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Hastings becoming a haven for a generation of artists

PUBLISHED: 16:20 05 August 2014 | UPDATED: 16:20 05 August 2014

Wallpaper designer Deborah Bowness

Wallpaper designer Deborah Bowness

Jim Holden www.jimholden.co.uk 07590 683036

Hastings is becoming a haven for a new generation of artists, designers and craftspeople attracted by its dazzling natural light and affordable property

Georgia ScottGeorgia Scott

Georgia Scott

With renowned furniture designer Fred Scott for a father, Georgia Scott had an early introduction to the art of combining form and function.

She began making at an early age – “always functional things, I find it hard to make anything without a purpose” – before going on to study 3D design at Brighton University where she developed a particular passion for lighting. “I love the qualities of light and shadow,” she explains.

After graduating, she began working at London’s Cockpit Arts when design store Heals first snapped up her sculptural, organic lampshades. This led onto commissions for Conran stores in London and Paris and public art pieces for clients including Queen Mary College London and the Royal Society of Arts.

When she had children, Scott moved to Hastings and set up a studio in the town’s sprawling Britannica Enterprise Centre where she now designs and makes large commissions for private homes and national organisations.

Inspired by natural forms and light patterns, current work includes Fall, a light that shines on strings of cascading copper ‘leaves’ made of mesh; Flower Shower, a glittering chandelier of fibre optic wires illuminating delicate metal flowers and Nova, a disc of hand-folded gold flowers that evokes Christmas Poinsettias.

“I don’t design so much as make things by feel with materials I find interesting,” Scott says. Some of her best-known designs involve pleating and folding mesh in an origami-style to make multi-faceted lampshades that suggest giant sea urchins or gentle clouds, a technique that occurred to her when playing around with materials for a fashion project with her daughter.

During the past few years she has developed a fascination with glass and has taught herself how to mould and kiln-fire to make bowls, discs and tiles that sit as pretty as boiled sweets in the window of her studio. “This one came from the frost pattern on my car window during the winter,” she says, picking up a glass tile embossed with a photographic pattern. “I like the fact it just looks like a glass tile until you hold it up to the light and suddenly, everything is illuminated.”

Get the look - Star lampshade

Large (80cm x 60cm): £185

Small (50cm x 44cm): £165

Georgia Scott, Studio 5, 13, Britannica Enterprise Centre, Waterworks Road, Hastings; 07709 624244; info@georgiascott.com; www.etsy.com/shop/GeorgiaScottLighting

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Alastair Hendy

AG Hendy & Co Home Store is not the sort of place one goes to in a rush. While packed with useful things, shopping here is an experience to be savoured.

Formerly a bistro in Hastings Old Town, owner Alastair Hendy spent three years painstakingly restoring the building to Georgian splendour with an attention to detail that befits a photographer and stylist.

Staff in period attire ring up purchases on old-fashioned tills, light streaming through artfully-aged windows and wood smoke hangs in the air. The only sound is that of creaking floorboards as customers peruse the rooms above.

Selling radiator brushes, bulkhead lights, Sheffield steel scissors, enamelware and more, the store harks back to simpler, more honest times when people knew shopkeepers by name and bought items to last.

It’s a comforting notion and Hendy, who also owns a splendidly restored Tudor house in All Saints Street, has no shortage of customers who stand in the shop stroking ostrich feather dusters over their arms or cooing over cups they remember from their grandmother’s house.

But it’s not just about nostalgia, he says. “I’ve always been interested in things that are useful and beautiful. I’m not an ornament person.” The pleasures of a well-made jug or a satisfyingly substantial bench were something he wanted to share with others. “We don’t have anything in the shop that doesn’t have a practical use,” he adds.

His quest to make shopping a pleasure has turned the store into a destination, beloved of locals and tourists alike. This is something of a double-edged sword, he says – “Some people come purely for the experience and seem to forget it is actually a shop and they’re meant to buy something.”

Get the look - Handy feather duster

Considered a status symbol in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ostrich feather dusters are undergoing a 21st century revival. Ostrich feathers trap dust, so dirt is removed rather than displaced, and all that is then needed is a good shake outdoors after cleaning. £15.

AG Hendy & Co Home Store; 36 High Street, Old Town, Hastings. 01424 447171l; www.homestore-hastings.co.uk

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Georgina Brett Chinnery

“I definitely have quite a Gothic sensibility,” laughs Georgina Brett Chinnery, looking around her studio at her collection of leather-framed convex mirrors, lifelike black ravens and blood-red chairs. “I’m not quite sure where it comes from.”

A Londoner relocated to Hastings and an upholsterer by trade, Chinnery has become celebrated for her bold leatherwork, which she makes by hand in studios in St Leonards’ Mercatoria Business Centre under the name Bombarock.

It’s something of a labour of love, she explains. Large pieces can take up to three months to complete and involve meticulous decoration and finishing. “But I love the scope of leather. From the moment I took a leather decoration course I was hooked. There are so many things you can do with it.”

Recently awarded the prestigious Leatherseller’s Award by creative business development body Cockpit Arts, Chinnery is best known for her large-scale pieces – leather screens hand-tooled with botanical and anatomical illustrations and pouffes shaped like roses. She also makes beautiful handbags in bold colours and cushions appliqued with leather crows and swans.

Ideas come from all over but she is frequently inspired by antique furniture – especially the Victorian period – Art Nouveau and organic forms. The natural world too is a constant fascination, she says, pointing to some paper prototypes of a mirror framed in black leather feathers and a snake skeleton on which she plans to craft a skin – “Just to see if I can.”

It’s this thirst to keep learning and creating that drives her on and has led to commissions from clients as diverse as Liberty, ITV and Pinewood Studios. She is about to begin work on a new collection with a more sculptural bent and is excited about the direction in which it will take future work. “I can make anything interiors-wise – or just about – and am constantly excited by new commissions, whether it’s reworking an antique or making something entirely new for a client. It feels like the possibilities are endless.”

Get the look - Georgina Chinnery clutch bag

Handmade in Chinnery’s Hastings studios, these striking leather clutch bags feature her hand-tooled anatomical botanical designs and are lined with a contrasting leather. £350.

Georgina Chinnery, Studio 4, Mercatoria Business Centre, 100, Norman Road, St Leonards On Sea; 07958611910; www.bombarock.co.uk

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Deborah Bowness

IF you don’t know Deborah Bowness’s name, you’ll almost certainly know her work. Her witty, trompe l’oeil wallpapers featuring photo-realistic bookcases and dresses on hangers have been featured in countless design magazines and fashion shoots and have spawned a whole host of imitations.

Intended to bridge the gap between fine art and home décor, Bowness’s wallpapers make a quiet statement in a home, designed to blend in with their surroundings while prompting a double-take. Bowness too is hard to pigeonhole. She is neither artist nor designer, she says, but a combination of both.

After a BA in surface textiles and printed pattern, she went on to take an MA in constructed textiles at the Royal College of Art where students were encouraged to think of practical applications for their art. Bowness started to develop ideas for wallpaper – her version of permanent art for the home.

Her first collection, Hooks & Frocks, saw her take photographs of hanging dresses and print them life-sized onto wallpaper before silkscreening colour over the top.

This led onto Genuine Fake Bookshelf, her most well-known design to date, which allows even the most humble of flats to have its own ‘library’. Does it bother her that it’s been copied so widely? “Not really. All art borrows from other art and it’s pretty much impossible to have a genuinely original idea. The idea of trompe l’oeil is hardly a new one!”

All her papers are made in the UK, at a workshop in Bowness’s hometown of York managed by her sister Leigh, where they are dispatched to destinations all over the world. Past clients including Lacroix, Paul Smith and Selfridges and her work features in the print collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Musee des Arts Decoratif amongst others.

Next up is Paper Swags, a new collection inspired by decadent, swagged curtains that she’s just flown to New York to unveil and a mysterious new project that represents “a very different direction” for the designer.

Get the look - Deborah Bowness miniatures

Launched this month, the miniatures collection offers scaled-down replicas of the full-sized Artists Collection Wallpapers by Deborah Bowness. Mounted on greyboard and ready to hang, they are around one fifth of the size of the originals and perfect for displaying in a bedroom or study, either alone or as a sequence. £29.

Deborah Bowness; 14, Grande Parade, St Leonards On Sea; 01757 248500; www.deborahbowness.com

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Phil Oakley

Don’t be fooled by the sombre grey exterior of Phil Oakley’s Hastings base. Inside what used to be The Admiral Benbow pub on London Road is a flashing, blinking, buzzing treasure trove of light.

Formerly director of Blackpool Illuminations, the lighting designer moved to St Leonards a few years ago, bringing with him a hefty collection of redundant lights of all shapes and sizes.

With his partner Olivia Yip, a Central St Martins graduate, he set about transforming the rundown 180-year-old pub into an address that attracts boutique owners and art collectors from all over the country.

Studios, showrooms and the couple’s own flat are arranged over three storeys of the building, each room packed to the ginnels with fairground lights, old carousel rides, giant signage letters, disco balls and more.

While Oakley started off as a collector, he has become a designer and manufacturer and examples of his work can be seen throughout the building. An illuminated noose and Edgar Allen Poe quote picked out in neon offer a glimpse of his style, an altogether darker take on the various uses of light.

Although he loves traditional neon and owns more than 1,000 strings of fairylights, Oakley’s style has evolved as neon signs have entered the mainstream. He has seen knockdown versions of his designs appearing in high street shops and pubs and is now focussing his efforts on creating new work while continuing to employ traditional (and endangered) crafts.

Mixing seaside tradition with contemporary chic and a rundown exterior with a vibrant heart, Philip Oakley Illuminations is perhaps the perfect embodiment of the Hastings spirit.

Get the look - Illuminated arrow

Get a piece of Oakley’s fun, tongue-in-cheek style with this fibreglass illuminated arrow, which is supplied with lead and plug ready to be displayed in your home. Measures 50cm x 100cm and available in colours including red, amber, green, blue, purple and white. From £220.

Philip Oakley Illuminations, The Admiral Benbow, 2, London Road, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex; www.oakleyilluminations.co.uk; 01424 424119/ 07879 810587

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To see the full article and images, click here and go to page 120

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