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DECORATING : Artisans: Spotlighting Makers of Hand-Crafted Goods : Stencils Gan Give Walls a Special Look


When most of us think of stencils, we think of those hard plastic objects that came with our school notebooks. You remember, those things with the letters of the alphabet that had no earthly use whatever, except maybe for a title page on a term report.

You certainly would never think of stencils as a valuable home-decorating tool or as the basis for a business.

Unless, that is, you're Ed and Fay Beckerman, who operate Borders, Etc. in Los Alamitos.

The Beckermans, both trained and accomplished artists (he studied at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and Chouinard in Los Angeles and she has taught art for 30 years) use stencils to create distinctive and colorful decorating motifs for the home.

Their works, all done to match the tastes and furnishings of individual homeowners, were displayed at the eighth annual Orange County Interior Design and Home Decorating Show at the Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa last weekend.

"Stenciling allows the flexibility to decorate corners of closets, arches, curved windows, and looks so much better than wallpaper," she says.

One of her favorite jobs, she says, was a bathroom for a 4-year-old in his parents' Los Angeles home.

"We created a waterfall that cascades from the ceiling down to the splash area of the tub. It's very turbulent at the top and then calms down when it reaches the tub. We even put in a couple of fish."

The child, she says, loves it, as he does the trees and plants they used in the kitchen nook. "He says it looks just like the area where the family goes camping," she says.

The process sounds a lot more simple than it really is. The Beckermans draw the designs on paper, transfer them to Mylar and then to stencils, and air-brush them onto the wall surface.

The real work, she says, is in the creation of the design and determining the exact colors to be used, especially if they are trying to match a sofa or bedspread design.

Many times separate stencils must be made for the different colors, much like a four-color printing process.

"If we are using different colors close to one another, they must be applied separately," she says, "and that dictates separate stencils."

The Beckermans use acrylic paints because they want the wall to show through the design and because acrylics offer "a lot of control with color modulation; it can be very bold or very muted."

In some areas, such as the kitchen or where children play, they will cover the finished design with a polyurethane coating so that it's easily washable.

The work for the home runs between $2.50 and $4 per linear foot, depending on colors and intricacy of design.

The Beckermans are fairly new to the field. He had spent many years in the aerospace industry working in microelectronics while she taught art at the junior high school level.

"We first became aware of stenciling," she says, "when we visited a friend whose entire house had been stenciled. It was the most gorgeous thing we had ever seen--so much more interesting than wallpaper with a freshness and appeal only possible with a hand-crafted approach.

"It was love at first sight."

Aerospace cutbacks made Ed Beckerman, 57, begin thinking about alternatives. He says their backgrounds made art a logical choice. That's what brought about the birth of Borders, Etc. earlier this year.

He works the business full time while she continues teaching, adding her talents to the business in off hours.

Their work so far has mostly dealt with murals and borders for homes, but recently they have discovered a whole new market.

"We are currently involved in stenciling arm slings and cervical pillow cases for a plastic surgeon to send home with his patients," she says.

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