Frames Aren’t Always Happy Playing a Supporting Role

Framer John Horrocks uses every splinter of wood. Photo by Morgan Ford

Long known for putting frames around paintings, John Horrocks discovered he’s good at making assemblage art out of the material’s remnant mouldings. The look is naturally inspired by the materials — the beautiful woods, both finished and unfinished, and hand-gilded designs that surround him daily. (He and his wife Pat own BlackBird Frame & Art in North Asheville.)

“Usually it starts with a particularly magnificent piece of moulding and flows from the mood it creates and the partnerships it forms with the other materials,” he says. If the design evolves from the outside inward, “that’s just the framer in me — or maybe it’s the mental excursion that happens in the process.”

It’s also about conservation. “We hate to waste such precious material, so I gradually formulated some ideas drawing on my own design aesthetics and an affinity for geometric patterns.” 

A Way ; Photo by Morgan Ford

He goes on, “Much like a good frame draws the viewer into the art, these works typically have an inward focus. But, since there is seldom another piece of art involved, they’re actually focused on themselves. And that’s the experience … I hope the viewer takes away from them.” He occasionally incorporates a small piece of art in an assemblage. “It usually remains hidden,” he says, “until the viewer manipulates a piece of the design to reveal the art.”

Horrocks began making the assemblages as holiday gifts for his employees, customizing each to the recipients’ personalities. They, in turn, encouraged him to take his art to the next level and make the pieces available to the public. Ranging in size from 5-by-5 feet to the smallest at 5-by-7 inches, they’re logistically versatile, too: most can be hung either vertically or horizontally.

Top Left: Moon Family ; Top Right: Blackpatch ; Bottom Left: Fly ; Bottom Right: Chance ; Photos by Morgan Ford

Horrocks began as a hobby framer; then a shop became available in Florida in the early 1990s. “I was seeking a creative outlet and the challenge of a small retail business. It was a perfect fit with my interests. Pat joined me within a year.” The couple moved to Asheville and opened BlackBird in March 2003.

He notes that, in addition to the framing services, BlackBird has always carried art, which currently includes original prints (etchings, woodcuts, etc.), along with selections from MoMA’s proprietary line and other items.

Returning to his own creative work, Horrocks grows philosophical. “I’m sure these beautiful mouldings, tired of always playing a supporting role, harbor secret desires to become art themselves. They just use me to fulfill their fantasies.”

Assemblage with untitled Robert Farber Polaroid transfer reproduction. Photo by Morgan Ford

John Horrocks, BlackBird Frame & Art, 65 Merrimon Ave., Asheville. For more information, call 828-225-3117 or see

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