It became common knowledge in our industry that he was the one, THE guy, who figured out that the Nielsen® metal picture frame, originally marketed to frame shops In the early 70s, could be custom cut and sold in pairs like stretcher bars, delivered directly to artists through the mail. It was, and continues to be, the simplest and most sophisticated solution to the question of how to frame art.
But as his oldest child, that’s not how I saw it at all. Frankly, I thought the whole idea was a bit strange. Entrepreneurship back then was not highly regarded as it is today. Let me continue.
Like many American dads, ours was a master craftsman. In addition to his frame shop and gallery (The Ron Mickel Gallery – Northwest Ohio’s first modern art gallery), he kept a little corner of our family garage for his tools, work bench, and eventually, a metal saw. It was there, in his corner of our garage, where he crafted his first custom-cut metal sectional picture frames.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The scene is clear in my mind.
As with many middle-class households of that era, my three siblings and I weren't allowed to enter the house through the front door. There were strict rules. We were to enter through the side, pass through the garage, and deposit our coats and shoes in the back hallway, keeping the front of the house presentable for guests, usually artists who were working with my parents or members of our crazy family. One afternoon after school, there was dad, in the freezing cold, in the garage, cutting metal picture frames. I thought he was nuts, and I said so, loud and clear, with a sassy teenage eye roll and a stomp into the house. ‘What in the world are you doing now???” I then went about my business, and he went about his. While at the time I had wished dad was more like my friends' fathers with a ‘real’ job, he would have none of that. He chose the path of risk for independence and possibly, potential reward. I didn’t understand. Today, I do.