Creativity Corner Inspirational People

stuart haygarth – the interview

June 6, 2013

Back in November 2012 i wrote a post on the british artist stuart haygarth’s amazing strand installation. For those of you, who don’t click on links, here is a picture of it. Looks familiar?

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Back then, i promised to visit his studio and interview the man himself. Well, it happened. I hope you enjoy and find it as inspiring as i do.

Meet stuart haygarth.

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What did you study and what was your first job ? I went to exeter school of art and design, did a graphic design degree specialising in photography. I graduated with a first class honours degree, came to london with some friends and got a job as a photographers assistant for a couple of years. After that i set up on my own as a commercial photographer for about two years. That’s when the recession hit, around 1991. I decided that instead of struggling through this time, i’ll go and travel so off i went to africa and india.

What happened next? When i came back to london i rented a studio in shoreditch and thought i’ll set up as a photographer again. I kind of lost interest. The notion of working for art directors and shooting their ideas didn’t excite me any longer and i felt it wasn’t creative enough. I decided to re-invent myself and became a kind of 3D illustrator. I found objects, created room sets, lit them and recorded it on film. I created a new portfolio and went around magazines and publishing houses. To my surprise it all started rather quickly. I got commissions from GQ, esquire, and men’s health magazine amongst others.

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Why do you think it took off quickly? The work i was showing was new and different and although there were some people doing collage stuff, no one was doing it the way i did. I carried on for 15 years. After about 12 years I started to get bored because people saw my work and came and asked for the same piece i’d done for a previous commission but in a different colour. Once again, i started feeling creatively unfulfilled and was yearning for a change.

So, how did you make the leap to your current re-invention? That’s difficult to pinpoint. In my spare time I started experimenting in my studio. Because of the illustrations i was doing i had always collected objects from either car boot sales or the streets. I’ve always been an avid collector and hoarder and have always been interested in still life. For my illustrations i had to source many objects, so there was a natural progression. Most of my collection is actually in storage. I have two shipping containers in essex. Storage and finding room to work in is a continuous battle.

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Tell us how your first installation came about? I used to live near tate modern and i went for a walk with my late dog. It was the first day of the year 2000. There was a field of champagne bottels and party poppers. I thought the party poppers looked amazing so went back and filled up about five bin liners. I was interested that all these party poppers were exploded at the same time for the same purpose, to celebrate the millenium. There was something historically signifacnt about these objects. I had those in the studio for about 4 years and made the millenium chalendelier in 2004. I also used to go to dungeness, on the kent coastline, with my late dog and there was so much stuff on the beach to collect. That’s how the tide chandelier came about. I decided to be more specific about my collecting, to only collect anything made from transparent and translucent plastic. Once you start looking, there is a lot of stuff out there. I would put it in a rucksack, bring it back and clean it. Then i’d go though it and categorise it. I’m really into categorising objects by function, colour et cetera. My work today has a lot to do with categorising, finding patterns in things, trying to make sense of the world.

Yet again, your work took off in no time. What in your opinion contributed to it?  I believe that by the time i showed ‘millenium’, ‘the tide’ and then the disposable chandelier, made from disposible champagne flute at designers block in 2007 it was the zeitgeist of people wanting something different. There was lots of boring design around at that time. Lots of repeats that have been done before but with new materials. So i think my work kind of stood out and i got a lot of good press and it took off from there.

What made you do your installations in a form of a light? I don’t know, I get asked that quite frequently. As a photographer i’ve always been interested in lights and how light reacts to objects, goes through materials, and atmospheres that can be created from lighting. I’ve also always been into sculpture. I guess i kind of combined these interests, sculpture – photography – lighting. I do see things from a photographers point of view, how light falls on things and creates shapes and patterns.

Can you part with your art easily? Yes, no problem at all. As long as i take photographs and have a record. I’m more interested in what is coming next.

For the collectors and hoarders amongst us. Where is a good beach to find stuff? Den helder in holland is a great beach for collecting. 

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Your installations are big and complex. How do you work? I work on several projects at a time. For this i have a team that i can trust to get on with it. They kind of build the installations. I design them and regularly overlook all the work.

Who influences you? I’m more influenced by artists than designers and enjoy art shows much more than design shows. I find that, especially for the home interior market, there is very little new out there. The Bouroullec brothers are quite interesting because they take more risks. Interestingly one is an architect and the other a sculptor. I believe that as artists and designers we should be creating new and interesting pieces and not regurgitate the old.

In terms of your current work, could you see yourself in the future designing a product, sculpture or installation that is scaleable? Yes, i don’t see why not. If i were to be asked i would definitely consider it. It’ll be an interesting challenge to produce something for a larger market. I’m not at all against mass production, but would aim to make it different and exciting, instead of copying what’s been done before.

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What’s on the agenda now? I’ve just finished ‘optical’, created from 80.000 used prescription lenses to form an immense glistening and floating sphere. 3,5 metres in diameter. The piece was commissioned by land securities for the foyer of a new glass building designed by architects swanke hayden connell and positioned in the heart of victoria at 62 buckingham gate, london sw1.

Optical (here below) can be viewed from street level day and night.

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As part of this years 55th venice biennale i will be showing ‘glass house’ (see below) at the glasstress exhibition curated by james putnam and entitled white light/white heat. It opened on the 1st june at the berengo centre for contemporary art & glass, campiello della pescheria, murano.

Based on the proverb, those living in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones. It’s made out of a steel glasshouse structure. Where the glass would go, it’s been replaced with mirror toughened glass laminate so you can actually shatter the mirror behind the glass but the glass stays intact. As a result you get very fractured panels of mirrors. The shattered mirror glasshouse is illuminted and light reflects off all the surrounding walls in the space it’s shown. It’s also lavitating off the ground by 10 cm. It looks like it’s floating. It’s a sculptural piece rather than a functional one. It’s a one off for this show. I’m still interested in functional pieces but my work is leaning more towards sculptural pieces for sculpture sake.

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Stuart haygarth is a multi-faceted and very talented artist. He is best known for his ‘chandeliers’ but that’s only a small part of what he does. Yet we know that most like to label people. Looking through his sketchbooks was a highlight for me. All these ideas and thoughts illustrated so beautifully. I could have looked at them for hours. Thank you stuart for allowing me to share them.

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21 Comments

  • Reply Michaela June 7, 2013 at 10:17 am

    What a fascinating interview – I must find out more about Stuart’s work. I too am interested in found objects and their essence and presence – it’s something you lose when you are an adult – you try try telling a child that their soft toys are merely objects or things – they wouldn’t be too impressed! The designer Alexander Girard was obsessed with dolls, and saw them as totemic – I think many objects have some kind of symbolic meaning to us (sometimes subconsciously!)

    I’m really hoping to go the Biennale- funds permitting – and will definitely hunt out Stuart’s work if I do go! 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

      I think that found objects can say a lot about a place, especially if you look at cities or beaches. I did ask Stuart if there was a difference in found objects on the beaches of the UK or Holland. There wasn’t, as most objects are plastic… imagine in the 1800.. we’d see more wooden found objects:-)

      You’re so right about looking at it from a child’s perspective! They attach more meaning to it and rightly so!

      Didn’t know that Alexander Girard was obsessed with dolls. How fascinating.

      I’m sure that many objects have a symbolic meaning… anything from early childhood to our belief systems as adults.

      Hope you get to the Biennale, so that you a) get to see wonderful stuff and b) that you’ll blog about it.
      Thanks love. Hope the move went well x

  • Reply Nicola June 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Interesting and inspiring to hear of changes in direction of career, yet all are developments and one wouldn’t be in that final place without all the previous steps. Just like a meander on the River.

    Even the obsession with categorising could be linked back to studying graphics originally.

    I love Stuart’s sketchbooks, such immaculate drawings, and have always enjoyed his work. I tried to specify a chandelier for a reception but no decision was ever made, I loved his steps at the V&A and I’ve found one of his categorised pictures of objects very useful for reference for colour coding my books http://pinterest.com/pin/68719568450/

    Thanks! x

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 11:23 am

      As a graphic designer there’s definitely a kind of order and categorisation in my mind. When I visited the Strand Installation, I LOVED the prints Stuart showed of the categorised found objects.

      Of course, I wanted to know whether the 2 shipping containers containing his found objects were categorised:-))

      Yes, I was also fascinated to hear about Stuart’s re-inventions. I think that great artists do constantly re-invent themselves. It keeps them growing and fresh. Look at Picasso and Hockney. It was also fascinating to hear that once the public wanted the ‘samish’ piece from him, he felt the need to move on to another level.

      I was elated that Stuart allowed me a peek into his wonderful sketchbooks. They felt like a treasure trove of jewels, each one more beautiful than the other. For me, the design and thinking process is the most interesting part.. not taking anything away from the end result, which in Stuart’s case is always beautiful!!

      What a shame – you don’t mention which chandelier you tried to specify. I so would love to see some of them in situ, so if you ever come across a client who has one hanging in their home, do let me know and take me in as your assistant!!! I promise to play the part:-))

      Have now re-pinned. Thanks N xx

  • Reply Nicola June 7, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    P.S. Did they move Dungeness round to Norfolk? I thought it was opposite France? 🙂

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Hahahah. I recorded my interview with Stuart. I think we have now solved that riddle!!!! x

  • Reply keith June 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Dungeness is most definitely opposite France – we will be there in only a few hours…

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 11:28 am

      Yes, and we’re all waiting to see your abode there… I say let’s hire a mini bus to take all bloggers down. Maybe we could go and collect some found objects for Stuart. Bet he could invent a project around that. Thanks Keith. Hope you guys had a good weekend there!

  • Reply Anya Jensen June 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm

    OH Tina (and Stuart), I love it – {Stuart} hoarding stuff and actually turning it into something rather spectacular. I just hoard stuff, and then I buy some more ha ha. Thanks for sharing – I love reading peoples stories, and this one was great. Happy weekend,
    Ax

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 11:30 am

      I know, Stuart did mention the word: hoarding – which rather has negative connotations. In his case we know he makes use of some of them. Hmmm, I wonder was is in those 2 shipping containers. Wouldn’t you like to know?

      Hahaha. Love it..”I just hoard stuff, and then I buy some more ha ha”

      Glad you liked this. I find Stuarts journey fascinating and very inspiring. xx

  • Reply Alison Sye June 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Tina, I LOVE this post.
    Stuart’s work is amazing – all the more so because he uses real stuff, not stuff he goes out and buys especially for a piece. In my opinion, this is what makes his work great. Every pair of glasses has a story to tell. To use champagne corks collected on the first day of the millenium, again, each one with a story!
    As you know, I have similar traits. In my loft, as well as other things I’d rather not mention, I have every pair of shoes my children have ever worn and every toothbrush they’ve ever used. One day they will be made into art, just for my own pleasure.
    My son read this post and said, “he is like you Mum, only successful”.

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 11:39 am

      When I first came across Stuart’s work back in 2006? that’s exactly what attracted me to it. Back then, in the womb of consumerism, everything was replaceable. All you needed is to throw money at stuff. I found Stuart’s work refreshing, meaningful and beautiful. Of course, the Strand Installation is my favourite because of it’s deeper meaning and incredible result, which takes your breath away!

      I LOVED the story of the Millenium piece. How inventive and extraordinary. And yes, imagine all those people that wore those lenses.

      I love that you’ve kept all these keepsakes of your children’s lives and yes, of course, in other circumstances (when not talking about this post here) one could think you are either really sentimental or a hoarder (in the negative sense).. I know that one day you’ll make them into art. I have every bit of confidence in you…

      My favourite article, which I’ve got in printed version:
      http://www.stuarthaygarth.com/media/press/icon_profile.pdf

      Also look at this:
      http://www.stuarthaygarth.com/media/press/iconhang.pdf

      Hahaha. Your son already knows a thing or two. You know my view on success…it’s manyfold!

      Glad you felt inspired!

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey June 9, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Firstly I have to say that the ‘Optical’ floating sphere is unbelievable. A truly stunning & breathtaking piece of art & design (and duly pinned).

    Secondly I have to say all kudos to Stuart for being so frank & honest, and for letting you take so many pictures. A lot of artists and designers would never allow pics of their drawings, so this is very refreshing.

    I don’t know Stuart or his work but this interview gives a lovely insight. I have to say I admire someone who can make beautiful art from so many discarded objects.

    Stuart said that he is “more influenced by artists than designers and enjoy[s] art shows much more than design shows. [He] find[s] that, especially for the home interior market, there is very little new out there.” I’m interested in this point and would love to understand what Stuart means as I have to wholeheartedly disagree. I believe there is a lot of great new products and designs out there for the interiors market. It’s art – in my opinion – that can often be lacking. Stuart however has shown us a refreshing outlook. Also, where does art stop & design begin… or vice versa?

    Tina – great interview & Stuart thanks 🙂

    Gxx

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Isn’t it…

      Stuart doesn’t know that I NEVER use EXTERNAL images but since this post has been late and now fitting due to the new work, I made an exception. I will go and see it for myself (naturally)
      but it does look absolutely stunning.

      When I interviewed Stuart I was fascinated about the process of hanging it. How do they know where things go? Stuart assured me there is a formula to this and that the piece first get hung in a studio, warehouse et cetrera where he works out exactly where every item goes. It then gets labelled and re-produced when hung in situ. Things like that fascinate me and appeal to my geeky side:-)

      I agree. I was both chuffed and humbled that Stuart allowed me to snap picks of his sketchbooks. I think I got overly excited… aren’t they just stunning? Did you recognise the steps at the V&A?

      I’m delighted you like Stuart’s work, although it might not agree with your ‘aesthetics’ (well the ‘Optical’ does:-)

      Well, I tend to agree with Stuart on the subject of regurgitating the same old… I know you and I like different sort of ‘home products’ but there isn’t that much new. Just go to Objet and Maison or other exhibitions and you’ll see what I mean. Even the Saloni in Milan… yes, we always get to see the best picks but there is a sea of ‘the same’..
      In terms of “Also, where does art stop & design begin… or vice versa”, yes, who knows?

      Thank you G xx

  • Reply noreen June 10, 2013 at 12:24 am

    hello tina,
    if you look back at your creativity posts, stuart does these things. most of all, he’s true to his art – or creative ideas. he got tired of shooting other people’s ideas, and collected things. he noticed “stuff” around him, and decided to use it in different ways – light it and photograph it. also the fact that he lets them go easily after he has a photograph of them is wonderful. it shows that the picture is a “capture”, a way to keep something.

    thanks for the interview!

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Hello Noreen,

      You are so right! Didn’t really make that link! Beautifully put. Thank you!
      I was very intrigued to hear that Stuart is absolutely fine with letting his pieces go as long as he has a photographic record…I suppose that’s part of it all, right?

      “it shows that the picture is a “capture”, a way to keep something.” Perfectly put!
      Thank you Noreen.

  • Reply Catherine Bedson June 10, 2013 at 10:11 am

    The highlight for me was seeing Stuart’s drawings. Indeed he is so talented. Amazing work.

    • Reply tina June 10, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Glad you liked them!

  • Reply Doris June 11, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Tina, his sketches are amazing and so neat. It gives you an insight into how his brain works. Such a wonderful interview also. Thanks Doris

    • Reply tina June 19, 2013 at 4:21 am

      You are welcome.
      You are right, sketchbooks are very intimate and revealing. I’ve always had an obsession with them.
      x

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