piece had. Not everyone wants to spend that much, but if I assume any differently, I’m not doing the artwork or the client justice,” Dragseth explained.
After the consultation, the bus returns to its Suncrest neighborhood house, where Dragseth typically spends two weeks creating a custom piece inside her in-home studio overlooking Lake Spokane. “There is quite a lot of correspondence through this process, and I tend to consider my clients friends in no time. So, after the work is delivered, I not only miss the art itself but the people too.”
She uses only archival-quality materials that are acid-free to preserve prized documents, artwork, mementoes, and possessions. The museum glass and conservation acrylic, which she hand cuts, reduces glare and provides UV protection. All items are fully insured while on the bus or in the workshop, and insurance documentation can be provided upon request.
“I have realized it is a disrespect to the piece not to protect it,” Dragseth says. “Even overhead lighting causes colors to fade and paper to get brittle. Why invest in a frame if protecting your art isn’t a priority?”
Mobile Framing Studio Finds Warm Reception
While creating art has always been a part of her nature, Dragseth found her passion for framing in a family-owned Spokane shop off Pines in 1994. She describes Spokane as a “pit stop from Missoula to the Art Institute of Seattle,” but the city became home until she moved to Maui in 2001. There, she managed an art gallery and later owned a storefront shop called Treasure’s Elegant Art Frames.
A growing family and strong ties to the Northwest pulled Dragseth back home where she settled into working part-time for a couple of framing shops in Spokane and doing office management for a downtown restaurant. The pandemic sent her into lockdown, and she was soon joined by her husband, whose job in Arizona had also ended.
“Instead of sitting around collecting unemployment, we decided to try a new adventure!” said Dragseth as she recounted the 80 days of labor, working 10 hours a day, that was required to renovate the old Rathdrum, Idaho school bus. “Going mobile was not my first choice because it didn’t seem as professional, but it is gorgeous inside. Way more than I could have expected.”
The school bus turned art studio started rolling in early December 2020, welcoming its first customer five days later when Cami Flaget boarded with an original painting by local artist Diane Sherman. Despite a few obstacles, including a major bus breakdown, the business has seen a steady stream of people looking to reclaim sentimental posters, pay tribute to original art, and showcase hard-earned graduation diplomas.
The bus has started touring local festivals and markets to offer on-site services. Customers can bring their items from home or pop in to frame a piece they just purchased from a vendor artist. Dragseth says the ability to pick up and deliver oversized pieces is another unexpected perk of the school bus studio, noting that this convenience for her clients is not offered by any of the other amazing framing shops in the area.
While she specializes in shadow boxes because she “loves to be handed a pile of items to encase them in a story,” Dragseth says she is motivated by design challenges. During the past year, she has meticulously cleaned and reframed a Salvador Dali painting, and one client’s Native Hawaiian print is now bordered with a woven lauhala mat and Koa wood frame. Another customer’s six-foot beach towel, created by artist Kehinde Wiley, is now framed in ornate moulding with a matching copper fillet and topped with UV-protected plexiglass.
One of the most meaningful pieces of her career was created for a mom whose daughter passed away the day she wrote, “I Love Mom” in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. “I used a liner to keep the glass separated from the mirror so the writing wouldn’t smudge and a set of her bed sheets to cover the liner,” Dragseth reminisced. “I’ve never been so nervous about a project, but I felt as if Josie was standing there with me through the entire project.”
Dragseth says the mobile framing studio has become a huge blessing, allowing her to earn an income for her family, pursue her passion, and stay home with her 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son to work on school. She even kept one original seat, with specialty belts added, to drive the kids around when needed.
“Most of all, it makes me proud to surprise my clients at time of delivery,” she said. “These projects are personal. Oftentimes bringing tears as the client shares details. Those feelings of love and loss or pride and joy stay with me while I have the work on my table and long after I deliver the finished project.”