Carolyn Frisa's name for her business, Works on Paper, is a perfect description of what she does. She works on paper as a conservator, conserving and restoring drawings, maps, watercolors, posters, prints, historic documents and parchment. She also works with historic wallpapers.
It's an unusual business, and it's even more unusual that someone as young as Carolyn runs it. At 31, she already has a decade of experience in the field.
"I'm young to be in this field. Most people don't discover it until later in life."
But like a lot of people with a lifelong passion, Carolyn found out about paper conservation at a young age.
Her grandfather lived in Washington, DC and was taking some paper to a conservator when she was staying with him. She went along and became fascinated by the field. At 15, she worked for a week with a conservator and was hooked.
"I took a lot of studio art classes in high school and art history in college." Add to that organic chemistry, and you have the foundation needed to pursue a degree in paper conservation.
There are only three conservation programs in the United States, but having spent her junior year of college in London, and loving it, Carolyn applied there to one of two paper conservation programs, and was accepted. There are only five to 10 students a year in any of these programs, and the field is highly specialized, she said.
After getting her Master of Arts degree in Paper Conservation from Camberwell College, she spent a year working at the Tate Britain Museum in London. From there she went to the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, MA, one of the busiest facilities of its kind in the country.
"I spent six years there," she said, "and worked in an incredible variety of material. It gave me the confidence that I could handle whatever comes in the door at my own business."
She opened up Works on Paper on The Square in Bellows Falls after moving into the area a year ago. She opened the studio in January, and it's an unusually public site for her profession.
"It's a good space with air conditioning and a sprinkler system," Carolyn said, and she's using the large front window display area to provide some education about her profession.
"I've been really busy, without doing any advertising so far," she said. "Mostly people hear about me through word of mouth and because of having such a public studio site.
"Over the last 10 years people are becoming more aware of how fragile documents can be and how important it is to preserve them."
Over the years she worked on a lot of interesting projects, including early American artworks, the original letters from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, documents from the Baseball Hall of Fame and the contents of Martin Luther King's suitcase from the day he was murdered.
Though she originally thought she'd like to just work with art, she said, "I love working on art and on historical material. My business has a good mix of both art and documents. I love that."