Sculptor Yasemen Hussein is the latest artist to design a bespoke installation for our London Great Marlborough Street windows, entitled 'Birdcage', inspired by Victorian ornamental bird-cages.
Yasemen has produced a series of chandeliers, hand sculpted from copper and a medley of bespoke and foraged elements, which she has re-appropriated alongside a series of LEDs to create the warm glowing series.
We caught up with her to hear more about her previous installations and private commissions, where her inspiration comes from and what materials she most likes working with:
How long have you been an artist - has your style evolved?
I actually started out as a glass artist and got my MFA in Glass sculpture in the US in 1998. For my degree show I made my favourite work about 'Pan the goat god', all hoofs and thighs and hair, I loved it! But I later veered away from glass towards metal work and by the time I returned to England, copper, steel and concrete were my weapons of choice! My friends tell me that whether I make a chair, or a spoon or sculpture they can always tell it's mine by my 'style' and I try not to analyze this too much as I truly and simply just make what I like the look of.... I just know when a piece of work is completed, it just feels right.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I love love love copper; its colour, how it smells when I cut it, how easy the solder melts to it, how it bends to my will. But I love a challenge so I'll try any material. Concrete is a joy when cracked out of it's mold, as you never know what you're going to get!
Tell us a bit about your private commissions Yasemen…
It's been a strange roller coaster commission wise, as most of them have come about in a relatively haphazard way. When I had my first solo show in 2006 at Apple European Headquarters I threw myself in at the deep end and randomly emailed every human being I could think of from any art, fashion, craft and interiors magazine I could find.
Through doing this I actually caught the attention of a photographer who introduced me to Anthony & Pat Moscolo from Toni & Guy who bought a few of my pieces, which was my first ever sale!
During my second solo show in 2007 at Redbull Headquarters, a friend of a friend who saw my work and had moved to join the Victoria's Secret team, got in touch and commissioned me over the course of 3 years. This then led me to being in the same room as Will-i-am and Katy Perry. I strutted up and introduced myself to them, resulting in being commissioned to create work for them both, which was incredible!
It was via Swarovski sponsoring the Victoria Secret show, that one of Britney Spears' stylists saw my work and chose one of my pieces for her to wear in a music video.
Tell us about some of your favourite recent works…
I am really proud of the work I did working along side Philip Treacy for the Museum of London a few years ago, not only did I get to work with someone I have admired and looked up to for years, I also have work in a museum.
Last year I worked with the artist/set designer Simon Costin on a photoshoot for the Sunday Times Style magazine and I got to make a rocket out of cardboard, I bloody loved that rocket!
But my favourite things I've ever made were my goats legs and hoofsfor my masters degree show, who doesn't love a well styled hoof?!
You've created pieces for some big name and some celebrity clients - tell me about working with some of them? What have you enjoyed working on the most?
Katy Perry was a lovely woman, not only beautiful, but very switched on and she looked you straight in the eye when she spoke to you (I've worked with some high profile people who can't manage even that!).
Will-i-am has a mind that is always running on high energy, fascinating to watch and be around and he knew exactly what he wanted, a really powerful energy to be around.
Where is your studio - tell us about it?
Ah, when it comes to my studio, even I would be jealous of me! Four years a go I converted a hundred year old coach house in South East London. It's small and perfectly formed, down a very dirty side street in Sydenham where it looks like no one in there right mind would live, but when you get to my place it's like stepping into Narnia! I work downstairs and live upstairs and have even built a garden where I grow my own veg. I love where I live, and working here is a joy and I'm always extremely grateful to be here.
Talk us through your inspiration for the Mill installation..
When it comes to inspiration I'm constantly gathering and storing things that catch my eye. Years ago I came a cross an illustration of some rather ornate bird cages and shoved it in a scrap book. When I moved into my live/work space I promised myself I would make my own chandelier in my hallway, and last year I finally got around to it once I'd fished out the image. I was SO chuffed with what I came up with but it really was just a prototype for more work that was bubbling in my head. So when the opportunity popped up with The Mill I immediately saw it as the perfect incentive to make a new body of work that would actually leave my studio into the real world.
I knew I wanted the challenge of sourcing old, vintage elements with birdcage forms and lighting. I gave myself these boundaries as I work best with a few walls to bounce off, approaching it like a collage. I then collected all the elements together and played with what worked well.
It's always a genuine surprise to me when I make something, what ever it is, I step back, take a butchers and see that I managed to pull it off!