Seeing Carla Folks Lavimodiere nestled in her office at DRTC Framing, you can quickly see she’s in her element. Various pictures, artwork, moulding, mat boards and other hardware take up nearly every inch of the space that Folks Lavimodiere has transformed into one of the premiere framing shops in Oklahoma. She’s at home among the memories of others anxiously waiting to be transformed into masterpieces.
A friend introduced Folks Lavimodiere to the world of framing in Birmingham, Alabama. She contacted the owner of a local do-it-yourself frame shop and, after 6-months of persistence, was hired in 1983. “He told me that he had never had anybody bug him so much to get a job that he had to give me a job so I’d quit bugging him,” said Folks Lavimodiere.
In three years’ time, Folks Lavimodiere hit her stride.
The Certified Picture Framing (CPF) program began in 1986 and, at the encouragement of her employer, Folks Lavimodiere went to San Francisco to take the test. She passed it on her first try and was among the first 100 people in the nation to earn the prestigious honor. Today, only a handful of the 1,600 CPFs throughout the nation are in Oklahoma.
Early in her career, Folks Lavimodiere played the role of educator– teaching people how to make their own frames with a hammer and nails. She admits some of those do-it-yourself projects were rough to say the least.
Framing has taken Folks Lavimodiere through Alabama, California and Oklahoma, but she stayed active in the industry even when she worked other jobs. She completed framing projects for relatives and also went to trade shows to continue sharpening her skills.
Thirty-years after her first foray into framing, Folks Lavimodiere found herself again in the role of teacher– this time training people with disabilities the craft she has grown to love. Folks Lavimodiere isn’t just teaching. She’s also learning along the way. The mission of DRTC to provide training and job opportunities to people with disabilities brings new purpose to Folks Lavimodiere’s career in framing.
“They’ve really made me think. You know I’ve done it for so long and don’t think about why I do certain things and so sometimes they’ll say, ‘Well why do you have to do it that way?’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know because I’ve done it that way forever.’”
Working side-by-side with DRTC’s clients has altered the way Folks Lavimodiere approaches framing. For instance, one individual was having difficulty completing the task and asked to do it another way. Turns out, Folks Lavimodiere realized, that way was much easier.
“There’s always a way for someone who may have difficulty holding something (a certain) way. There are other tools. There are other ways,” said Folks Lavimodiere.
In her initial two-and-a-half years at DRTC Framing, Folks Lavimodiere says she has learned to think of other methods to adapt to the abilities of others in order to complete projects.
“A lot of framing is very teachable,” said Folks Lavimodiere. “It’s a matter of finding what works for each person, because we’re all so unique and learn differently.”
Individuals perform a variety of tasks for DRTC Framing– from cutting moulding, to installing hardware, to wrapping frames for shipping and beyond. It’s the joy of the DRTC Framing workers making something tangible that holds special meaning.
“They like seeing the stacks of things being done. They get to tell their friends, ‘I get to work on this. This is cool.’”
Folks Lavimodiere has several memorable framing experiences, from her personal favorite of framing a wedding dress, to actual items from the Titanic, to jerseys of famous athletes, to 50 family pictures on a 40″ X 60″ frame (before digital calculators to assist with math needed to cut individual windows for the photos).
“I’ve had by far the most interesting and diverse framing projects here than I’ve ever had.”
One such recent project was a contract with the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department as part of a renovation project at the Lodge at Sequoyah State Lodge near Fort Gibson Lake. Carla and the team at DRTC Framing produced almost 400 frames in varying sizes (up to 46″ X 80″) in about one month, finishing under budget and before the project deadline; in comparison, she recalled a time early in her career when it took 6 months to create 300 frames.
Folks Lavimodiere personally handles every piece of artwork that comes into DRTC Framing. She has seen first hand how various products can damage pieces and stresses the importance of letting a trained professional handle something so valuable– no matter the material.
“We have the facility, the capability, the manpower,” said Folks Lavimodiere. “We’re ready to do more.”
Dale Rogers Training Center (DRTC) is the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment center for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. With multiple locations in Oklahoma, DRTC trains or employs approximately 1,000 people with disabilities per year. Visit us online: DRTC.org.