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It has been more than 20 years since photography was offered locally, but starting earlier this week it became. Shawn Patterson restored a photography studio at Driscoll’s Studio in downtown Wellman. It was done for a simple reason: “The community needs it.”
Not only has Patterson brought back a studio to Wellman, but he’s also looking to set up a studio in the Iowa City area. It shouldn’t be a challenge for him. “If you offer a good product with decent prices you can jump into any market and seize the customers going to the bigger places.”
What attracted Patterson to Wellman?
“The community itself,” he says. “I came here because of the small community in which I want to raise my two little girls. The school district is really good, that along with the low crime rate, is what brought me here.
“I started working for Mary Ellen and I was offered the chance to buy her shop and reopen the photography portion to bring it back. I’m making payments for the next 15 years and Mary Ellen (Driscoll) is going to teach me what I need to learn about the shop. She’s going to stick around until she decides to retire, which I hope is many, many years from now.”
How the two met was through a friend. “Jeff Davisson was working with me on some frames around the first of the year but they were such a mess, I figured he wasn’t going to help me because of that,” Driscoll said.
“But I saw him in the grocery store one day and asked him about it,” she continued. “He told me that he’s up to his head in work and couldn’t, but he knew of someone who could help. So right there in the store he introduced me to Shawn and it’s been wonderful. He’s been the best partner I could have possibly found.”
When Patterson said he wanted to bring back photography to the studio Driscoll was elated. “I’m as happy as the dickens,” she said. “We’ve had a lot people, especially those that I did photography for before I quit, who are so happy that we’re bringing it back to Wellman. I was very happy to have that part of the business come back and I’m so happy with what Shawn has done in cleaning this up.”
Being in that partnership is how Patterson is learning not only about the photography part of the studio, but also about the framing aspect as well. “He already knows more about it that I do, to be honest about it,” Driscoll says.
However, one thing Patterson knows is the quality. “You get something better by coming here than just going to the store and buying a frame off the shelf. Coming to us you will get a handmade frame using wood, nails and glue to hold it together. That way if you have an accident and dropped it, it won’t break. I want to give good quality work to the people.”
Driscoll will stay involved with the framing side as well. “I’m going to do as much as I can. Primarily, I will be cutting mattes. In terms of putting the frames together, I can still do it, but Shawn can do it faster. A lot of times, the molding that comes in is warped and that makes it a headache to work with. Shawn is better at solving that problem.
“I’ve also gotten to the place that I don’t see as well as I used to and I’ve had both of my thumbs broken at one time or another so I don’t have the pressure that I would like to have in order to put things together. So I will primarily be taking care of customers that come in along with the mattes.”
As for Driscoll’s future, she says one of two things will happen. “I have no intention of retiring unless I end up where I am no longer able to get around or I just die here.” Patterson has that same goal. “I plan on dying here myself.”
What about training a future generation? “My two daughters are going to be trained how to do everything in the shop.”
When asked about being a student of Driscoll, Patterson says it’s great. “She has so much to give. I can’t even begin to explain how much I’ve learned from her.” As for being the teacher Driscoll says, “it’s the case where I show him how to do something and I don’t have to go back and show him again. Once I show him he knows what to do. I feel confident that he will do a good job of it.”
Patterson officially took over the reins November 1; it wasn’t a different feeling for Driscoll. “I’m still here.”
“Even though I’m running the store, she will still have as much of a say as I do as to what goes on here. It’s a joint effort between the two of us,” Patterson says.