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framing curiosities

When hidden treasures see the light By Chris Woodall A traditional Bedouin wedding veil, ancient strips of Inca cloth and a far-off relative's brush with fame — these are the kinds of things that make work exciting for Terry Vincent. "People trust us with some very important stuff," the owner of Freestyle Framing and Gallery says of the heirlooms and ancient curiosities that come into her business for framing. "We're trying to frame a memory," Vincent explains. "If I can find out what the story is behind an object, then I can do more with the framing of it." She won't be happy doing a rush job. "A lot of people come in to say, 'just frame it,' but I'll say no, that if it's something you want to last a long time, then I want to meet with you longer to work out ideas what you want to do," Vincent says. Recent examples of what comes into her Whistler shop include framing the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun awarded to a sea-faring uncle of Vernon Forster's, who captained some of the most magnificent cruise ships of the turn of the century. The uncle, John Vernon Forster — the Whistler Forster's father's oldest brother — was given the medal for chaperoning the Emperor of Japan's son on an around-the-world cruise aboard an Empress Line ship that was in a league with the Titanic for luxury sailing. That "son" was Prince — later Emperor — Hirohito, who led Japan through its militaristic oppressions in Asia and the Pacific during the decade before, and the years of, the Second World War. In the picture frame, the red and white Order is displayed with the citation from the Emperor "registered in the Imperial Palace, Tokio, on June 10th the 40th year of the Meiji Dynasty, 2,567th year after Emperor Jimmu (1906)." Accompanying the Order is another citation for captain Forster's efforts aboard the SS Ashanti, where he helped rescue seven crew of the schooner Percy and Lillie in the North Atlantic, 13th of June, 1903. Having these family momentoes framed "is an exciting way to keep in touch with your roots," Whistler's Forster says. For Scott Kennedy, having his father's Second World War medals framed was part of reaching through the past to help link Kennedy's children to their grandfather, who died in Africa in the early 1940s. "The main thing I wanted to do was to have something for my kids to see," says Kennedy. "I've always had his medals, but I didn't know what to do with them. "I can remember a figure, but I didn't know him," says Kennedy, who was only five when his father was killed in action. Part of Kennedy's research into the history behind his father's war record took him on a sailing trip to England and the library of the Royal Engineers. The father was a British army engineer and held the rank of Lt. Col. He earned a Distinguished Service Order and Order of the British Empire for blowing 23 bridges just in advance of, and sometimes under fire from, the German blitzkrieg as it pushed the retreating British Expeditionary Force toward the beaches of Dunkirk. "No doubt it must have delayed the Germans somewhat," Kennedy says, which also meant allowing the British precious time to evacuate the beaches for home. A momento of a much different sort is a Bedouin wedding veil Leslie McGee got from her sister "who was in Egypt when I got married," McGee says. The veil has a faded purple fabric with scores of dime-sized coins sewed into the cloth. The veil is also trimmed with glass and wood beads along a head band that supports the coined piece of cloth that would hide the face except for the eyes. "It's an authentic veil worn by a Bedouin woman at some time, but my husband says it's about 200 years old," McGee says. "He jokes that it's like an ancient ski mask." The trick is to show it off. "I'm still working with Terry (Vincent) to find some way to display it that won't pull at the fabric or anything. Parts of it are quite fragile," McGee explains.

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