Fourteen years after we moved into our house, we finally hung up our art. It was a journey, and at the risk of coming across like I'm making excuses, I'm going to explain some of that journey.
Sure, we had hung up individual pieces, something that was already in a frame, say. But it was always piecemeal, a nail here, a hook there. And we continued to accumulate meaningful pieces from travels or family events. And we continued to occasionally pull out the box (a moving box, made for a mirror, I believe) and spread out all the various bits and pieces and just generally fantasize about having them up.
My goal, however, was to have a plan, an intentional way of placing the different posters, prints, photos throughout our home. Every time we would try that, I would get overwhelmed and give up. I tried taking small bites: after seeing homes with big frames and medium photographs, we chose a few photographs from our travels, blew them up, ordered specially cut mat boards, and frames. We mapped out where in our living room these would go; we essentially carved off part of the home and planned the photographs that would go there. I hoped that this would simplify the challenge of where to put the remaining posters, but we found ourselves stuck, still.
Eventually, we opened up that box and made some hard decisions about what to hang and what to set aside, and then - before too much time could go by - arranged to get everything framed. We were inching closer, but sitting with our posters and prints, all framed, we still couldn't figure out what to hang where and so (this shouldn't be surprising) I got overwhelmed and gave up.
But buried in that frustration and surrender was a recognition of what skills I'm missing - an ability to reorganize visual information spatially in a few different ways, a set of starting principles for grouping, placing, and so on. Surely someone must have this expertise and be offering it as a service?
It turns out that, yes, there are professional picture-hangers. We called one and booked an appointment. A few weeks later, on the scheduled day, at the expected time, the doorbell rang. We answered the door and before we could finish greeting them, two men were in our foyer, one of them having magically unfolded and gently placed a table (please assume it transformed from a flat briefcase shape to a table with a soft whoop noise).
The guy with the table handled production. The other one handled creative (and the clients). We showed him all of our framed pieces and talked a very little about what they meant, and we showed him around our house, pointing out areas we were interested in and the few pieces we had already hung. Meanwhile he was riffing constantly, throwing out ideas, getting energized, and delegating to the production guy, who began attaching extra mounting hooks and hanging wire to all of our store bought frames. After a short time, we backed off, and we watched them work.
The "creative" began moving frames into different rooms, laying them on the floor and trying different combinations. Like a problem-solving algorithm, the solution began to appear, bit by bit. The floors throughout our house began to fill with clusters and arrangements of different prints, both thematic and visual groupings. We were called in for frequent consultations as the plan emerged. Eventually there was a plan for where everything was going to go. This was the piece we could not have done ourselves and in a short time, they had done it.
Then came the rest of the production. They began hanging up everything. That meant figuring out where each item went - exactly, putting in nails in exactly the right spot, using a level, all the details. Especially because so many pictures were clustered, something being slightly off would really show, so perfect execution was key. This was also something we could have not pulled off ourselves.
The final results were astonishing. Rather than hanging things in a grid, with the top edges aligned and a consistent space between each, they put together a number of clusters where the posters emanated from a central point in an almost-spiral flow. And they chose how to place different prints within that cluster in order to create a kinetic sense, such as having a poster with a bird along the left hand side, with the bird facing to the right, so that the content of the images supported the physical placement on the wall. This was not something we could have even imagined, let alone executed.
It is immensely gratifying to be in the presence of a highly-skilled individual. When those skills are being deployed for your benefit, it adds another layer of delight. I believe that delight is further enhanced when we ourselves have tried and failed. This story is a reminder to me to seek out these magically-talented individuals and take advantage of what they have to offer, whenever I can.