Left to right: Eric Johnson, Trevor Davis, Tim Holton.
Holton Studio Frame-Makers is the studio of frame-makers Timothy Holton and Trevor Davis.
After 18 years in picture framing, Timothy Holton (biography) founded Holton Studio Frame-Makers in 1993 at its current location in Emeryville, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area, next to Berkeley and Oakland).
Originally called Holton Furniture and Frame, its mission was to operate as a designer/maker studio in the tradition of the Arts and Crafts Movement, producing wooden frames, mirrors, lighting and occasional furniture. In 1999 the name of the business was changed to reflect our focus on framing and our expertise in frame-making — Tim’s primary trade since 1975.
Along with Tim, the artisans that make up the Studio are Trevor Davis and Eric Johnson. While Tim, as owner, gets to have his name on the shingle over the door, Trevor and Eric are every bit as instrumental to making the 600-700 frames the shop produces a year.
Trevor joined the studio in the winter of 1998. Raised in Berkeley, in a family of Arts and Crafts enthusiasts — the metal work of his father, Audel Davis, is highly regarded in Arts and Crafts circles — he has brought to Holton Studio an enormous talent for frame-making and design. A fourth generation Californian and an avid fisherman and backpacker, he spends as much time as he can wandering the landscape of his native state. While Tim’s frame-making time is limited by sales, design and operational responsibilities, Trevor is in the woodshop full-time continually honing his craft. With a keen eye for paintings and the pictorial arts, his sensibilities are also key to framing design as well as the direction of the gallery.
Eric Johnson came to the Studio in January of 2006, a transplant from El Paso, Texas. A former student at California College of the Arts, he's an accomplished painter — and loaded with the expertise to make him our crackerjack finisher. In addition to this vital role, he often assists Trevor and Tim in joining and sanding frames. Not the least of his jobs is packing and shipping frames, making sure they reach our customers looking as good as they did when they left our hands.
DESIGN. The art of framing begins with designing the right frame for a particular picture. Frame designs are developed by using corner samples to establish wood and finish, and size and proportion relative to the matting (where matting is used) and the picture. Samples also help establish the frame design, although because our capacities aren’t limited to the corner samples on hand, they often simply provide the basis for new designs. Our goal is the optimum enhancement of each picture in its individuality and larger architectural surrounding, and a setting that is in every way harmonious with the picture — with respect to line and form, proportion, color, texture and mood. The well-framed picture is in its ideal home and is hard to imagine in any other place but that frame. Above all, our aim is to restore as closely as possible, through the vital link of the picture frame, the fundamental and essential unity of architecture and the pictorial and decorative arts.
Key to our approach is an understanding of framing for the home as fundamentally different from gallery and museum framing, which we believe has overly influenced how individuals frame pictures to live with. While pictures in commercial galleries and museums are separate and isolated from everyday life, framing pictures for the home affords the opportunity to treat them as accents in a unified and harmonious decorative scheme, integral to and enhancing with meaning the daily life of the home. To this end, our work bucks the trends of conventional framing which tends variously to showiness and pretentiousness (the frame as packaging to sell the picture), the indifferent affect of “gallery” treatments (thin, square frame profiles and white mats), or the “designer” custom frame shop’s clever multi-colored matting and elaborate (but poorly made) constructs from mass-produced molding. Instead, the Studio has returned to a more grounded, basic approach that relies on the simple and direct presentation of pictures in thoughtfully designed, well-crafted hardwood frames. Examples of some work we’re most proud of are on our Portfolio page.
FRAME-MAKING. A picture can only be well-framed if it’s in a well-made frame. Holton Studio Frame-Makers is dedicated to the revival of the art and craft of cabinetmakers’ frames – the oldest frame tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages and practiced by true woodwrights as one of the acknowledged decorative arts. We are exceptional among frame shops today, taking our craft seriously to the degree that every frame we make starts with raw materials — rough-milled beautiful hardwoods — and is executed with tried-and-true joinery and other furniture-making methods and skills. This allows for not only the most careful selection of wood and sound construction and finish, but also means the design process is more organic and free, and can be inspired entirely by the needs of the picture and its setting — as it should be. With this approach we return the art of the frame to its basis in beautiful materials, timeless craft traditions, and the design purpose of adapting to the adjacent arts of architecture and pictures, comfortably integrated with them and their role in the everyday life of the home. A humbler tradition of frame-making, cabinetmakers’ frames are an essentially vernacular form, refreshingly both rooted and free, grounded in “simple” tastes but also expressive of the ordinary joy of making things for honorable purpose, making them well, and making them “for beauty’s sake and not for show.”