by Jez Bond

A fantastic meeting with Kate Jones of John Jones today. We met at her site and I embarked on a fascinating tour of the building. The immense amount of detailed work and craftsmanship that goes into the creation of a frame is quite magical. From the warehouse where the raw wood comes in to the room where it is cut and then sanded, from the custom made metal teeth that sit in their machines to carve out intricate edgings to the paint room where sprays and finishes are applied, it truly is a wonderland of creativity. It was in the gilding area where I found myself most intrigued and as I engaged in a conversation with the gilder he kindly went about showing me how the process worked:

A piece of gold leaf, thinner than a tissue and so delicate that it is protected from the draft by a barrier that sits perpendicular to the base of its home, is being turned by the gilder. It crinkles with a thousand creases, it folds back on itself and just as all looks lost the man expertly blows down on the gold which flattens perfectly to his command. He skillfully places a knife beneath it and turns it over, showing us that, with the right tools and know-how, one can easily handle even the most delicate of materials. He then generously applies a watered down solution of rabbit gut glue to the pre-painted frame with a brush. Next he moves a different, wider headed, brush against the hairs on his arm in order to produce static electricity, then in one masterful move the gold leaf obediently hops onto the brush and is held there perfectly. Carefully he places the leaf above the frame and gently moves his hand down until, in another beautifully orchestrated movement, the leaf abandons the gentle grasp of the brush and envelopes itself to the frame. With a dab of cotton wool the excess solution is wiped away, the gold leaf is polished and, having used the oldest of technologies passed down through generations with no reliance on modern tools, the frame is ready to hang in all its glory.

I felt extremely privileged to have witnessed this art – Kate didn’t know how many people in the country were able to do this but the number would be very low. In fact John Jones is one of the few places, worldwide, where you can train in techniques such as this.

Sadly I was unable to show Kate anything as exciting as gilding, but happily talked her through the plans and gave her a tour of our site. We were both extremely positive about our joint projects – which, interestingly, have a similar time frame – and about various ways in which we can work together. I refer back to my previous blog ‘One Tesco Aint Gonna Change The World’ and, as I said then, a few organisations together – such as The Park Theatre and John Jones for a start – can create a new cultural landscape in Finsbury Park.

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