Photo of Owen Frampton by Aziz Cami
Inspired Opinion by Aziz Cami of The Partners
(published in Design Week)
There have been many important influences in my career, including the seminal National Theatre posters of the late 1960s created by my first employer Ken Briggs and the astonishing - and seemingly endless - stream of big ideas from Minale Tattersfield in the 1970s. And no one of my generation could ignore the quiet explosion of talent that was John Gorham.
But the truly inspirational force on me was my art teacher at Bromley Technical High School, Owen Frampton.
Two great, public examples of the results of his motivational genius as a teacher are his son, Peter, and David Jones (Bowie), who recalls 'Mr Frampton' as 'an excellent art teacher and an inspiration'. Others include Brian Grimwood and George Underwood.
The school 'losers' - the art stream - weren't a lost cause for him. How to look immaculate (trim and petite in brown suede shoes) and impeccable manners were the least he taught us.
His ambition to have his secondary school course recognised as an accredited pre-Diploma year by art colleges was uniquely fulfilled in 1967. He achieved this by encouraging a passion for design which involved us designing book jackets, album covers, TV credits, posters, fabrics, ceramics and furniture at the age of 16.
Most of his pupils took advantage of his pre-Diploma year and went on to art college or straight into design and advertising agencies (often as a result of an introduction from him via his extensive network of professional contacts).
Without Frampton's early influence on my life I wouldn't have known that such a thing as design existed, let alone embraced it as a career. 'Thank you, Sir.'
From George Underwood's Biography
When I went to Bromley Tech it had just been built, therefore it had no previous history as such. The history of that school began with us and everyone there in 1958. In the third year we were divided up into 'streams'- languages, technical, engineering etc and of course Art, wonderful Art. The Art stream meant doing less academic subjects and spending more time doing woodwork and lots of Art. Marvellous!
Our Art teacher was Owen Frampton. He had experience as a graphic designer and guided us through the various skills of drawing, painting, graphics and typography, very similar to a foundation course at Art college. Mr Frampton's aim was for us all to leave the Art stream with 'A' level Art and a portfolio of high standard work. He would even arrange job interviews for us with Ad Agencies, and nine times out of ten the people we showed our work to were impressed. In my case, the Art director I went to see was so impressed he told me to go to Art college. The job I was going for was a 'Junior Visualiser', which basically meant 'dogs-body' for at least a year, then work your way up. When he asked me what I wanted to be, I boldly answered 'an illustrator'. 'Sorry, we don't have a vacancy for an illustrator at the moment'. He said, which totally threw me. Anyway, we got talking and he thought Art college would be the the best direction for me to take. So that's what I did. You could say that Owen Frampton was more important to me than the school itself, but it was a package deal.
From Paul Ruffle's Biography
Although I passed my 11-plus exam (which as I recall was an IQ test), I was sent to Bromley Technical High School for Boys in Kent (now Ravens Wood School), rather than the more local Beckenham Grammar School (and thankfully not Oakfield School, the worst boy's school in south-east London). This suited my abilities (not that I had much idea of what my abilities were), as in the third year we were divided up into streams - languages, technical, engineering and, as it turned out most importantly for me, art. The art stream meant doing less academic subjects and spending more time doing art related subjects, although I also did well at maths and physics.
Our art teacher was Owen Frampton (father of Peter Frampton). He had experience as a graphic designer and guided us through the various skills of drawing, painting, graphic design and typography, very similar to a foundation course at art college. He also taught us history of architecture for the written part of the A level art exam. Another teacher in the art department, Brian Eacersall, taught us furniture design in conjunction with our woodwork lessons. We also had a Polish art teacher called Mr Pilowski, who was as mad as a hatter. This was all quite unique for a group of boys aged 14-16 in the mid-sixties.
Mr Frampton's aim (we called him Ossie) was for us all to leave the Art stream with an A level in art and a portfolio of decent work. He had contacts in ad agencies and art studios, and he would arrange job interviews for us, and that's how I got my first job in 1967 with London art studio George Godman Ltd in Fareham Street (off Dean Street). The studio sent me to St Martins School of Art, but I learnt a lot more from Owen Frampton.
Obituary by Chris Welch published on 18 October 2005 in The Independent, London
Art-teacher father of Peter Frampton whose pupils also included the future David Bowie
Owen Gordon Frampton, art teacher: born London 6 April 1919; married 1941 Peggy Ffitch (two sons); died Hawkhurst, Kent 16 September 2005.
Owen Frampton was an inspirational teacher who encouraged his son Peter Frampton to become a rock star and was an influence on the early career of David Bowie. He gave Peter his first guitar lessons and taught Bowie art - when the boy who became Ziggy Stardust was still "David Jones".
Bowie and Frampton were both pupils at Beckenham Technical School in Bromley, Kent, where Frampton père was head of an extensive art department. While his wartime record as an officer in the Royal Artillery contrasted with his work as a teacher, in both roles he was a noted for his compassion and devotion to duty.
Known as "Mr Frampton" or "Ossie" to generations of pupils, Owen Frampton was born in Kennington, London, in 1919. His father was a Royal Navy submariner based at Chatham, Kent; the Frampton family moved from south London to Sheerness to be closer to the naval dockyard. Before the Second World War, Frampton was educated in Beckenham, where he met his future wife, Peggy Ffitch, at the age of 13. He later studied for a degree at Goldsmiths' College in New Cross, intending to become a teacher. He played guitar in the college dance band.
After the outbreak of war in 1939 he joined the Army and became a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He married Peggy at St John's Church, Eden Park, in 1941. Their marriage lasted 64 years, but after a five-day honeymoon they would not see each other again for five years.
During the war Frampton saw action as a gunner in North Africa, in Sicily and at Monte Cassino in Italy. In 1945 he stayed on in Austria, and was involved in the repatriation of Russian prisoners of war. However, as White Russians they had fought on the side of the Germans and faced a grim future if returned to the Soviet Union. Peter Frampton says:
My father had been put in charge of the Russian prisoners. He got to know them well and didn't care what country they came from. He put on concerts and shows and looked after them. Then he was ordered to send a trainload of White Russians back to Russia. When the empty train came back, the carriages were stained with blood. The prisoners, including women and children, had killed themselves, because they knew what fate awaited them. At that point my father resigned and said he would not send another train back. Many years later he was interviewed on BBC radio about what had been one of the great secrets of the war.
In 1946 Frampton came home to England and studied in the evenings at Beckenham Art School while teaching design, lithography, printing, photography, ceramics and painting at Beckenham Technical School. He was still studying when his son Peter was born in April 1950. He became head of an expanded art department as the school moved from Beckenham to Bromley. His pre-Diploma course enabled many pupils to go straight to art college.
His son Peter went to the Technical High School for a year before moving on to Bromley Grammar:
My father was very good at finding the passion for art within his students. One of his pupils, George Underwood, became a painter and designed three David Bowie album covers, Space Oddity, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust.
David and George encouraged Peter to play guitar in their group:
It was 1962 and I was 12 years old. My dad had taught me my first guitar chords. He used to leave the art-block door open so we could bring our guitars in and play Buddy Holly songs.
David Bowie recalls Owen Frampton as
an excellent art teacher and an inspiration . . . Most of his pupils went on to art school and I went to an advertising agency as a designer.
However, Peter had some problems being at the same school as his father:
I didn't enjoy calling him "Sir". My younger brother Clive stayed at the school for five years, but I left after a fracas with one of the pupils my dad didn't get on with. I was beaten up after school. That's why I was sent to Bromley Grammar, although David and George stayed on. When David saw me on Top of the Pops with my first group, the Herd, he shouted: "That's Peter - he should be at school!"
My dad was my first manager. When the Herd asked me to join, he said, "If Peter worked at the post office he'd get £15 a week. So he should get the same in the Herd." As it turned out the band earned a lot more but I still only got my £15. Dad didn't think about that. I got rid of him as my manager after that!
Mr and Mrs Frampton went to see their son perform many times when he became a star with Humble Pie and a highly successful solo artist. In 1976, Frampton Comes Alive sold 12 million copies and was hailed as the biggest-selling "live" album of all time. Peter invited his parents to America and, when Owen retired aged 60, they lived near their son in New York State.
After five years, however, they returned to live in Sussex. Owen Frampton became ill in his last years but stayed in touch with his former pupils as well as his sons Peter and Clive, who sang a specially composed tribute song, "Not Forgotten", at his memorial service.
Teaching David Bowie
During his time as head of Bromley Technical High School art department in the 1960s, Owen Frampton not only taught design luminaries such as Brian Grimwood and Aziz Cami, but also music legend David Bowie.
Design Week published an extract from the draft copy of Owen Frampton's book Our Way: the Autobiography of a Teacher of Art & Design (The Frampton Papers), written in the mid 1970s, in which he reminisces about teaching Bowie and Grimwood. It was hoped Grimwood would be designing the book cover, but the book is yet to be published.