Offering expert custom picture framing for over 60 years
Artisans of San Francisco is a historic local business. We specialize in top-quality workmanship creative designs and excellent service. Our experienced staff uses a creative eye to help you select the best design to enhance your artwork.
Each step of the process is bespoke. Our staff helps you pick out the best design for your piece. We build every frame on site, using archival materials and techniques. Every piece is framed using our acid free materials and uv protectant glazing.
Whether it is a poster, an original painting, a quilt, your child’s art, a wedding bouquet, or something entirely new. No project is too big or small!
Stretch and re-stretch canvases of any size. Ready to hang framed or unframed
Archival hinges and acid free materials used to frame delicate works for maximum preservation and longevity
Custom Shadowboxes in any depth and design to display your memorabilia in an artistic way
"Joe is a master! Framed and hung our favorite Broadway posters in the most beautiful way possible. We have been trusting our framing work to Artisan for years and won't use anyone else!"
"I salute Joe and his crew at Artisans of SF for the quality craftsmanship and detail to attention with every piece of art I bring in. Now, I have a trusted shop to get all my artwork framed."
Old Aritsans Location. 1964 Union st.
The Artisans of San Francisco first opened its doors in 1947 to serve the then-emerging art and antique dealerships of the Cow Hollow and Fillmore districts. Legend has it that the founder was more artisan than businessman, spending most of his time making jigs for joining frames. At that time trade secrets of how to make beautiful framing were closely guarded, so each shop had to build its own systems. In those days all the wood came raw and it was up to the framer to apply finishes to the best of their ability.
In the early 1950's a young couple named Phil and Pat Ellin purchased The Artisans, after Phil left the SF Health Department with the help of Congressman Joe McCarthy. Union Street was not the bustling shopping corridor it is today. It is said that during the first two weeks they were open not one person walked into the store. The story goes that Phil went out every day and shook hands with as many people as possible to build a clientele. Over time this direct and personal marketing plan worked and the Ellins built a reputable business.
The Ellins ran the store as a mom and pop custom frame shop for 30 years. The Artisans continued to specialize in handcrafted finishes. Pat had a marvelous hand for sewing and applied her talents to framing. However, one of the hardest things to do is to get a craftsperson to price their expertise properly. She used to say how Phil would get upset when she would sometimes take in a complex job and not charge enough for labor costs.
In the late 1960s, the store started to offer posters as well as framing. Poster Alley of the Artisans became a feature of Union Street. Framed posters hung all along the driveway and back fence, each with a number on it. If a customer saw one that they wanted they came inside and asked for it by number, and received a rolled poster. Unfortunately the damp weather really damaged the display, the posters had to be changed too often to be practical. So Poster Alley closed and all the posters came inside. The Poster Alley sign remained hanging until the store moved to Irving street in 2015.
In the early 1980s Phil and Pat's son Joe Ellin took over running the store. Joe, having been raised in the business, had a practical approach to running a custom frame shop. He found that people appreciated the best work they could get for the lowest cost. Joe brought in more prefinished mouldings from back East, as well as extruded aluminum moulding. He remembers when the choice of colors for metal were black and silver, period. Joe also began selling images of historic San Francisco, which became a signature feature of the shop for many years. Drawing tourists, locals, and history enthusiasts alike.
Joe worked six plus days a week for many years. While his favorite was still the simple metal frame, he was able to continue to do very complex projects with the help of his staff. Joe continued to offer many custom finishes and framing techniques using the skills he had learned from working with his parents.
In 1988 Joe Ellin hired a young photographer and student named Joe Dellert. Joe Dellert had just arrived in San Francisco to attend the Art Institute and needed part-time work. While working for the Artisans had started as a way to get through school, after ten years of working in the industry, having finished with college and with a family of his own, Joe Dellert became interested in owning his own store. When Joe Ellin learned of Joe Dellert’s interest, he arranged for Joe Dellert to take over. After over twenty years of owning and running his family’s business Joe Ellin was ready to take a break.
Old Aritsans Location after Joe Dellert's remodel
In 1998 Joe Dellert took over the Artisans ownership from Joe Ellin. “The New Joe” embarked on the project of bringing the shop into the 21st century. Using his photography background as a focus, the store began to offer more original photography as well as posters. He transformed the showroom when he remodeled to make the retail area wheelchair accessible using another of his talents, custom woodworking. Most importantly, Joe Dellert raised the quality of materials offered.
The Artisans began to offer only cotton rag mat board, which is inherently acid-free; and a choice of UV filtering glass, plexi, and museum glass. All the mounting is done in a reversible process that best suits the art. Choice of moulding ranges from the inexpensive metal to the fine finished moulding, such as closed-corner frames where the finish is applied after the frame is joined. Joe Dellert found that Artisans customers prefer quality and service which is worth the price, because they understand the value orientation over the old “the best for cheapest” approach.
Constantly on the lookout for the latest conservation techniques, Joe received his CPF (Certified Picture Framer) from the PPFA in 1999. This is a national certification for picture framers that has to be renewed every four years with requirements for further education. PPFA annual conventions help keep the shop in step with the latest trends and techniques of the industry. In 2019 Joe Dellert received his MCPF (Master Certified Picture Framer) designation from the PPFA, making him one of less than a hundred framers in the world with this certification.
In 2015 Joe Dellert moved the Artisans from its longtime location at 1964 Union street to the current shop on Irving. With the help of his staff and friends from the community he yet again used his woodworking skills to design and build custom displays and workbenches to transform the empty storefront into the beautiful open floor plan shop you see today. The new location became a vibrant community art hub. Hosting a monthly artist meetup and rotating gallery, poetry readings, figure drawing classes, and more until March of 2020 when indoor gatherings had to be put on pause due to the pandemic. Today the Artisans happily calls Irving street it’s home providing framing to long time customers from the both Union street days and here in the Sunset District.
Over the course of the years many famous people have come to The Artisans on both sides of the counter. In the early days one of the framers of great note was Sargent Johnson the painter. Throughout the years many visual artists and musicians have produced the beautiful framing for which The Artisans is known. There have been so many noteworthy customers over the years it would be impossible to list them all. But a few favorites are Nancy Snyderman, Carolyn Tyler, Anita Weissberg, Suzanne Orrick, Mrs. Magowan, Florian Moore, Charles Moore, Kurt and Lani Hammit and Tom Sinkovitz. The thing about The Artisans is that each customer becomes a mini celebrity with us. Over the course of the years we get to know our customers by their first names and they rarely get far without a friendly "hello, we'll be right with you". The Artisans has always been a family business and we look at all of our customers as family, we really care about their happiness.