Kate Jones is Business Development Director of master framers John Jones London. She discusses gilding, glow boxes and good installation.
Featured image photo credit: © Joe Lord – The Angel Resident
Who are you working with at the moment?
This week we finished the Horst P. Horst retrospective at The V&A. We’ve also done the medal presentation boxes for the London Design Festival, a personal project for Ralph Lauren and 15 new photographic works for the Tate Modern plus a glow box for a Banksy. It’s pretty diverse!
What does ‘museum quality framing’ mean?
We have a reputation for design but we come from a conservation standpoint first and foremost. We use museum-approved materials, which need to be as inert as possible: over time the backing board, spray, adhesive and so on release chemicals which can react with sunlight, air-conditioning and humidity to damage a painting. We make the internal frame environment as controlled as possible. We also use UV glass unless a client requests not to.
You are known for your gilding.
Gilding is something that never goes out of fashion: it represents importance and value and you can use it on anything, even contemporary art. We have a team of six gilders, and it takes two years to train them in house. It’s very precise work: as well as using different golds, they also lay different colours of clay under the leaf, for example purples, blues, greys and greens, then burnish the leaf with agate. This way you get different tones coming through. Colour matching is an exact science: if the right shade is pulled out of a picture it really pops off the wall.
What does one need to think about when choosing a frame?
We first look at what the art needs from a conservation standpoint. We then look at whether there’s any particular framing style the artist prefers: for example Martin Parr likes his photographs to be framed very simply, while Francis Bacon liked gilt frames. John Jones told us that Bacon used to request the glazing was as reflective as possible: he wanted the viewer to see themselves in the work. Then the client has to choose a frame: the designer will know very quickly what will look best but the client still needs to work through options. We can turn the frame up or down – ie it can be invisible or make a statement. Then of course we look at where the work is going to go.
And for installation?
Again you need to start from a conservation standpoint: we look at sunlight, heat sources, humidity, whether there will be children running around. If the room is formal we go for a classic setting, if it has a contemporary feel we look at other options. For example we recently filled a wall vertically rather than horizontally. We look at the weight of the art – we use something called split batons for very heavy works. If centring you need to consider the placement of anything from light switches to furniture as well as wall edges. We have a lighting partner, TM Lighting, who we work with very closely. All our installers work incredibly closely with clients, are highly experienced and have curatorial backgrounds, so they can look at an empty house and create a scheme for an entire collection or when placing an important new piece in a room they can then help rearrange the collection to suit it.
Have you ever done a very technical installation?
Yachts are fun! Conservation is always an issue, with motion, salt and humidity – we have materials like Artsorb which absorbs damp. And obviously we have to make sure it’s very secure on the wall.
What new materials and finishes are you using?
We’re making a lot more glow boxes. We launched them in 2012 but they’re just taking off now. They are very low in heat and incredibly thin so they don’t jut out from the wall the way old light boxes used to. We’ve also done a few neon frames, either sprayed timber or neon Perspex. For the latter we’ve developed a frame which sits away from the wall so that the light shines through it, creating a neon glow which is really cool. We’ve also been mounting on linen and velvet, or a sheet of black Perspex which gives a hint of high black gloss. Matt [Managing Director, John Jones’ son] is always experimenting with new things.
Which gallery’s installation do you most admire?
Tim Jefferies at Hamiltons Gallery has amazing vision when it comes to framing and presentation. He really invests in thinking about how art and frame interact.
Is your home full of art?
Yes! We recently moved to a converted barn which is filled with beams, and there isn’t a flat wall anywhere. The installation team had a real challenge!