Decorating & Design

October 3, 2011

Interview: Jaime Hayon

Creations by fearless raw talents like Spanish artist-designer Jaime Hayon don’t always make practical sense: a four-foot-tall bright green chicken that doubles as a rocking chair; a giant purple hot dog sculpture inspired by American cultural icons; an installation of life-size chess pieces to kick off the London Design Festival. But just like the theatrical haute couture of Jean Paul Gaultier, Hayon’s works inspire a wide range of functional, stylish derivatives.

Working mostly in ceramics, glass, plastic, leather, metal and lacquered wood, Hayon’s bold and whimsical installations, as well as his furniture and clothing designs, are rooted in the simplicity of everyday life. “Concepts and things are ingredients. I see them and eventually I use them in my work,” he says. Yet he succeeds in elevating them to an artistic level by exaggerating details like colour, size and shape. “The companies I work with are very solid, but they want to challenge the rules and push the boundaries of commerciality. So, I get to experiment all the time.”

The modern Renaissance man who, in conversation, seamlessly switches from English to French to Spanish to Italian, studied industrial design in Madrid and Paris. His big break came when he joined Fabrica, a Benetton-funded design firm, where he worked closely with famous Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who’s best known for creating controversial ad campaigns for Benetton. Now Hayon’s clients include international brands like Baccarat, Bisazza, Camper, Metalarte, Swarovski and Spanish porcelain company Lladró, who have hired him to reinvent their decorative figurines.

House & Home: Where do you look for inspiration?

Jaime Hayon: Life is inspiration. Art has always been really important to me. But I’m also curious about things that are a little bit strange, like carnivals at the beginning of the century. When I was younger, I was really into skateboarding and graffiti, so in my earlier work you still see a lot of that influence. My first job was to make a skate park. Then I started making toys, which was a lot of fun. Now I design everything from restaurants to boutiques to shoes.

H&H: You’ve described your work as the intersection between art and design. What do you mean by that?

JH: We’re in a moment in which hybridity is everywhere. It happened within the population by mixing up cultures and we’ve got beautiful kids coming up. And now it’s happening with culture. You’ve got artists that have become designers and designers that have become artists. What I know is I’m just a creative person. I’ve never had time to think about what I am. Whenever I have the opportunity to work on something that excites me, I do it. Sometimes it’s a gallery owner that comes to me, sometimes it’s a producer or a brand. I don’t even know which category I should be placed in.

H&H: What are your impressions of Canada when you visit?

JH: It’s a really interesting place. You have some architecture in Toronto that is really powerful. There seems to be a lot of culture and curiosity in the people, which is really nice for me. There’s a great energy.

H&H: Have any Canadian designers or artists caught your eye?

JH: I met the guys from [Toronto store] Ministry of the Interior, and I think they have a lot of taste. Their work is very clean, and they have a real sense of installation, and art and design.

H&H: It sounds like you would travel a lot. Which places do you like best?

JH: For me, it’s not about the place itself. It’s about how you look at that place. I observe everything.

H&H: What cities do you love?

JH: I love Istanbul. It’s a city with such a mixture of culture. I love the energy of London and New York. I like Tokyo: the food, the sophistication. Most of all, I like places where there’s opposition. And I like rough cities — earthy cities, ones that are intense.

H&H: What’s next for you?

JH: I’m working on a few restaurants in Europe and I always do the art fairs. I will be in Basel with a gallery from Rotterdam. I’m also doing some collaborations with my girlfriend [artist Nienke Klunder]. She’s very fascinated with plastic surgery and American culture, so watch for our American series [American Chateau]. But that’s just one thing — I’m busy with many things, so stay tuned.

Author: Laurie Jennings

Nienke Klunder