SNOWBALL EFFECT

 came across

Probably the most stupid question I ve asked for quite some time, apart from much is the horse?”was towards the end of my time with John. I knew as soon as I d said it, heard the words bounce around the whitewashed walls of Johnhome office, that it was a schoolboy error. , why Joro, does it have some significance to you?" John looked at me for a second... Rowley...Jo, Ro." Fortunately this was at the end of the interview with this former diamond dealer, music agent turned digital artist and businessman, and Ialready asked more eloquent and probing questions.

I came across Joro via an email from one of my advertising team, Leigh. She asked me to take a look at these "cool metal artworks." Now, anyone who has regular contact with ad sales will understand what I mean when I say I had my reservations. But I was presently surprised at what I saw and, more importantly, I spotted the potential for professional photographers instantly.

"The whole idea came about by accident, basically," states the tall, handsome John from the comfort of his padded leather exec chair. "I was fiddling about in Photoshop with an image of my wife and I and came across an effect that reminded me of a friend s wrought iron gate design, in general look anyway. It got my creative juices thinking and a seed of an idea started to grow in my mind."

Up to this point, Johnnormal daily routine, if you can call it that, was dealing with the household names of the music business, helping organise sell-out stadium tours and fielding 3am calls about the suspect nature of the TV brand in the hotel he d booked for his ’(I kid you not!).

Not surprisingly, after many years of dealing with this stratospherically high pressured business (and stupid bloody phone calls!), John was contemplating taking another, more productive career path. "After at least five years on my own, it was one of those Jerry Maguire moments I guess, and I wondered if I could actually turn photographs into metal. I knew you could bend metal into all sorts of shapes, but what about a flat sheet of metal? I still had few clients (and he still does), but they were thinning out-a good few were one-hit wonders I suppose. Anyway, I wanted a new challenge in my working life."

So this is the point at which John went from agent to artist, from responder to creator. first part of the process was to research if it could actually be done," states John. was keen to try and keep the whole process made in the UK and I just didn t know if metal could be cut in this way. Other materials would be fine, but thick metal sheets? I did my research and found a company in Burnley, Lancashire and went to meet them. We tried the first one, the image of my wife and myself I had created using filters in Photoshop and, with hindsight, it was awful; it definitely needed more detail but it was a learning experience. Nevertheless, a friend spotted it and asked if I could do something similar of their children, which I did, and they put it up on their wall and were very happy.”

From here, sporadic orders started to come through from other friends, and friends of friends, who loved the new concept and that it was something very different-metal artwork that could hang on the wall-well, screw to the wall-or be placed in a garden. While all this was going on, John was still dabbling in his agent work, which was now concentrating more on dance music DJs than regular chart artists, but the development didnstop as the orders trickled in.

process needed perfecting from my ’point of view, and as I knew I had something unique, with the help of my lawyers, I started the transaction of patenting the process and product. But I wanted to take Joro up a gear and needed to find a new market for my metal pictures-it needed evolving. In addition, I needed to find a more accurate and more cost effective way of cutting the sheets to the standard I was striving for. The only way, as it turns out, was to use lasers-and pretty big ones. My research went far and wide but eventually I found a company Locally who seemed to be up to the task (and had a laser big enough) and could cut to the level of detail I was striving for.”

John had some moderate success with contacting a few galleries, particularly one in Spitalfields Market, with a preference for the cars that he had created as samples-he managed to sell a few which got him thinking. He then took a stand at the Ideal Home exhibition and the cars were successful there too. "My strategy started to expand in concept and with the success of the cars," says a grinning John, "I took the ambitious step of looking at shows in the US I could take my artworks to. I needed to go to the biggest petrol head show in the world, so I found myself in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Barrett-Jackson car auctions. The response was amazing and I sold three pieces. However, something quite amazing happened while there. One of my show samples was a classic GM car; low and behold, a very senior exec from the company spotted it and tapped me on the shoulder at the show. "Did you know you have broken copyright with that?" was this chapopening gambit. I swallowed hard and stated it came from an image I had permission to use from the owner of the car. To cut a long story short, they loved the concept and have now licensed me to make official products for them!"

John admits that this was way beyond what he d hoped to achieve from the Joro Originals concept, and that this spawned even more business-Hollywood style. And then came Major League Baseball, who loved the idea and have done the same as GM and are in talks about John creating products, memorabilia, etc.

By now Johnnow patented designs has attracted the likes of Naomi Campbell, UK TV show The Apprentice, rocker Liam Gallagher and even US rapper and TV star 50 Cent; they all have John s amazing work hanging in their homes. "Itall rather surreal to think these people have my custom artworks on their walls at home; in fact, the Amy Winehouse Foundation is also in talks with me about a charity piece for them later in the year, in addition, I m in talks with Ford, Aston Martin and Mini too!"

John takes me to see the piece that started it all off all those years ago, which takes pride of place in his dining room. Yes, it lacks detail, and it needed to be concreted into the wall at four places to ensure it stayed there, but it definitely is unique and very different. "Never has the snowball effect analogy been truer than in my case,”says John with a smile, international business has come from this.! switched as I wanted to have more control over my own destiny, to create something and have a product that is owned, and is protected in law, by myself. Gone are the days of 4am parties at dance clubs in Russia-I have grown out of that; I ve three children and I d much rather be spending time with them. I suppose, in a way, Joro Originals has been 25 years in the making. But I am happy now and really love what I do.”

THE PROCESS

Of course, John is not going to give away his now internationally patented process, but every image starts life as a photograph.

John then imports the image into Photoshop on his Macs. The first step is to convert to black and white and then, via a number for filters, posterisation, converting into vectors, and plenty of painting and erasing at individual pixel level, John spends something in the region of 20-30 hours to create each artwork, and thatbefore it goes anywhere near the lasers. Next is to send the result to the client for approval, retouching or modification, which as we all know can take time, and when all parties are happy it goes into manufacturer. Each piece is totally unique in every way, from

a family portrait, an action shot of a polo horse or even a panoramic landscape. The materials they can be cut in are varied, from steel to brass or even copper or some plastics. John now also adds coloured LED lights for ambience, for both indoor and outdoor displays. It takes about two weeks from the original design to receiving the final product, depending on how many changes or alterations the client makes.

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