Mirror Man - Joe McCarthy

Mirror Man - Joseph McCarthy

The Pantiles, a charming shopping centre in Tunbridge Wells owned by Targetfollow, is home to master craftsman Joseph McCarthy and his bespoke framing service

Joseph McCarthy Mirror1 Joseph McCarthy Mirror2

The long established company Joseph McCarthy designs and sells mirrors in stunning frames from its base in The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells.

The company dates back to 1837, when Bloomsbury Frameworks traded in central London. It specialised in the production of 'composition ornament' for frames, supplying many leading public and private collections.

This early Golden Age saw the birth of the National Portrait Gallery (1856), the V&A (1857), The National Gallery (1884) and the Tate (1897), originally as 'The National Gallery of British Art'.

The intricate decoration was created using exquisitely detailed reverse-carvings in boxwood and the moulds still exist.

Now known as the Bloomsbury Collection, the 3000 moulds belong to Joseph (Joe), as he worked for Bloomsbury Frameworks for many years, starting as an apprentice. When the last family member, Peter Binning, died in 2005, the firm was incorporated into Joseph McCarthy (Fine Frames) Ltd.

This move ensured the Bloomsbury Collection, described by the Tate as 'of extraordinary cultural significance' was kept together and, as Joe explains, is still regularly used. 'The quality of the carving is exquisite. They are the Rolls Royce of frame making.'

Joe has been in the business for 35 years. 'I was a keen painter and wanted to create my own frames - so it went from there,' he says.

He explains that the art of creating a frame for a mirror takes time. 'Style, size and finish are key, and I often visit houses or businesses to see exactly where it is to be placed.'

Joe says that people like traditional and contemporary designs in equal measure, adding: 'They like to mix classic styles with contemporary details - holographic detail is popular at the moment, it looks different in different lights.'

Not only does the company, which employs three full time members of staff and two part timers, create frames for mirrors but it also offers a restoration service.

Joe, whose wife Liz is also involved in the business, has four children and is in for a busy year as he is expanding his workshops. 'We are moving into a former garage on London Road, opposite The Pantiles, and we are able to create just the interior space we need. It should be light and airy, too.'

And there are always new developments to take on board. One of the latest innovations is the ability to have televisions within mirrors. 'The televisions are German, Loewe, and it is a growing market. The mirrors look great and then, when you want them to, you can turn them into a screen,' explains Joe.

Joseph McCarthy, The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, visit http://www.josephmccarthy.co.uk

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