Restoring Beauty, Frame By Frame
Not much is "like it used to be", according to Michael Pressimone, professional art and furniture restorer. And he should know.
Expertly reviving beautiful objects from the past, Pressimone would also love to see some long-gone philosophies and workplace environments make a comeback.
Take apprenticeships. They are, says Pressimone, a mode of education we just don't see any more. "These days, first you go to school, and then you work. But back then, you worked as an apprentice while you were going to school." That's how Pressimone learned the craft of art restoration, by his father's side, starting at the age of 14.
He grew up in Sicily, later moved to Torino and around 1972, he emigrated to New York City and married his wife of 43 years, Norma. There he took his first U.S. job with the esteemed frame and furniture restorer J.H. Guttman. Pressimone loved working for his boss: "He was a really good person. One Friday, his secretary was out, so he was handing out paychecks to everyone. And right when it was my turn, a customer came in and he had to attend to them. I didn’t want to disturb them and so I went home and thought I would just get my check on Monday. Believe it or not, Saturday morning, he showed up at my door with a check. Go find those kind of people today! Not a chance. He was a precious person to me.”
J.H. seemed to think just as highly of Pressimone. Six months after he first arrived on the job, Guttman asked him to accompany him to Toronto for an esteemed museum job. Though only in his mid-20s, Pressimone was excited, not nervous, to be chosen for such a responsibility. "Sure I was younger than most other restorers but remember…I'd been doing this for over 10 years by then."
This experience translated into perfectionism. Most of the time, that worked well for Pressimone, but occasionally the customer requests would surprise him. Once, he did a job a bit too perfectly. The customer wanted an antique frame enlarged so Pressimone did the job and sent it back. When he saw the customer return a few days later with the frame in hand, he feared the worst. He says, “A chill came over me. I thought – what the heck did I do wrong? My boss saw me changing color and said ‘Take it easy, Mike. Everything’s okay.' He told me that the customer just wanted to actually see the repair.”
Pressimone laughs, “I had gone nuts matching the color just right! But in the end, I did what they asked and dabbed on the darker colors so you could see the repair. To me? It was a piece of junk like that. But hey, if that’s what they want, that’s what they get.”
Decades of experience followed, bringing the Pressimones from New York, back to Italy for ten years, then down to West Palm Beach before they finally settled in Atlanta in 2005.
These days, Pressimone is a one man show, with help from Norma, working for Atlanta clients out of his home in Stone Mountain.
The love of his work is palpable as he walks me through his workshop. Every where you look are exquisite, if a bit battered, works of art. Enormous "black forest wood" animal sculptures wait patiently next to ornate carved trunks worth thousands of dollars, each one more breathtaking than the next. We leaf through dozens of pages of stunning before and afters and in doing so, we walk back to a prettier, simpler time.
For more information on how to get this experienced artist's help restoring your furniture, frames, porcelain or sculpture, check out their website or contact Michael or Norma at [email protected] or 404-941-9031.