Combining visual art with eyewear seemed a natural extension of his business for Dr. J. Carter Johnston, a optometrist with 21 years of practice in the metro.
“From an eyewear standpoint, some of these unique, handcrafted models are definitely art,” Johnston said. “They go together with other forms of art, so we thought why not have an optical shop with a gallery.”
Much like custom jewelry, custom eyewear is designed with artistry in mind. Wearable art is art, as paintings and photography can be art. Forma, Optics and Art, the new optical shop meets art gallery in Automobile Alley is the creation of Johnston, his fiancée and local artist Ashley Forrest, and his longtime partner in business, optician Ben Blasi.
“Ben and I have been together for a little over 11 years at our Mercy (hospital) office,” Johnston said. “I’ve had the idea for several years to have a second location in or around downtown to serve a different clientele.”
After looking at spaces all over the urban core, Johnston chose a location on Broadway. “We were about to pull the trigger when COVID hit hard, so I had all this extra time in my schedule because we weren’t taking appointments. I thought it through, and we chose a space that has what we needed for the art, as well as room for Sahara Obaid, our downtown optician, and room to grow.”
Forrest curates the collection of local, national and international art on the walls and in the display cases. Yes, it’s for sale. Familiar names like Denise Duong, Kris Kanaly and Matt Goad have pieces on display, and internationally famous Brazilian jewelry artist Gissa Bichalo is also represented in the gallery, one of only three locations where her work is available in the U.S.
Johnston said the downtown location has four lines of eyewear not available at his Mercy office. Sabine-Be and Portrait are the only two available in Oklahoma at Forma. The store also carries Lindberg eyewear; the Denmark-based company racks up design awards every year, so they’re a fitting addition to an optical shop focused on aesthetics.
Forma is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Johnston said they will book appointments with an optician outside of normal hours, including home visits that would include 30-40 pairs of frames chosen ahead of time, based on a consultation. It’s another way of making the eyewear business more user friendly.