The Hidden Art of the Art World
Have you ever looked at an extraordinary piece of artwork, and wondered about the frame
that holds it all together? Did you even see it? Frames are the hidden art of the art world;
in their own right they are great works, complete with skill and craftsmanship just like that of
any painter or photographer. Not only do frames accentuate a piece, but they also protect it.
John Jones is one of the best-kept secrets in the UK’s art world. If you have visited any of the major London art shows, you will have seen the frames of John Jones. A powerhouse in the world of framing, John Jones is a family-owned organisation that provides bespoke frames of museum standard for prestigious art organisations such as TATE, the V&A, National Portrait Gallery, Victoria Miro Gallery, Whitechapel, Waddingtons and Sotheby’s. He also framed the current TATE Britain exhibition How We Are: Photographing Britain, which looks at the heritage of photography, from early pioneers to those breaking new ground today.
The company’s history is as intriguing as the work they do. John Jones, himself, set the company up in the 1960s with his brother. Having no formal training in framing, his eye for detail, ingenuity, and determination not to accept “no” for an answer drove the company from its beginnings to become a leading framer not only in the UK but also in the industry worldwide. Before design software such as Autocad, John Jones were making moulds individually. This persistence for perfection has led them to not only be a leader in the field, but also an innovator by continuously developing new techniques.
John Jones’ quest for perfection in high quality frames has resulted in its revered status throughout the art world, creating exceptionally crafted frames for any masterpiece, be it cutting-edge photography or classic works from Old Masters. The in-house team of seventy highly skilled employees and craftspeople uphold the traditional craft for a new generation. From John Jones’ initial foray into the fine-art industry during the 1960s, working with Francis Bacon and David Hockney, they are currently working with designers such as Ralph Lauren and photographers from Mario Testino and Rankin to David Bailey.
The workshop is impressive at 38,000sq feet, and everything being done in-house from early consultation to woodcutting from their in-house mill, to spraying and finishing touches. John Jones’ name is synonymous with perfection. Kate Jones says, “the first thing we need to find out is where the work is going, is it a show, an auction or a home? We need to discern what kind of light the artwork will receive, the temperature or humidity. Is it safe for the artwork? We always look at different options for glazing.”
John Jones work with each client on an individual basis, advising firstly on the ultimate preservation materials and techniques to protect the work of art, and secondly on the best design concept to maximise the impact of the work. Their knowledge and design capabilities appeal not only to galleries and artists, but also to interior designers and architects. Their bespoke quality frames are created in-house for artists, designers, collectors and dealers, and each frame is a masterpiece in itself, having been handcrafted by a highly professional team of master craftsmen
As such an innovative and successful framers, one of the biggest highlights for John Jones over five decades of framing was to further develop museums standard framing. Christian Jones says; “As such, it was a bold step, and we could have fallen on our faces. Many of the galleries were familiar with a particular style of frame, but what we’ve managed to do is keep the costs down, but bring the standard up.”
John Jones also offer a photography studio and production of limited editions prints. Kate says; “We specialise in photographing art to capture the colour and texture, it seemed a natural progression for us because artists wanted their work to be photographed, and it just grew organically.” She continues, “The positive feedback that we received because we work in the art industry, and because we understand the way that artists think and the nature of art, there is a big difference for artists to come to us, than to go to a repro-house.”
At John Jones, their motto is “to protect and preserve”; and there are many plans in the pipeline, which include education workshops about preservation, and offering learning opportunities for students.
After touring the workshop, and seeing John Jones’s skill and craft firsthand, it will be hard to look at a frame again with the same eyes. www.johnjones.co.uk