'a' conversation with Banton Frameworks

September 19, 2017

Continuing the countdown to the launch of our new jewellery collections for both men and women, we talk to some of our contemporaries who hold similar values and design principles to the team here at Alice Made This. Today we speak to Jamie Bartlett, co-founder of Banton Frameworks, about their passion for process and manufacturing, love of understated aesthetics and their collection of focused and functional eyewear.

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“It was never an action of business intent,” Jamie tells me. “The business came afterwards, evolving naturally from Lucy's final year University project in 2012. The brief, at the time, involved the design of eyewear, experimenting and implementing various materials like wood and plastic. With a shared interest for materials and processes, I accompanied Lucy to aid her project. Equally as curious to see if we could make a pair of functional glasses, the project stemmed from there, as did our relationship.”

“We have since spent five years learning how to make glasses frames. It was only on our journey that we realised we could feasibly make an accessible product. It just kept going.”

Founded by Lucy Ross and Jamie Bartlett in 2012, Banton Frameworks balance the industrial skills of UK manufacturing with minimal design to offer their collection of paired back eyewear. Their intention has always been to design quality eyewear that is not only designed in the UK, but made here too. Sharing Alice Made This’ respect for British factories and engineering methods, I ask Jamie more about the story and processes behind their products.  

“The UK optical industry once consisted of a thousand individual factories, collectively producing over 5 million frames a year,” he says. “Sadly this industry has long since gone and only a handful of these factories remain. This compelling discovery directed us away from the notion of outsourcing our manufacture completely. Inspired by this formative frame making industry, we decided there and then that we wanted to be the manufacturer. Looking forward, we realise that as young designers it is our responsibility to direct where our industry goes next. It is our intention to design and manufacture refined and accessible eyewear for a growing market in a way that supports UK industry.”

“We have this annoyance with the eyewear market,” he says. “It's like all the big companies sat down one day and said 'let’s make 1001 different frame models, all slightly different from the next and call them outlandish names to make them seem more interesting.' When we started Banton Frameworks, we decided from the outset that our collections would remain small, ranging in style across four to six models. We feel this is more concise, less intimidating to navigate and also reflects our stance as designers. Less is more.”

“As such, we like to celebrate and showcase our processes that go into our production”, he continues. “When people realise we are making them here in the UK ourselves, we notice a greater connection between the user and the product. We source high quality materials and apply our in-house processes to produce eyewear that we ourselves would want to wear. Eyewear, designed well, made well, here.”

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At Alice Made This we are inspired and driven by the people and processes behind the doors of factories up and down the country. Whether it’s our Aerospace factory that usually makes aeroplane parts, our Royal Household casting house in London’s Hatton Garden or our expert Silversmith in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, all of our men’s and women’s jewellery collections have stories of industry behind them. From our gold and silver circle earrings and necklace pairings, to the brass and steel cufflinks you can see photographed, we create minimal jewellery that can be easily styled with Banton Frameworks’ refined glasses. As both design and production make up such crucial components of their business, I ask Jamie how he and Lucy split their time.

“We were recently talking about how we work and how we would describe our differences in terms of strengths and approaches,” he tells me. “Lucy is digital and I am inescapably analogue. This isn't my way of metaphorically saying that opposites attract. It's just that Lucy is more likely to use her laptop to solve a problem. I'm more likely to get out a pair of mole-grips - my weapon of choice.”

“Although we met at University, we came from fairly different backgrounds. Lucy has a greater and more intrinsic relationship with design and art than I do. Her family certainly imposed and supported creative interest through her childhood which, in my opinion, developed her career respectively. Having previously run a business with her sister, her kindred experience laid the foundations for what we went on to do together. Lucy's confidence had been set and if it wasn't for her determination, we wouldn't be doing what we are doing. My business and design background isn't quite so salubrious, mostly consisting of fleeting side projects which I have been told not to mention…”

“Lucy is certainly more digitally orientated towards the aspects of what we do in business. She is fluent in 3D modelling and her literacy with the Adobe suite still outstrips mine. My strengths are born from a practical background. I very much learn with my hands and have always had a habit of taking things apart. This has come in helpful as I have had to build some of our own machinery and equipment as part of our production and processes. Balancing design and production, our varied skills help to maintain both elements.”

It’s no secret that running a business as a couple is hard work, but with complimentary skills sets and a lot of patience it can evolve into one of the most effective and fruitful types of business partnerships. I conclude our chat by asking Jamie how (and if) they switch off from work, to ensure that their precise collections and honest pieces are produced as efficiently and harmoniously as possible.

“Unfortunately work/ life balance isn't something we have yet had the pleasure of”, he finishes. “It is still a seven day week affair however things aren't quite as manic as they were in the early years when we started out. I'd like to think we are much like other couples in business, sharing strong interests for the same things. As we are still working every day, we routinely fill the gaps with what we believe to be a manageable and beneficial hobby. Most days, we both exercise together in our workshop. Various bar bells and weights are involved which has long been a crucial work distraction. Weightlifting is pretty 'on trend' right now but it's something we have always done. We highly recommend it to anyone, especially working couples who like to get the most out of each other! Our other escape also stems from lifting. We both love food and a great interest of ours is cooking together. I think it's the creativity and health benefits to great fresh food that we love so much. It's something we both really enjoy doing in between working.”

Learn more about Banton Frameworks and their collections here.

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