Former showbiz couple put talents to work in Blount

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By Stephanie Woodings
Blount Today

If anyone is looking to frame someone or put them in a bind, Keith and Marion Elrod are the folks to do it.

The husband and wife team are the owners of K & M Gallery, LLC, which is based from their home in the Cross Creek neighborhood. A journey to their basement store immerses customers into two very different businesses which compliment each other just as the husband/wife team do.

Keith, an artist, is a Certified Picture Framer and a member of the Professional Picture Framers Association. Marion is an accomplished seamstress, holding a degree in Home Economic Education and a masters degree in textiles. The stories leading up to the start of this joint venture are as colorful as their creations.

Keith, a native of Georgia, and Marion, a native of New York, met in the theater district of New York. Marion’s then employer, Chita Rivera, the acclaimed singer, dancer, and Broadway actress, introduced the couple. "It was only supposed to be a date. Chita said she only wanted me to have a nice evening," said Marion, with a laugh.

Marion was Rivera’s personal costume designer, following her all over the world while the star performed her club act. Keith was a lighting director who worked on the major Broadway shows.

The walls of their stairwell are a testament to their past stage history. They are covered with framed posters of the various shows with which they were associated. Their last show was "Les Miserables" in 1992. After that, they headed to Florida to help Marion’s parents who were in failing health.

Between taking care of family and raising their two sons, each of them found jobs in the Orlando area. Keith worked the lighting in the large ballrooms at Disney, and Marion was a costume designer for Sea World.

They vacationed in the Smokies for four or five years and had decided that they’d like to eventually retire here. On their last vacation here, they stopped in to check out the school system, were duly impressed and made the move.

Keith’s business consists of everything to do with pictures and framing. The first piece of machinery he shows is a 40-inch by 60-inch computerized mat-cutter. It can print out all types of alphabets, numbers or graphics on the mats as well, he said.

"This is very popular right now with high school projects," said Keith. "We can put the high school letters or Class of 2007 on the mat. Before we could never even think about doing (this)," he said.

Photo restoration and photo imaging are other services Keith provides. "The beauty of this part of the operation is I give the customer their picture back after I scan it. I scan the picture at a high resolution while the customer is here and hand it right back to them," he said. Keith then sends his scan to a company in Cincinnati where the turn-around time can be
anywhere from one to 10 days.

Starting at a base price of $70 for the restoration process, the customer gets a print back that is repaired and restored, often in color when the original was black and white. Keith can put the picture on variety of papers, including canvas. He can also change the entire look of the photo by making it appear as though it is a pastel painting or watercolor.

One of the most eye-catching techniques involves turning a picture into "pop" or cartoon art. He can also tint the picture to make it look as though it came from an era past.

"I can glamorize the picture or remove things from it as well," he said.

Once the restoration is done, Keith can create and design a custom frame to house the customer’s photo or their favorite painting. He uses a process of ‘double hinging’ that will not leave residue on the picture should the customer decide to take it out of the frame.

"It’s all about preservation," he said. "I use acid-blocking barrier tape around the back of the frame to keep the wood, which has acid in it, from breaking down and affecting the picture."

As a painter, Keith knows how important it is to keep a treasure from ending up in the trash. He has various original artworks hanging from the walls of his home. Asked how long it typically takes him to paint one of his pieces, he laughed.

"Well, my latest one (the Tipton-Shields house in Cades Cove) is taking longer than usual because of all the other things I do with the business," he said.

Keith said he uses the latest technology to preserve anything of monetary or perceived value. "I can take a dollar poster and make it look like it’s worth a thousand" he said. "It’s all about the customer and what they want."

Keith can also cover a mat with cloth or a custom material that the customer brings in to the business.

"Framing is one of those industries where there is really no (professional) requirements," he said. "You can go down, get your business license, post a sign up, and not know anything about it, but you’re in business." Keith said he is constantly honing his art by attending seminars and taking exams to keep his Certified Professional Framer’s license current.

Not only is Marion the other half of K&M, but she is also a Teen Living teacher at William Blount Middle School and works in the costume department at Dollywood during the summer. Marion has nipped and tucked many an outfit for Dolly Parton. "Dolly’s a really nice lady, but she knows what she wants. She’s a wonderful person to work for," Marion said.

Dolly isn’t the only customer she has. "Around prom time, I stay pretty busy altering dresses," Marion said.

For information about the Elrods and their business, call K&M Gallery LLC at 865-977-9441 to make an appointment or visit them at their website:

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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