Thrifting for old frames to love. The start of our home art gallery...

I recently moved back home from California to Oahu in late July with my husband, Danny. We're expecting our first child in October, and decided that home (around our families) would be the best place to raise our baby girl (her name is Julyiana!)  After searching high and low, my husband found us a cute and quaint place on Enchanted Lake in Kailua. We wake up to the beautiful light of sunrise and we watch the sunset behind the mountains every day. We never expected to live on the lake, but when the opportunity presented itself, we couldn't just walk away especially since the weeks prior had us feeling like it was going to be much harder for us to find our own place before Julyiana's birth.  We are fortunate and grateful for those who steered us and helped us along the way to get where we are today.

Since we've moved into our new home, my obsession with thrifting and bargain hunting has increased times a million. I love thrifting for clothing, especially with my twin sister (her taste in style is quite different from mine, but our interests are fairly alike).  But, now that Danny and I have our own place to furnish, organize, and decorate, I've moved on from clothing to other things... such as: wicker baskets for organizing, glass bowls, vases, and... PICTURE FRAMES. (You could say that I'm in my nesting phase of my pregnancy.)

I've probably visited the Salvation Army and Goodwill too many times to count in the past few weeks, finding woven baskets (because I just can't do plastic containers) for less than $3.50 and woven/wooden picture frames for less than $3.  Going every single day to these stores might sound a bit crazy and too excessive, but you never know what's being put on shelves! And at these shops, it's considered 'one-of-a-kind' finds.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

My most RECENT find was from two days ago. I went out to pick up a side-shelf from our friend, Cassandra, who was selling a bunch of things on Facebook.  As I was on my way to her house, I drove past St. Anthony's Thrift Store in Kailua (on Makawao Street.) What. I had not realized it existed (you won't find it on Yelp) and it's open to the public.  After I picked up the side-shelf, I made my way to the thrift store to take a peek, making sure I texted my husband to let him know what I was up to yet again.  His reaction to my uncontrollable need to visit this thrift store was, "Of COURSE you're there."

As I looked around, I saw more woven baskets that I imagined could be used for organizing office supplies (I eventually went back to buy five medium sized baskets which cost me less than half the price of a venti iced chai latte at Starbucks.) Then, my eyes rested on two pieces of wall art. I picked them up to inspect the frame, which was real wood and hand painted with a matte finish. $10 each (both frames were 22 3/4" x 26 3/4" in dimension). I figured that no one really wanted to buy them since the backing was stapled to the frame itself, making it much harder to replace the painting with a photograph or another piece of art.  The mat board within the frame could only fit an 8x11" piece; but a person could go to Ben Franklin for custom matting that would fit a larger piece.  I put the frames down and decided to take a day to think about it.

(I'm pretty sure my twin sister would love this artwork.)

After taking a day to really think about it, I couldn't resist. I had searched online, walked through multiple stores on Oahu, and visited other thrift stores looking for frames that I could fall in love with.  I didn't want to buy a brand new plain wooden frame, not because I couldn't afford it, but because it just didn't seem like a fit for our home.  Danny and I have furnished most of our home with 2nd hand furniture, and we are still waiting the arrival of some custom handmade artisan furniture from Bali.  I would say that the majority of the things we posses have some kind of story to go with it, it belonged to a friend of ours, or was gifted to us.

I went back the next day after to see if the frames were still available, and they were still there in their same spot begging me to take them home. I smiled and told the lady, "I'd like to buy those."  And while I handed her $22.25 for two large frames and five woven baskets, I stared at the butterfly brooches and pendants pinned to a piece of cardboard next to her office desk.  I took a mental note and decided I would eventually make my way back to pick some up for my nieces and maybe even to use in a photo shoot.

I had been looking for a wooden frame for an aerial photograph of Enchanted Lake, which my dad printed for us a few years back.  This frame, which ended up being Pier 1 according to a sticker on the back (the painting was by an artist named Martin Roberts from his Parisian Series), was just perfect. I took apart the backing and wire one staple at a time...

... and placed the photograph directly on the mat to cover the painting (I'll eventually replace this mat board with a new one that fits this 11x14" image. For now, this will do. In fact, the imperfections are fitting for this sepia-toned print.)

(Enchanted Lake, Kailua)

Since I don't own a staple gun, I used these really short and tiny nails at all four corners, which locked the thick cardstock backing into place.

Then, I used whatever screw I could find (ideally you would use a wood screw), to lock the wire back into place. Don't mind the scratches, it was a bit difficult trying to get the staples out here. (For a more refined look, you could replace the board with a brand new one. But, does anyone ever really see the back of frame?)

And just like that, an old frame made new! It's now hanging on our wall, and will be surrounded by other frames in all different sizes and styles.  This is actually the first image we put up in our new home.  It's a perfect start to our photography and art gallery wall. If this coastal white looking frame starts to bother me tho, I might just stain it a bit and change the matting; the ideas to customize something like this are endless.


Frames found at St. Anthony's Thrift Store, at the corner of Makawao St. & N Kalaheo Ave. in Kailua
Originally from Pier 1 Imports
Photograph is an 11x14" reprint from my dad @im_out_hiking


Just because you found it on Google, doesn't mean it's free.

"Flying in a Beautiful Static" by Jaymi Britten featuring Jena Sommer Kim.  September 2005. Waimea, Hawaii.

"Flying in a Beautiful Static" by Jaymi Britten featuring Jena Sommer Kim.  September 2005. Waimea, Hawaii.

"Heaven's Below" T-shirt sold on Rake and Strays by EIO (Excess is Ok) Image Source:,Rake-and-Strays-by-EIO

"Heaven's Below" T-shirt sold on Rake and Strays by EIO (Excess is Ok)
Image Source:,Rake-and-Strays-by-EIO

As a photographer, you invest everything into your photos. Your money goes towards photography equipment, software, and project expenses. Other people are also invested, such as models, makeup artists, hair stylists, etc.  And more money is spent on products (hair and makeup), wardrobe, props, travel, and additional expenses... like project planning over coffee or brainstorm sessions over lunch. TIME, the most valuable thing you can never get back, is a major investment. Hours and months go into exploring an idea, producing it, and executing it.  That is why photographs have value and people should be more respectful when using something they did not create. This is why I don't sit idle when I see someone using copyright work without permission and without giving credit or payment where it's due.


To see people stealing original content and using it for profit to build their own business and brand identity without having to pay a single price makes me feel sick to my stomach (because people do get away with it.)

When I first took up photography as a hobby, I was publishing my underwater film work to the artist community DeviantART.  In 2005, I shared one of my favorite images that I took of my sister, which I titled "Flying In A Beautiful Static."  Four years later in 2009, one of my friends discovered my image on the front of a graphic t-shirt, sold by a UK clothing company called Rakes and Strays by EIO (Excess is Ok), which no longer seems to be in business.

Their website (which has since been removed) had collections of graphic tees.  Their blog showed celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Calvin Harris spotted wearing their brand t-shirts.  I emailed the company with a 'cease and desist' letter, and showed proof that I was the creator of the image.  I asked them to remove all product containing my image unless they were willing to pay me royalties. The owner was apologetic and explained to me:

"I’m writing regarding the Heaven’s Below T-shirt that has been featured on our website.  Unfortunately as you correctly said, this was your photo and your artwork.  This was designed by a freelance designer that submitted the design to us.  We have contacted him and informed him of your e-mail.  He says that he came across the image on the internet, however cannot recall whereabouts this was from.  He naively and wrongly assumed that it was a vintage photo and without copyright.  It has come as a shock to receive an e-mail from you as as we promote ourselves to be a young, creative company that produces its own artwork and this situation is very embarrassing and unfortunate as we try to pride ourselves on being creative and obviously not using other peoples artwork.  I would like to express my sincerest apologies for what has happened." -James

After going back and forth through emails, the company removed the product containing my image and ensured that no reprints would be made. While I didn't take any serious legal action or aggressively demand any royalty payments, the experience shed light on how easy it was for businesses to steal creative content online and use it to create products that essentially create profit.  The fact that the copy of my image wasn't even the full resolution, and a designers was still able to make a quality product off of it, made me nervous to publish any work online.  For a while after that, I had put copyright watermarks across my images and I refrained from posting any detailed high res photos. These days, I've learned to embed all my files with copyright information and I hardly use watermarks unless I foresee an image being used on multiple media platforms, such as my portraits with my sister-in-law, Maria Kang, which was seen on TV and published to various news sites.


"What is copyright infringement?"

As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. (Source:

You're probably wondering why I'm writing about this and what exactly sparked this entry.  Recently, I was sitting next to a friend and I watched as he took a professional portrait off of Google and insert it directly into his business advertisement for his print ad, which was to be submitted at the end of the day, published immediately, and distributed across an entire island. The photographer was unknown to him. The quality of the image seemed very high end and professional, which is why I was concerned.  I voiced my opinion and pointed out that he was essentially stealing original content, and using it without permission or paying any licensing fees (usage right agreement between the photographer and client) to the copyright holder could result in repercussions. While I'm no expert in copyright law, I mentioned that the photographer will have every right to take legal action once his advertisement was published (after all, it's what I would do.)  To me, the simple act of removing the image after careful consideration and especially out of respect to the photographer, would have demonstrated responsible business practices.

I'm sure my friends intentions were innocent to begin with. All he wanted to do was finish his advertisement, and there I was delaying the process and giving my unsolicited advice. But even after I shared my knowledge of what could possibly happen, he still intentionally chose to commit copyright infringement.  He could have cared less.  Our discussion must have lasted just a few minutes...

He quickly disagreed with me and ended with, "Sorry, but I CHOOSE to do something unethical," while proceeding to design his advertisement (one of several ads used in his marketing campaign). Didn't blink an eye.  Instead, he was more concerned about meeting a midnight deadline.  The fact that he understood what he was doing was "UNETHICAL" clearly made me upset.

What probably seemed so small to him, was a really big deal to me, because I've been on that end; I've been that photographer stumbling across my own work being used without seeing any credit or royalties to my name.  I've seen these things happen time and time again to my friends (other fellow photographers); larger companies and corporations taking advantage of their content.  Most infringers don't really care, because all they have to do is issue an apology and remove the content, never mind that they used an unlicensed image in a campaign that may have made them a hefty profit.  I'm tired of people pretending that they didn't know something was copyright because they found it on Google and didn't know who created it. That still doesn't make it free, nor does it make it right to steal someones work.

I did a quick Google search when I went home, and found the photographer who created the image that my friend wanted to use. It was that easy. I also discovered he (the photographer) was represented by a legitimate artist agency who is responsible for licensing images for their artists.  In all seriousness, the agency could pursue legal action on behalf of their photographer. They probably would have their attorney contact my friend and issue an invoice (licensing fee, creative fee, damages, or whatever they see fit), and my friend would have to pay upfront or be taken to court for further legal action, because copyright infringement is actually a federal law.  Photographers who don't have a ton of money and are not represented by any agency may find this process a little more intimidating (like myself), and they would most likely let it go saying it was 'a learning experience'.  But, creative agencies see this happen everyday to their artists; to them, taking action against an infringer is like ordering a cup of coffee. No biggie.

At the end of the day, people will do what they want to do regardless of the consequences... probably because they've never had to pay any price for it and they continue to assume they never will.  They assume that the worst that could happen is a photographer sends a cease and desist letter (exactly what I did to Rakes & Strays for using my image on their t-shirts). Maybe that's it. But let's be real, how serious can it really get?

Some fun articles:
Photographer wins 1.2 Million Lawsuit Against Agence France-Presse and Getty Images
4 Court Cases That Boosted Photographers' Rights
$8k in Image Copyright Penalties: Bloggers, Beware!


"The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:"

1.  Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
2.  The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
3.  Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.
4.  The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
5. The Court can compound the illegal works.
6. The infringer can go to jail.

To end, because this is getting pretty lengthy, I can honestly say that I appreciate it when someone goes out of their way to ask me for permission before they share or use any of my photos.  Whether it's via text, in person, by email, through a direct or private message... there's so many ways to contact me to simply ask, "May I please use this?"  Where in which I usually say 'yes' as long as credit is given. I lose respect for people who constantly take and take without asking.  ESPECIALLY businesses. It's selfish and irresponsible. It's worst when they purposefully continue to do it because they believe they'll never get caught. KARMA. That's all.