A Father’s Vantage Point

Ken Durham

This year marks a shift in the life of Ken Durham, former owner of Stone-based Abbey Picture Framing, after selling the business he first established on Radford Street 12 years ago. Unbeknownst to Ken until earlier this year, the relocation of the new business – which has been relaunched as framing, printing and photography firm Vantage Point Creative – sees it standing in the same spot Ken’s photography-enthusiast father once stood more than 60 years ago.

Born on Alexandra Street in Stone in 1947, aside from a brief relocation to Scotland for a few years, Ken has found himself set in Stone his entire life. But for someone known locally for his framing skills, it was a passion for cycling that set him on the path to Abbey Framing.

Ken says: “Mum and dad were keen cyclists, so I fell into it at an early age and began to race competitively. However, I was about 17 years old when I realised I wasn’t able to physically push myself any further, but I didn’t really know why at first.”

It turns out a bout of pneumonia when he was a child had caused long-term damage to Ken’s lungs, stopping him from being able to progress in the sport. Still, with a passion for competing on two wheels, he turned to motorcycle racing for fun and glass blowing as a career.

“There was a local factory just down Mill Street that I joined when I left school. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. This place created massive pieces of scientific and laboratory glassware,” he says.

“While my lungs weren’t as tough as they could have been, they were strong enough to keep me blowing glass for more than 20 years.”

It was in the late 70s that Ken decided to leave the scientific side of glass blowing behind and move to Dundee in Scotland to make ships in bottles, which included creating the bottles himself. Ken said:

“I got in with the oil and gas industry, and found myself being asked to make everything from commemorative ships and oil rigs to flowers and railway engines. They then had to be pieced together inside one of these bottles I would have just made.”

Geoff Collier’s original artwork, framed and on display at Vantage Point Creative.

After a short spell there, the call of Stone began to beckon and Ken returned to the town after an opportunity to start a framing business on Radford Street came up. Enter Stone artist Geoff Collier, who has become known locally for his unique interpretations of historic photographs and postcards showcasing the town. Geoff had been wanting to paint a particular angle of the High Street, looking out at it from the alleyway that runs from Crown Court. However, he hadn’t been able to find a photo to use as a reference.

Until he visited Ken’s shop. Ken’s father, who was a keen photographer, had taken a number of shots of Stone’s High Street – Including one from Crown Court – in exactly the position Geoff was after, And it was sitting in Ken’s shop. The painting of the photo now resides inside Vantage Point Creative, the business that took over Abbey Framing and relaunched with additional photography and printing services.

As fate would have it, the location of the new shop is also in the same spot that Ken’s father took the photo of the High Street all those years ago.

How the view looks today

“It’s quite a coincidence and it puts a smile on my face knowing that I can stand in the same spot that my Dad did.”

Ken, who retired after selling Abbey Framing to Vantage Point Creative, has been considering how he wants to spend his spare time. Some might think he’d want to take up his father’s flair for photography. However, Ken intends to retrace some of his old footsteps.

“When I cleared the shop out at the end of last year, I found my old glassblowing equipment,” he says. “I reckon that once I’ve tidied up my garage, I’ll have a dabble at that.”


Photos by Vantage Point, story written by Matt Crabb