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Picture Perfect

Robin Kelly’s business matches her frame of mind

By Sarah Caldwell

Framing is a thankless art. A carefully crafted frame protects and focuses attention on the art. The frame itself often goes unnoticed.

Robin Kelly owns Lisa’s Custom Framing on Fort Bragg Road. She purchased the business from Lisa Lofthouse in 2008. Kelly’s adventure as an entrepreneur began when her previous career in the non-profit sector came to an abrupt end in 2007.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do,” she said, “only that I wanted to do something different.” So, in June 2007, when Kelly expressed interest in potentially buying the business, Lofthouse invited her to work in the shop and learn the art of framing. By January, Kelly was the official owner of Lisa’s Custom Framing.

“People sometimes call me Lisa,” said Kelly, “but it’s okay. I felt it was important to keep the name, which is so well known in the community, so I just added a robin bird to the logo.”

Kelly continues Lofthouse’s original vision; from the business name to her single employee, Carolyn Culbreth, who has more than 20 years of experience in the framing business, most of which has been at Lisa’s Custom Framing.

“Carolyn is incredibly talented, knowledgable and creative,” Kelly said. “Sometimes it’s hard to find balance, but it’s so good to have someone to help and learn from and trust.” Kelly glowed with appreciation as she described how grateful she is for Culbreth’s expertise and care in providing a quality product for the customers while she is busy with administrative duties and project management.

One project keeping Kelly busy right now, a joint venture with Diane Parfitt of City Center Gallery & Books, is a commission to frame more than 200 pieces of local art for display in Cape Fear Valley’s Health Pavilion Hoke, scheduled to open later this year. Health Pavilion Hoke is one of two planned medical buildings and will feature artwork by local and regional artists, including paintings by Greg King and photography by Johnny Horne among artwork by Rose Kennedy and other Cape Fear Studios artists. Kelly exuberantly flipped through some of the artwork stored in the shop to show me a few of those selected for the Cape Fear Valley Hoke project. “It’s a great opportunity to support local artists and promote their work in a public space,” she said.

Kelly is passionate about the local art community in Fayetteville. Despite countless hours managing and promoting Lisa’s Custom Framing, she is also an active member in the community. She has sponsored several exhibits at Cape Fear Studios, she is a corporate sponsor of the Fayetteville Symphony and is vice chair of its Board of Directors, she is a member of the Arts Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County and a committee member for the Friends of African and African-American Art. She also supports Operation Inasmuch through the Bread & Bowls fundraiser, which promotes local artists by serving meals in North Carolina pottery bowls.

“There are so many impressive artists in Fayetteville,” said Kelly, “community members should support local art because Fayetteville has so much to offer. It’s one of the strongest art and cultural communities in the region.” Eventually, Kelly plans to host regular events she calls, “An Evening of Art and Wine,” to further promote local artists by allowing them to display their work in the Haymount gallery while guests enjoy fine art and a glass of wine. Each event will feature a different artist.

For Kelly, owning Lisa’s Custom Framing is more than earning a living. It’s an opportunity to support the community and to support local art. For more information, visit lisascustomframing.com, call 910.484.3585 or visit the gallery at 1226 Fort Bragg Rd. in Haymount.