(Elisa Carozza and Travis Kuhl, owners of Kuhl Frames + Art | Photo by Kristine Thomas)
The eclectic artwork on the back wall of Kuhl Frames + Art in Bend eloquently reveals Travis Kuhl’s dedication to find the perfect match between a frame and artwork.
He explains he chose the silver frame with a wave pattern to compliment the psychedelic Alan Forbes’ poster of a blue woman with black hair highlighted with blue waves. The blackish, beaded frame resembles a rattlesnake’s tail and mimics the shapes and textures of the vintage tattoo flash sheet featuring drawings of snakes and a geisha.
Travis and his wife, Elisa Carozza, recently opened Kuhl Frames + Art in Northwest Crossing, where they also sell Elisa’s paintings, original artwork, greeting cards and Buenas, a collection of artisan jewelry from Argentina. The photographer and painter bring decades of experience to their custom framing shop where they welcome people to stop by to visit and view their artwork.
Elisa said Travis pays attention to the tiniest details when deciding how to properly and artistically select a frame. Before he starts a project, he asks the client questions about what the piece means to them and listens carefully to the answers.
“Travis takes the time to understand what a customer wants and he inspires them to open their minds to consider unexpected options while selecting the right frame to enhance and elevate the artwork,” Elisa said.
Personalized customer service is key to their business, which they started in California and recently relocated to Bend. They are passionate about educating their customers about the archival framing process while exploring style and color options. Their goal is to enhance the visual elements of what the client brought to frame. “We want to provide not just a useful service but hopefully a fun and creative interactive experience too,” Elisa said.
Travis and Elisa said their intimate connection to art informs their work as custom framers. “We both have deep passion for art and creativity. Travis is the expert framer, running day-to-day operations, working with customers to answer questions and design custom framing orders,” Elisa said. “I am the second mate on the ship, doing admin work like bookkeeping and marketing, as well as importing artisan jewelry from Argentina and exhibiting my paintings in the gallery space.”
Their love of art and design began in their childhoods. Travis remembers going to antique shops, flea markets and junk shops as a young boy and being enchanted by the design of objects. Elisa recalls her fascination for patterns, colors and art had her asking for art supplies, sketchbooks and colors for birthdays and Christmas.
“My godmother, who is a painter, used to entertain me as a toddler by drawing my favorite characters copied from my illustrated books while she babysat me,” Elisa said. “When I was 12, she encouraged me to take painting classes with another local painter and that’s where I began to learn to paint in oils. I had found what I wanted to do. From there, I spent most Saturdays and summers taking art workshops and classes at local art colleges in the Philadelphia area. I also studied with artists Diana Dowek and Alfredo Benavidez Bedoya while in Buenos Aires visiting family. Then I enrolled at and received a BFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.”
The boy from central New Jersey met the girl from suburban Philadelphia in 1993 when Elisa was going to art school and Travis had recently graduated and was working as an architectural photographer’s assistant.
“We met at a local water hole and bonded while talking about art,” Elisa said. “In the coming weeks, Travis showed up at my apartment with armfuls of salvage windows and doors for me to paint on, and I was charmed.”
They have been together for 27 years and married for 22 years. In 1989, they moved to Sonoma County and then Oakland, Calif., where they opened Kuhl Frames + Art in Uptown Oakland, a burgeoning arts and entertainment district.
In 2020, their business and their neighborhood were hit hard by the pandemic, forcing them to answer questions such as where they wanted to live and how they wanted to enjoy their work and interests.
“Having visited friends in Bend for several years, we were enchanted by the astounding landscape, the gorgeous light and the quality of life,” Elisa said. “We were drawn by the undeniable optimism we could sense in the air. It felt like fate, and we needed to follow our bliss.”
While relocating to Bend in late 2020 and opening the frame shop in April has been their most challenging undertaking, they are grateful every day they can walk to their shop and that their endeavors have been met with receptiveness. Once they have settled in to their new home and business, they hope to make contributions as individuals and as a small business to the arts and culture community.
“We are both working artists and appreciators and collectors of art and believe in the importance of following our passion over making a profit,” Travis said. “We do this because we love art and wouldn’t want to make a living any other way. We have such respect for art and objects that people choose to present in their homes and offices. Our goal is to help create a frame design that compliments but also preserves the art. We have an addiction for collecting art too, so we intimately appreciate custom framing and how it enriches one’s life.”